Still Evolving | Best Magazines 2015

While the overall market for print magazines has contracted over the last several years, a steady stream of high-quality new titles continues to flow. Publishers recognize the visual and tactile impact of print, and readers appreciate that magazines are still available in the handy cordless, battery-free format. According to Mediafinder.com, there were 113 launches in 2015 compared to 190 in 2014, but there were only 35 closures vs. 99 shuttered titles in 2014. Notable print mags that closed up shop in 2015 were Time, Inc.’s All You and Atlantic Media’s National Journal, though both continue online. Conde Nast’s cessation of Details marked the end of a 33-year run. According to the New York Times (11/18/15), despite Details’ circulation of more than half a million, the company chose instead to expand GQ Style, all part of ongoing efforts to sustain profitability.

Juicy journal bits

No nudes are good news for Playboy, which announced in October that as of March 2016 there will no longer be nude photographs of women in its pages. The publisher decided the brand can gain a stronger international presence and be genuinely “read for the articles” once nudity is removed. News broke in September that 21st Century Fox paid $725 million for a 73 percent interest in National Geographic’s (NG) media outlets. The deal doubled the endowment for scientific research and came with assurances that Rupert Murdoch’s company would not meddle with editorial decisions. Folio reported that nine percent of NG magazine staff were cut two weeks before the deal was completed.

These format shifts and strategic moves are all proof of a continually evolving magazine market. Print is not going away, but publishers’ growth opportunities are largely digital. The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) reported 2015 growth of 6.6 percent in “total brand audience.” Nearly 1.8 billion magazines were consumed. Of these, 51 percent were print and/or digital editions, 15 percent desktop/laptop, 31 percent mobile web, and three percent video. Compared to a year ago, the only category that grew was mobile web, up from 23 percent in January 2015.

The publishers of the best new magazines of 2015 employ the web to various degrees. The print magazines from Molly Green and Lonely Planet expand on already well-­established websites. National Geographic History has no site of its own—it exists only in print. Whatever role online plays in their business models, these firms trust the ability of print to reach their intended audiences.

Artenol. q. $36. Ed: David Dann. artenol.org

Artenol aims to be “a purgative for an ailing art world, a palliative for afflicted aesthetes,” and it succeeds brilliantly. Rapier sharp satire and astute parody effectively skewer artistic pretention in all its forms. And though some pieces are wickedly funny, the readable and insightful humor manages as well to convey substantive critiques. Aretenol also offers serious analyses on rather offbeat but interesting topics unlikely to be addressed in mainstream art mags. Yet this is no seat-of-the-pants alternative screed. Publisher Art Healing Ministry has produced a high-quality magazine with top-notch writing and design. The pretentious (usually unnamed) persons being targeted may be offended, but that’s the point.

Conscious Company. bi-m. $37.95. Eds: Meghan French Dunbar & Maren Keeley. consciouscompanymagazine.com

An interesting and expertly produced antidote to the errors of using profit as the sole measure of business success or of equating monetary compensation with personal worth, this journal features interviews and profiles that portray actions and values of successful businesspeople who prioritize sustainability. “Sustainability” here means not only balance with the environment but also kind treatment of employees and concern for benefiting the community at large. The broad range of content is organized into categories, e.g., “food, energy, finance, innovation & design, leadership.” It is also packed with advice regarding benefit corporations, social entrepreneurship, and methods to minimize environmental impact.

DigitalIssue4_535x720__1460994370_42200Creativ. bi-m. $59.70. Ed: Paige Zeigler. creativ.com

Carrying the tagline “Adventure/Art/Culture/Innovation,” Creativ is “a platform for people to share their creativity, embrace their curiosity, and expand their imaginations.” It has the look and feel of a top-quality art journal, but the impressive photography is interspersed with stories of creativity in science, philanthropy, and business. Embossed covers, striking imagery, and gorgeous color deliver truly superior graphic impact. The varieties of creativity subject to lens and pen make it exceptionally inviting. Truly outstanding.

Lonely Planet. q. $8. Ed: Lauren Finney. lonelyplanet.com

The publisher of the popular travel guides and website launched a quarterly magazine “created for the way people really travel.” As with any travel mag, its value over browsing the website or perusing the books is the serendipitous discovery of unfamiliar but inviting locales. Lonely Planet magazine is true to the established brand; graphic design and editorial content will be familiar. Much of the coverage is inspirational rather than informative, but the long-form articles contain ample detail; a handy set of “Mini-guides” provide practical detail for visiting popular places.

