Monday, April 14, 2014

A Brief History Of Magazines

TIME Magazine; Person of the Year, Greg's Art ...
TIME Magazine; Person of the Year, Greg's Art and My Photo Online (Photo credit: Tony Fischer Photography)
Today's post courtesy of our friends at Modern Litho.

It's easy to take magazines for granted. In this day and age you can get a subscription for next to nothing, newstands are full of all of the recognizable names and any number of niche titles that seem to come and go ad infinitum. The word magazine actually was derived from the Arab world, as the word meant "warehouse", and as a magazine was basically a location for depositing a number of pieces of useful information, it stuck. While that's all well and good, where did the magazine come from, and how did it get to the point where it is today?

The first published magazine ever was titled  Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen (translation: Edifying Monthly Discussions). Thematically this publication centered on philosophy and was mainly written by one author. Several similar magazines followed shortly, all following similar lines of one main writer and a limited scope of subject matter, typically targeting an intellectual audience.

In 1672 the French Publication Le Mercure Galant was the first magazine that followed a more modern format with a large number of contributors and a variety of themes including theater, litereature and politics. This format was a hit and was copied quickly across Europe. The first publication targeting women was launched in London in 1693 and was titled Ladie's Mercury.

Early magazines struggled largely due to the inability to produce enough copies. Moreso than singular books, writing, designing, printing and distributing magazines was an ongoing, laborious, and expensive operation. Most early periodicals were limited to 100,000 copies and were largely geographically limited. Another limitation was the quality of the publications themselves. These weren't the glossy, colorful editions we're used to seeing today. As such, advertising wasn't prominent (along with a tax that existed on advertising up to 1853).

Eventually towards the turn of the century, printing technology and the repealed ad tax started the revolution in magazine advertising that made it a leading form of marketing that it has remained for over a hundred years.

For an excellent detailed timeline of magazine history, check out the one put together by magforum.com