My Theory Of Magazine Buying

Apologies if I have gone into this before. Inspired by a Dissensus thread on the well-meaning Observer Music Monthly.

Basically once you’ve got to the stage where you actually know about something it’s best to stop buying magazines about it. This truth lies behind about 50% of the criticism of pop magazines (my grumblings included) – we know too much about music to get anything out of them, any magazine is going to be imperfect (especially compared to the ones we read when we didn’t know too much). It’s going to leave stuff out, it’s going to get its focus wrong, it’s going to spend time giving readers all that context that we picked up years ago.

Magazines tend to aim at the enthusiastic newcomer, and this more than ‘demographic targeting’ is why their audience naturally cycles. I really understood this when I stopped buying music ones and started buying mags about football and computer games – subjects I am interested in but know a great deal less about. They were fantastic – so much information, so much wit, so much enthusiasm! Why wasn’t there a pop equivalent of EDGE or When Saturday Comes? – those mags were giving me the buzz I’d got off Smash Hits when I started reading it, or the Melody Maker when I started reading it, or The Wire when…

You see a pattern? I’m already sick of EDGE, as it happens – after reading for a couple of years I know its prejudices too well (drooling over another import-only Japanese side-scrolling shooter…eyes glaze…). WSC continues to enthral but another FT contributor – who actually writes for them sometimes – seems as cynical about that magazine as I might be about Mojo.

So what I’m saying boils banally down to “don’t like em? don’t buy em!”. But it’s not that simple. Because magazines do appeal to the newcomer rather than the know-it-all, it matters even more that they do the job well. Meaning? That they don’t pander to received wisdom and quick-forming prejudices, that they find angles the reader won’t have thought of, that they’re as happy to reach for generosity as cynicism… it may be no good me complaining about Q et al/ these days, because they’ll never give me what I want, but that doesn’t mean I have to like them.

The Brown Wedge