Meta. 3/yr. $42. Ed: Andrew Campo. readmeta.com

Meta’s misleading subtitle, “Motorcycle Culture & Lifestyle,” should be “Motocross Culture & Lifestyle.” Otherwise the title is rather clever, as meta can mean an ancient column or post marking a turning place on a racetrack, high-level analysis or commentary, or an indication of change. Meta’s creative team successfully threads the themes of racing, analysis, and change through each issue. With its compelling imagery in matte finish on heavy paper, the magazine would not look out of place among art periodicals. Motocross may appeal to a relatively narrow audience, but Meta’s outstanding photography and engaging profiles should attract a wider audience.

Molly Green. q. $44.95. Ed: Dara Ekanger. mollygreen.com

Molly Green encompasses homesteading, home keeping, homeschooling, and home industry. A light, easy-to-read style suffuses a broad array of content on traditional and alternative lifestyles and folkways. The brief contributor biographies reveal that many of the authors are evangelical Christians, yet Molly Green contains few overtly religious messages. The main audience naturally includes people who homeschool for faith reasons, but the magazine offers an eclectic treatment of folkways and rural life. Readers interested in learning more about homesteading or the homeschooling movement will find value here.

National Geographic History. bi-m. $29. Ed: Jon Heggie. nationalgeographic.com

This new offering from National Geographic (NG) Partners in collaboration with 21st Century Fox is firmly within the iconic NG brand. The familiar yellow border signals the graphic design, excellent writing, and outstanding photography that one expects. Reports of recent archaeological finds feature prominently, yet coverage is broad, varied, and global in its reach. As is typical for NG, the writing has depth but is concise and engaging. An excellent new history magazine designed to appeal to a wide audience. With no companion website, the print mag would be a fine addition to school and public libraries and would not be out of place in academic libraries.

Issue_4_big_cartel__1460994622_93905Openhouse. s-a. Euros 18/issue. Ed: Andrew Trotter. openhouse-magazine.com

Openhouse: The Life We Share is a coffee-­table-style, multilingual magazine from Barcelona, Spain. Its mission is to describe the activities of folks worldwide who invite the public to share their homes. Examples in a recent issue include jazz Sundays at an apartment in New York’s Harlem, a rooftop smokehouse in Barcelona, and a home open to travelers in Cordoba, Argentina. Openhouse is at heart a work of cultural geography, featuring a soothing graphic design, excellent production quality, and unique stories of generosity and openness.

Scalawag. q. $29. Eds: Sarah Bufkin & others. scalawagmag.org

Nonprofit Scalawag presents Southern politics and culture from a liberal perspective. Historically, scalawags were Southern whites who supported Reconstruction and desegregation after the Civil War. Fittingly, the predominant theme here is social justice. The editors note that “the South has long had a proliferation of great stories that are both socially and politically important.” These stories are told in the pages of the ad-free journal through fiction, creative nonfiction, photo essays, and poetry. The tone is earnest but not strident. For collections of literary mags, sociology, or political science and of interest to general audiences.

Take. bi-m. $29.97. Ed: Lauren Clark. thetakemagazine.com

Take: New England’s New Culture presents contemporary and alternative arts in the Northeast. Arts are defined broadly to embrace not only visual arts, music, and theater but also fashion, food, dance, and design. Although unabashedly a regional magazine, Northampton, MA–based Take’s liberal compendium of innovative artistic endeavors gives it broad appeal. The primary audience appears to be hipsters, but anyone interested in cultural developments in New England will find much to like.

Womankind. q. $40. Ed: Antonia Case. womankindmag.com

Ad-free Womankind offers a diverse blend of fiction, history, fashion, and philosophy. The distinguished contributors and artists deliver insightful and intriguing ideas via text, photography, and drawings. Art directors Aida Novoa and Carlos Egan create visually unifying themes that make each issue transcend the sum of its parts. The overall tone is optimistic and emphasizes living life to its fullest. Although created predominantly by and for women, it will have much to offer independent thinkers of all genders.

Steve Black is Coordinator of Reference and Library Instruction at the College of Saint Rose, Albany, NY. For many years he was LJ’s magazine reviews columnist

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Comments

  1. Audrey says:

    I like Open House, it’s a great bathroom reader for ideas on our home and our DIY projects.