By Shelby Foster
Once upon a time, girls and young women saved tear-outs of favorite looks from fashion magazine editorial spreads, then thumb-tacked their finds to cork boards for future reference.
In today’s digital world, where those tear-outs and cork boards are being replaced by social media websites like Pinterest (http://pinterest.com/), it’s no surprise that fashion magazines themselves are heading full-force into the digital realm.
Magazines like Glamour, Self, Harper’s Bazaar and, most recently, Vogue have all re-imagined their content to be read digitally. Apple’s iPad and many other tablets provide magazine applications available for download as soon as the issues go to press.
And these cyberspace versions are often not exact replicas of print publications. Many issues feature more highly interactive content so readers can get more out of their favorite fashion sources.
One of the most lucrative aspects of a digital magazine seamlessly connects the reader to the product. See a lust-worthy handbag or lipstick? Tap, swipe or slide your way to purchasing it from the brand’s website, accessed directly through the magazine. Find exactly the product you want and buy it immediately from the app.
Editorial content also features extras to make reading a more interactive experience. Tap on a Twitter icon on the letter-from-the-editor page to get constant updates on chic from the editor-in-chief. Read more about Kim Kardashian’s split by swiping over to an online story.
The beautiful editorial photography is no longer interrupted by pesky captions: Any and all clothing information is tucked away beneath a subtle design addition. Now the spreads are first aesthetically pleasing, with the small print optionally accessible — just “tap to read about this look.”
Readers can even watch the cover star come to life with bonus video extras embedded into the article. Simply reading fashion magazines is a thing of the past — now subscribers can play, watch, purchase and tap into their magazine to make the experience their own.
Advertisers, readers take notice
These interactive digital magazines are making huge waves in the fashion industry, and advertisers are taking notice. The special features make digital magazines attractive to readers, and if a fashion source lacks those little extras that optimize content, readers may go elsewhere.
“Too many magazines just use shovel ware to move the content over to an app with minimum added value,” says Jake Batsell, a journalism professor at Southern Methodist University. “Today, content needs to be well-done on any platform.”
And although digital magazine apps are fairly new technology, 11 percent of magazine readers already rely completely on tablets, according to GfK MRI, a leading producer of media research.
Mi-Sun Bae, a sophomore at SMU, recently bought an iPad and is attracted to the benefits of digital reading.
“One of the reasons why I purchased an iPad was to buy books and read them via the iPad, so I probably would enjoy reading magazines on it as well,” says Bae. “I think it’ll be eco-friendly to read it on iPad, and it wouldn’t be much of a hassle to carry the heavy magazines around.”
The “everything in one place” characteristic of tablets like the iPad allows fashionistas to travel and carry their favorite glossies with ease. No need to go to the grocery store to pick up this month’s issue when it could be ready to go on your iPad within minutes.
The charms of glossies
However, not all magazine lovers are jumping on board.
Courtney Johnson, 26, is a stay-at-home mom who isn’t trading her print magazines for digital anytime soon.
“I prefer to read magazines on paper. Call me old-fashioned,” she says. “I have a subscription to US Weekly, and I look forward to getting it in the mail every Thursday.”
Johnson also says she logs a lot of screen time already, so a break from technology is welcomed.
“I look at so much on the computer or my phone, and I feel like it’s nice to give my eyes a break from looking at a digital screen,” says Johnson.
Some readers have a hard time feeling the same connection with the digital editorial product, suggesting it doesn’t have the same aesthetic appeal as the glossy print pages of a traditional fashion magazine.
“Getting magazines on my iPad is much more convenient, but it just doesn’t compare to holding the magazine in your hand, flipping through the pages and getting a close view of the glossy pages,” says SMU senior fashion media minor Rachael Borne.
Reading magazines on an iPad also doesn’t allow the monthly issues to be placed artfully on bookshelves among trinkets and coffee table books.
Long-time fashion magazine devotees may also collect back issues to reference styles of the past decade or beyond.
Borne says she enjoys using the print versions of favorite fashion publications as décor. “I love saving all of my magazines for a decorative purpose,” she says.
While this practice could be attempted with a tablet, it obviously would not garner the same aesthetic glory — unless, perhaps, the tablet was always turned on and never ran out of battery. Not likely.
But with any new technology, time is required for it to align itself within society. None of the fashion magazine apps available to date is perfect, and upgrades are consistently being introduced to better the reader’s experience.
One of the biggest complaints about Apple’s digital magazine applications is lack of automatic background downloading — which means that only the magazine app can be running while a new issue downloads. Other users express regret with the app’s inability to zoom in on photographs in Vogue and other digital fashion publications.
Keeping the content new, fresh and integrated is the key to a successful iPad-compatible publication.
“Today’s user has too many options and not a lot of patience,” says Batsell.
But with time and the necessary upgrades, digital fashion magazines may eclipse print completely in a future that is not too far away — and quite possibly inevitable.