Reconstructing age by redefining boundaries: Women's service magazines and the 50+ market

Nadine Gabbadon, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation investigates how media and advertising companies reconstruct target audiences so that the boundaries that previously defined them are broadened to include formerly ignored groups. By using the female, 50-plus target market as a case study, this project explores the dynamics of how new boundaries around this audience have been created and generally adopted by magazine and advertising practitioners over the past thirty years. The methods used for this study included a textual analysis of women's service magazines' discourse relating to older age and aging, a textual analysis of media and advertising trade magazines' changing "constructions" of the 50-plus audience, and interviews of magazine and advertising workers. ^ There were four primary findings in this study. First, trade magazine discourse suggests that when the 50-plus population began to grow rapidly, demonstrate their economic power (due to significant amounts of disposable income), and exhibit traits and consumer behaviors that were similar to younger generations, advertisers were forced to take notice and began to market to 50-plus adults, who they had previously ignored. Second, this increased advertiser interest in the 50-plus market led to an increase in the representations of and discourse about 50-plus women in service magazines because media practitioners became motivated to create content that reflected and served this newly recognized group. This increase also led to a greater variety of representations in these magazines, so that 50-plus women began to reflect various walks of life. Third, the data suggest that a significant amount of conflict and tension surround the expansion of a target market. Today, advertisers and magazine professionals still do not fully agree with one another on the importance of the 50-plus market and how accepted they are by marketers. Engrained attitudes and established practices appear to play a role in limiting the kinds of changes that advertisers and magazine professionals claim to be making. Finally, fourth, this study has found that as the 50-plus audience has expanded, new boundaries around age have emerged, so that 65-plus adults are still mostly ignored by advertisers and particular industries, like electronics and fashion, are still very resistant to marketing to 50-plus women. The implications of these findings are discussed. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Marketing|Women's Studies|Speech Communication|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Gabbadon, Nadine, "Reconstructing age by redefining boundaries: Women's service magazines and the 50+ market" (2009). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3395693.