Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Those few of you who actually read this blog may have noticed it has changed again. I noticed that the Faintly Victorian template tended to run paragraphs together. I then replaced it with another template from Eris Design, this one called Mist. I haven't noticed any problems with it yet, but if any of you notice any, please let me know.

Anyhow, I am still thinking a bit about blogs. I have to wonder if they can't be considered an electronic variation on the magazine. To a degree, they do seem to have some things in common. Ideally, blogs are published regularly, just as magazines are. Like magazines, many blogs contain articles. The jargon of bloggers even borrows from magazine jargon--an example being the term sidebar. Of course, there are some important differences. Many blogs are little more than online diaries and most blogs do not contain a large number of articles in any one instance of publication.

At any rate, I don't think that electronic media will ever replace the old fashioned paper magazine, regardless of what some science fiction novels and TV shows might claim. After all, the magazine has been in existence for literally centuries. I am not sure what the first magazine was, but the first major one was The Tatler, first published in London in 1709. The first general interest magazine was The Gentleman's Magazine, published in England in 1731. It was also the first magazine to be called a magazine.

The 19th century saw enormous growth in the publication of magazines. Indeed, some of the giants of the industry first made their appearance at that time. Harper's Weekly first appeared in 1857. Collier's was first published in 1888. At the same time magazines became more specialised. The first magazine for women to be published in the United States was Ladies' Magazine, first published in 1828. Punch, the famous, British humour magazine, appeared for the first time in 1841. National Geographic made its first appearance in 1888. Even magazines devoted to specific industries appeared in the 19th century. The same year that National Geographic debuted, a magazine for the advertising industry, Printer's Ink, was published for the first time. To give one an idea of the growth of the magazine industry in the United States, consider that in 1860 alone 260 magazines were published.

I rather suspect the Golden Age of the magazine was the late 19th century into the early 20th century. It was at this time that a new phenomenon arrived in the magazine industry--the pulp magazine. Pulp magazines were so called because they were printed on paper made from pulpwood scraps. The first pulp magazine, Argosy, was published by Frank Munsey in 1896. Argosy, like the pulp magazines that would follow it, published almost exculsively fiction. Of course, it wasn't long before the pulp magazines began to specialise. Street and Smith published Detective Story Magazine in 1915 and Western Story Magazine in 1919. Weird Tales, a magazine devoted to horror and fantasy and one of the most famous pulps, appeared in 1923. Hugo Gernsbeck would introduce the science fiction pulp with Amazing Stories--indeed, Gernsbeck coined the term science fiction! Eventually pulps devoted to a specific would make their appearance. Such characters as The Shadow, Doc Savage, and The Spider all first appeared in the pulps. Easily affordable for youths and the working class, pulp magazines became enormously popular and remained so for the first half of the 20th century.

By the 1920s, magazines were an established part of American life. It was in this decade that Time, perhaps the most famous news magazine of them all, first appeared. It was also this decade that The New Yorker first published. Unfortunately, for all the success of the magazine industry in the first half of the twentieth century, the popularity of magazines declined in the latter half. By 1950 most pulp magazines were gone, their readership drawn away by radio, comic books, and television. The glossy magazines would see their own readerships dwindle as more people turned to television and other pursuits. Look and other formerly popular magazines ceased publication. Life, the popular photo essay magazine from the publishers of Time, ceased to exist for a time.

Despite this, magazines have hardly ceased to exist entirely. According to the Magazine Publishers of America, around 17,254 magazines were published in the United States in 2003 alone. As I said earlier, I seriously doubt that electronic media will ever entirely replace the old fashioned, paper magazine. Consider this. To read this blog one must first turn on his or her computer, then open his or her browser, and then go to this page. The process is much simpler with a magazine. One simply picks the magazine up and opens it. Indeed, one can enjoy a magazine even if there is a power failure. I think it is then safe to say that magazines will still be around in the 22nd century.

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