Brave new Glamour: is online-only the way forward?

By Izzy Timur

Glamour has announced that it will be rolling back its print edition to focus on going ‘digital-first’. Now the magazine will be sold as a twice-yearly publication out in spring and autumn, reflecting beauty and style “for the coming season.” If the UK’s No. 1 Women’s magazine is going digital-only, we must stop and ask: what does this mean for print media in general?

For a start, the next generation of teens will not be waiting for the newest issues of glossies at the beginning of every month. While bloggers chase book deals, it seems like a rather unorthodox decision for a giant like Glamour to go fully virtual, but all is not lost.

There are clear advantages of going online, demonstrated by magazines such as Man Repeller and Into the Gloss, that Glamour could benefit from, the most notable one being interactivity. Gone are the days of sending letters to editors and Agony Aunts from the post office. The comments sections of websites are buzzing with tight-knit savvy communities.

If interactivity is what makes the internet unique, it makes sense that online journalism would try to capitalise on it. This is exactly where things get a bit sticky: online journalism tends to tell stories differently. As readers, we are used to having work online that is complementary of the actual magazine print, as with Glamour and other big names. Whether the twice-yearly print issues are going to supplement the online content like the online content used to support the print publication seems unclear.

Both in-house journalists and the readers will have to develop a new way of creating and consuming Glamour content. Simply treating this switch like that from a book to an eBook will not suffice. When it comes to journalism, the medium can sometimes be as important as the message itself.

The American women’s magazine Jane is a brilliant example of this. After they decided to end print publication, the founder of Jane started an online model named XOJane and later branched out with the founding of XOVain, a website dedicated to beauty. Similarly, Glamour has described the new online version of its brand a great fit for ‘the makeup crazy’. XOJane had to shut down this past year following much controversy over their unduly polemic and tone-deaf articles that were more concerned about the number of clicks and shares they could generate than with the quality of their stories. Glamour has to learn from these mistakes to avoid its demise.

To create gravitas as a corporate entity online requires a lot of hard work. The ubiquity of social media and the ease with which a person can produce their own online content makes credibility a larger issue for online publications, greater than for the traditional media. Clearly the internet enables more embellishments to the copy, with entities such as hyperlinks and embedded video, but does this actually reduce the writer to a repackager of content?

The end goal of any online publication is to create and present a new form of storytelling and to build a devout set of followers. This is no easy feat when clickbait and journalism as a craft are ever so difficult to reconcile.

‘Listicles’ and other simple popular formats, as pioneered by Buzzfeed, are easily clicked on, digested, and forgotten about. It is quite a sobering thought that we might be approaching the end of long-form journalism as we know it. Instant gratification is trumping traditional interviews and think pieces.

There is no question that Glamour, with its bubbly nature, was never especially high-brow in its content, but there is a time and a place for glossies in the journalistic sphere. Traditionally, women’s magazines have been trailblazers of feminist progress. This begs us to ask whether, when it comes to the transition between print and online journalism, Glamour and similar publications are forging a similar revolutionary path.

The more troubling thought would be the slippery slope the Glamour revamp marks. Is it only a matter of time before favourites like The New Yorker start to chase clicks instead of sharing brilliant tales of humanity? I’m not sure, but Glamour’s switch from print to online will surely be a worrying move for many of their counterparts.

Photograph: Alexa LaSpisa via Flickr and Creative Commons

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