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March 20, 2008
What is a Lifestyle Magazine?
What is Lifestyle?
The originates in sociology but has changed in its primary meaning since it was first used towards the end of the 1960s. Then it was more about how the ways in which people live are indicative of thier class position in society.
In more recent work, the concept has been used more widely still to designate the tastes, attitudes, possessions or ways of behaving of any social group which distinguish it from any other social groups. In this sense anyconnectionbetween the concept of that and social class has been severed. (Abercrombie et al. Penguin Dictionary of Sociology).
To fully understand the notion of lifestyle we need to have an understanding of what is meant by consumer culture. This term argues that societies are increasingly organised around modes (ways) of consumption. The main charctersitics of the discussion within sociology and cultural studies has been organised arounfd the following points:
Rising Affluence. It is argued that the inhabitants of Western Societies now have far more money to spend on consumer goods, holidays and leisure.
Working hours have been falling. Arguably this is leaving far more time for leisure pursuits.
Identity. People are now taking thier identity more from what they consume and their activities as consumers and in their leisure. Previously people's work used to a far greater marker of identity. This particualr notion of identity works well with the arguments of sociologists like a?nthony Giddens who argue that as the older key factors influencing identity decrease in importance so self-reflexivity of people who thinl about thier identity and work to develp or change it increases. The older forms of identity such as class and work and also place are breaking down because of globalisation.
The Aestheticisation of Everyday Life. There is far greater interest in the presentation of an image and construction of a lifestyl. The acquisition of certain goods are used as markers of a certain social position.
Positional Goods. These goods or services have desirability because they are scarce and therefore in short supply. Scarcity can be in both price or through cult status. Paradoxically the more people acquire them the less desirable they become. (The Burberry hat which became a 'Chav' symbol is perhaps an extreme example). Ownership of a Bentley/Aston Martin or a Hermes handbag are clear examples of positional goods. Of course there is a clear hierarchy in each range of products. Sometimes other goods will try to position themselves in relation to these goods. The relationship between Breitling watches and Bentley is a good example.
Consumption Cleavages. In the 19th and earlier part of the 20th century social class, race and gender were the major sources of social division. It is argued that these social divisions have been replaced by consumption cleavages describing the patterns of consumption above.
Growth of Consumer Power. It is argued that in consumer societies the consumer gains power at the expense of the producers. These producers may provide goods or be professionals offering services such as doctors, lawyers or teachers. The economic position of the consumer can in some respects be seen to be replacing political rights and duties - the consumer is replacing the citizen?
Increasing Commodification of Everyday Life. The market is extending into all areas of life, shopping has become a leqaisure activity rather than a chore.
These arguments tend to focus on the fact that in the past sociologists focused too much on issues of production in society including work experiences and the effects of paid work and not enough on issues of consumption.
However many argue that this is not the case and that the increasing focus upon consumption rather than empowering consumers merely extends capitalist values. Ultimately it further polarises society into rich and poor.
Lifestyle Magazines and Branding
If one applies the categories of lifestyle applied to consumption as discussed above then it is important to have role models to help generate the desire to consume. The generation of the desire to consume goes beyond what might normally be expected of people in that it can encourage people to aspire to certain ways of living that can easily be reached provided one is prepared to spend money. It then is a matter of how the individual is prepared to spend that money. Magazines and other forms of media which can encourage the branding of goods are an extremely important mechanism for this.
Lifestyle Magazines and Gender
The markets that are created for lifestyle magazines frequently revolve around the issues of gender construction. The frequent use of nearly naked women on the front of GQ is an excellent example of the continuing predominance of a constructed male gaze despite or more likely as a backlash response to feminism which at its core demanded women to be accepted on their own terms rather than being constructed as sex objects. Below is an extract from arecent Guardian discussion about lifestyle magazines:
Nicole Kidman is an award-winning actor. So too is Maggie Gyllenhaal. So why do they - and other talented female Hollywood stars - still have to expose their bodies in order to get into the public eye? Kira Cochrane despairs
Kira Cochrane in August 2007 was pleased to see that the Lad's mags especially Loaded suffered a severe downturn in their circulation. She notes that it was magazines like Loaded that rapidly caused GQ to change its policy about naked or near naked women on the front cover. The fact of the matter is that these magazine were very much a backlash against the demands of feminism to be treated as normal humans rather than objects of the male gaze:
So it was at the end of last week, when I read about the problems facing the "lads' mags" sector. ABC circulation figures for the first half of this year painted a bleak picture for those weekly and monthly paeans to beer, birds, cars and football, with a year-on-year sales drop of 25.9 per cent for the market bestseller, FHM, 18.1 per cent for Zoo and 9 per cent for Nuts. But the magazine that recorded the biggest sales plummet, with readers deserting it in droves, was Loaded, which suffered a 35 per cent drop in circulation from the same period last year.
Here are some before Loaded and after Loaded GQ front covers:
The first ever issue of GQ with politician Michael Hesseltine on the cover
A 1991 GQ cover with Prime Minister John Major
GQ 1999 had long since revoked on its promise never to put nude women on its cover
The recent GQ practice does seem to be having near naked intelligent women on the cover, which supports Cochrane's arguments
Web Comments on Lifstyle (notes)
At the end of the day, magazines are about communities of interest, whether professional or lifestyle driven. If magazines keep that driving mantra in mind, and use the Web for all its is worth, things could begin to look brighter and bigger on the monetary side soon. (Magazines Online: A Brief EssayBy Rafat Ali - Sun 09 Sep 2007)
THE teenage lifestyle magazine market is in “serious decline”, with ABC results next week expected to reveal a significant fall in circulation numbers, according to industry sources.
The findings will be released just days after Emap, the media group, closed Sneak, the teenage celebrity gossip magazine, conceding that teenagers were now getting their showbiz news on the internet. Smash Hits magazine was also closed by Emap six months ago after 30 years in business. () August 12, 2006
Intelligent Life is the new quarterly magazine offering from The Economist, a lifestyle magazine that, says the accompanying blurb "will be more than just a catalogue of the things for readers to buy". Oops. From Guardian Organgrinder.
Interview: Sarah Joseph, Emel magazine (Evening Standard) Sarah Joseph edits Britain's only Muslim lifestyle magazine. She says it can help show there is more to Islam than prayer and politics. By David Rowan
Green Lifestyle Magazine (Consume in order not to consume? )
Benwell Bethan (Ed) Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines. Oxford: Blackwell
Horsley Ross. Men’s Lifestyle Magazines and the Construction of Male Identity. PhD thesis which can be downloaded in its entirety.