‘Glamour’ hovers on the brink of the ‘Dumper’ as magazine fades to digital
Much joy will be lost when the UK women’s glossy stops publishing monthly from 2018
Goodbye Glamour: Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour magazine with Kylie Minogue. Photograph: Dave M Benett/Getty Images
In the end matter for Sylvia Patterson’s heartbreaking yet mind-poppingly glorious journalism memoir I’m Not With the Band, there’s a page listing various magazines that are now “decomposing in the Dumper” – the Dumper being that sorry place where Smash Hits once consigned pop stars whose careers were waning with terminal haste.
The list is an eclectic shelf of titles, some of which were, ahem, never for me (Nuts, Loaded, FHM and Zoo) and some of which were beloved purchases in their time (TV Hits, Select, Vox, Melody Maker and Smash Hits itself). To the list, Patterson adds “the spirit of NME” (the ex-inky technically lives on as a digital brand) and then there are several dotted lines, or “space to write the names of the next lot, as they come in”.
Newly hovering on the brink of the Dumper, though not quite in it, is the title to which Patterson often brought her A-grade writing post-Smash Hits, post-NME: the UK edition of monthly glossy Glamour.
From 2018, Glamour UK will print just two editions a year, publisher Condé Nast announced on Friday, eliciting some real wows. The rest of the time it will be glamorous in a “mobile-first, social-first” multi-platform way and, critically, it will be doing so with fewer staff.
On the one acrylic-nailed hand, it is not the biggest surprise: Glamour is aimed at younger women and this is precisely the Insta-demographic that has a distant relationship with print. But there is still something eyebrow-raising when a women’s glossy ditches the presses. The whole point of a magazine like Glamour is to be a fragrant, tactile accessory – the finite, font-flirting production of responsible adults with a proper budget.
Glamour is not some also-ran. It was once the market leader, with a circulation of more than half a million, and it still sells about 275,000 copies a month. If smartphones and social media have killed Glamour, they won’t stop there.
Media life is short. While the US original began life in 1939, Glamour UK is a mere teenager, debuting only in 2001 with the tagline “fits in your life as well as your handbag”. Glamour was small, fun, upbeat, day-glo bright, hard-to-dislike and successful. It was the Kylie Minogue of women’s glossies.
In I’m Not With the Band, Patterson writes that the title, under the direction of its joke-encouraging editor-in-chief Jo Elvin, “beautifully reflected our shiny, aspirational, consumerist new millennium”. Glamour, with its “harmless girlie agenda” was “exuberantly honest” where “many of the allegedly maverick titles” only pretended to be: “It was also, crucially, beneath its lip-glossed, hobble-heeled, fragrant facade, dedicated at its core to The Sisterhood (with some eye-twitching articles on sex).”
I consumed so much Glamour in my early twenties, I turned a stack of them into a makeshift bedside table, resting my dumb-phone on Jennifer Lopez and abandoning plates of cold toast on Jennifer Garner. Women’s magazines get a lot of stick, and they can sometimes be boringly prescriptive and conservative, but my memory of Glamour tallies with Patterson’s. It was funny and feminist, it talked about both ovaries and orgasms, and it lightly made its point that perfection is unattainable but here are 387 “hot looks” that might help.
A scan of the current edition suggests that the spirit of Glamour has survived intact under Elvin’s editorship, even though the title is no longer handbag-sized and the cover price was recently halved in desperation. This penultimate monthly edition is “100 per cent made by women”, with features headlined “You’re happy? Don’t apologise”, “How to boss your life” and (hitting the twentysomething bullseye) “Are you in an ‘almost-relationship’?”
Even though I’ve aged out of the magazine, I’m sorry it’s effectively bowing out of print and I’m sceptical about its digital future. This is partly Gen-X bafflement: the very beauty pages I used to skip (just give me pictures of clothes, thanks) will now be the focus of a new Glamour website, because apparently web traffic figures don’t lie.
But it’s the other part of the Condé Nast announcement that’s the clear spine-tingler. The magazine’s editorial and commercial operations are to be merged until they are “fully integrated” and Condé Nast’s “partners” have access to “the whole team” within a “unified and cohesive structure creating content for brands and editorial alike”.
I don’t want to prejudge, but this kind of thing gives me the chills so bad I’m having flashbacks to last year’s “cold shoulder” trend. Yes, glossy magazines may seem like commercial bibles from cover to cover anyway, but at a fundamental level, they are still about selling an audience to advertisers. Breaking down once-respected barriers between editorial and commercial threatens to turn this on its head, with titles tediously proceeding to sell advertorial to an audience instead.
What happens to the media in between? At this rate, the Dumper will soon be overflowing.