See Jane die.
It was hardly a storybook ending, but after 10 years and countless tongue-in-cheek articles and snarky celebrity interviews, Jane magazine is done. Women's magazines come and go, but Jane's death, announced in July, raises the question:
Are women's magazines obsolete?
On a glossy playing field crowded with tomes for shopping (Lucky) and Hollywood trends (InStyle), there seems to be little need for general-interest publications hawking fashion updates, beauty tips and diet advice. Factor in celeb rags such as US Weekly and People dishing on fashion and beauty products, too. Who needs to crack another issue of Glamour or Allure?
Certainly Jane, named after founding editor Jane Pratt, tried to be different. Pratt targeted single 20-somethings with articles on naked yoga and polygamist housewives, a yen for affordable fashion and celebrity interviews not afraid to take a swipe at the interviewee.
Although current Jane editor Brandon Holley has yet to comment on the magazine's closure, publisher Carlos Lamadrid claimed to be surprised by parent company Conde Naste's decision.
"I don't really know (why it folded Jane)," Lamadrid told the New York Times in July. "We had been given a number for ad sales, and we were actually performing to that number."
But while Jane prided itself as an edgy alternative to more conventional fare such as Glamour and Allure, many experts believe it suffered from an identity crisis: Too edgy for the mainstream - but too safe for savvy hipster tastes.
"It existed in a black hole between being alternative and mainstream," says Andi Zeisler, editorial director for Bitch, a Portland-based feminist pop culture magazine.
After Pratt's 2005 departure, she adds, the magazine turned decidedly more vanilla. "They started putting more commercially friendly faces on the cover such as Ashlee Simpson - people whom the original Jane would have made fun of before," she said.
Of course, Jane's always been Hollywood-friendly - its debut issue featured Pratt pal Drew Barrymore on its cover. Ironically, Zeisler adds, such star power may be what ultimately contributed to Jane's demise. Now, with magazines such as Us Weekly, People and InStyle mixing Hollywood and fashion news, conventional women's magazines seem almost quaint. Ironically, "Jane contributed to the shift that we've seen in the last 10 years," Zeisler says.
It also didn't help, she adds, that advertisers viewed Jane as a demographic nightmare. "The editors ran a lot of articles that assumed their readers were broke - you've got to guess that was a big turnoff to advertisers," Zeisler says.
Lauren Pozner, executive director for Women In Media, a media analysis and advocacy group, agrees Jane had difficulty selling itself to fickle advertisers. The problem was cold, hard profits. The publication's ad revenue, which peaked at US$46 million in 2004, was down to an estimated US$40 million in 2006. Its circulation was at 700,000, down from a 2004 high of 740,000.
Jane's not the only victim, Pozner says. "Magazines didn't used to need to make huge profits on the stock market (to survive)," Pozner says. "Now, it's considered a product just like soda or sneakers."
Shopping-centric mags such as Lucky also have changed the way the medium is doing business, Zeisler says. "Lucky really changed the whole editorial focus of magazines," Zeisler says. "Now it's about instant gratification and turning women's magazines into catalogs."
Still, some critics say, Jane was forced to cash out when it didn't cash in on the online revolution. And, if they don't act soon, other women's magazines may follow suit. "People aren't just using the Net as a source of information but also as a form of entertainment," Patricia Handschiegel, founder of a StyleDiary.net, a Web-only beauty and fashion magazine says.
Which brings us back to: If the women's magazine model is outdated, are women's magazines, too?
Not so fast, Pozner says.
"Maga-zines like Glamour and Allure occasionally run strong content about international affairs, health issues and equal pay - the problem with the model is that those articles are wedged between ads for `thinner thighs in 10 days.'"
But while the traditional women's magazine may not be in immediate danger of dying off, Jane's absence will be noticed.
Dani Kando-Kaiser, for one, will miss the magazine's smart, offbeat style. "Most women's magazines just make readers feel bad about themselves," she says. "Jane was the opposite. It offered a message of acceptance."
See Jane die.