Over the last century, we’ve definitely grown to consume media differently. Men and women alike are rarely portrayed in magazines as excessively chaste, and flashy, provocative headlines dominate print covers. It’s a world where outlets compete for your attention.
Two researchers named Karen X. Cheng and Jerry Gabra (who were responsible for that SF Tilt video a ways back) began a project of digging up magazine covers for a slew of publications that still exist today, spanning decades since as early as 1900. They found some interesting comparisons when pairing them side by side.
Cosmopolitan, a women’s interest magazine that launched in 1886 as a literary publication, has probably undergone the biggest transformation (as you can see above).
On the other end of the spectrum, The New Yorker has barely changed at all.
TIME has also changed very little. For almost 100 years, it has continued its tradition of placing culturally important figures on their cover.
Men’s interest publication GQ, on the other hand, has eschewed their classic male cover subjects for sparsely clad women, as exemplified by their recent cover featuring a Star Wars-themed, bikini-clad Amy Schumer.
So what does this tell us about media?
The culture is constantly evolving, and each cover today seeks to help the reader get an even closer, more intimate look at its star. Words leap out at potential consumers, and sometimes, walking through an mag aisle can feel like being shouted at, but ultimately, it’s sort of a microcosm of media today, isn’t it?
Maybe, probably due in part to the advent of social media, we want to feel closer to who we read about. Seeing our favorite stars on covers posed casually, or with a sense of humor in mind (see Schumer above), they seem more approachable.
These days, we gravitate more towards a publication promising fun and comedy…and there’s nothing wrong with that!
Read more and see more covers here at Medium.
Alyssa Pereira is a music writer, web producer, and pop culture blogger for CBS stations in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Find her on Twitter at Alyssa Pereira