General-interest periodicals were popular after the war and remained popular throughout the 1950s. They rose to prominence because to their use of photojournalism, which provided them with a visual advantage over radio, which was the most popular medium at the time.
These magazines included Life, Look, Popular Science, and Smithsonian. They covered many different topics including science, history, politics, sports, entertainment, and culture.
They also circulated in large cities where there weren't any newspapers. For example, if a fire broke out at the White House, people would read about it in Life or Look before they heard about it on the news. These magazines were more extensive than newspaper articles; they had color photographs, serialized novels, and other features not available in newspapers at the time.
In addition, they were cheaper than newspapers. For example, a copy of Life sold for one cent, while a copy of The Washington Post was five cents.
Finally, people liked reading about current events from different points of view. Life published an article every week about different subjects; some were serious and others were not. This gave its readers a broader perspective on world affairs.
General-interest magazines are still popular today.
Why did some of the largest general-interest publications fail? They decreased as a result of shifting customer preferences, higher postal costs, declining ad income, and television. In the 1950s, the overall movement away from mass-market publications and toward niche periodicals corresponded with radio's shift to specialized formats. By the 1970s, even more magazines were failing.
Some failed because they attempted to cover too much ground. For example, Popular Science published an annual issue that covered everything from astronomy to zoology with large, expensive articles that sold for up to $25,000. This was too broad a scope for one publication to cover successfully and by the end of its first decade it had gone out of business. Another magazine that tried to be all things to all people was American Heritage; after three unsuccessful years it was reduced to two issues per year.
Some failed because they committed the magazine suicide error. Magazine suicides are when a publisher decides to cancel an existing title in order to start over with a new format or brand identity. These cancellations usually occur when there is no interest from readers or advertisers. Examples include Newsweek, which was canceled after only 19 months on the market, and Omni, which was dropped by its parent company after only 14 issues had been published.
Some failed because they were not profitable. Profitability is very important for publishers because without making money they cannot continue to publish magazines.
What precipitated the shift toward magazine specialization? Magazines reacted to the emergence of television in the same way that radio and film did: they adapted. The first monthly magazines were general interest titles that covered many topics; as time went on, they focused more specifically on one subject area. By the late 1950s, most magazines were covering only one topic.
The evolution of magazine design also played a role. When magazines first began publishing, they used large, expensive, glossy paper that was too fragile to convey news. Over time, however, newspaper publishers came up with cheaper alternatives, so magazines had to follow their lead. Today, most magazines are printed on low-cost, high-quality paper or plastic. They also use color photography, graphics, and text formatting tools that allow them to catch readers' eyes and tell stories more effectively.
Finally, advertisers began to look for ways to target specific audiences. They wanted to reach as many people as possible but didn't want to waste money advertising in magazines that no one read. So they created demographic studies that assigned different percentages of space in magazines to different categories of readers.
Similarly to radio and cinema, which constricted their audiences, magazines sacrificed their large readership for smaller, specific audiences that could be assured advertising. Some magazines, such as Life and Look, had broad appeal from the beginning; others, such as Modern Screen and Film Daily, targeted specific groups of people like movie fans or actors.
Television changed things again: it allowed magazines to reach more people than ever before, but it also made them focus on what mattered most to these people. Magazines still have relatively small audiences compared to television, but those audiences are much more valuable because they're more selective.
Television also affected how magazines were produced. Since television was a visual medium, it had an impact on how stories were presented. Magazine editors began to emphasize visuals over text because that's what viewers wanted. Also, since television was planned well in advance, magazines had to be too. Plans for articles, photographs, and videos were included in the layout of each issue so that when they came out they would be exactly what the audience needed at that moment.
Finally, television influenced what topics people read about. Before television became popular, people didn't know about many subjects other than politics and sports. But since everyone knew about these two things already, they looked to magazines for information on other topics too.
The most prevalent types of magazines are as follows: