Magazines...without the magazine: Remaking boundaries in an era of media convergence

Brooke Duffy, University of Pennsylvania


Transformations in contemporary media industries in response to “convergence,” broadly conceived, raise fundamental questions about the identity of any particular medium: its content, format, frequency, mediation, and more. In the consumer magazine industry, producers are grappling with the question, “What is a magazine?” quite literally, recognizing that their engagement with this issue will guide the future of publishing. For now, magazine producers are working amidst chaos and unpredictability as they confront a heady brew of challenges: competition from new and emergent platforms which are free and accessible twenty-four/seven; destabilized revenue systems, and the deprofessionalization of the culture industries, among others. This qualitative study of the women's magazine industry seeks to examine how executives and content creators are dealing with such uncertainty through ideas related to their identities—gendered, professional, and organizational. Specifically, I show how producers are maintaining a grasp on the historic specificity of magazines while adapting to their newly constructed identities as cross-platform “brands.” Data for this project come from in-depth interviews with thirty magazine executives and producers; a textual analysis of the trade press; and an examination of magazine-branded content and communication. Through this data, I argue that as the traditional defining boundaries within and around the magazine industry become amorphous, producers are creating new ones to give structure to and resonate with contemporary notions of “magazines.” The shape-shifting placement of these boundaries has implications for both producers and consumers of magazine news, information, and entertainment content. Creative staffers are forced to negotiate specialization with being a jack-of-all-trades; face a loss of autonomy; and are embedded in a professional culture where the demographics may be shifting in problematic ways. The implications for audiences—as consumers of “magazine” content—include differences in content quality and creativity across platforms as well as editorial and interactive content increasingly created by or for advertisers. ^

Subject Area

Multimedia Communications|Sociology, Organization Theory|Mass Communications

Recommended Citation

Duffy, Brooke, "Magazines...without the magazine: Remaking boundaries in an era of media convergence" (2011). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3485604.