The September Issue
Fans of Vogue magazine may be aware that ‘The September Issue’ comes out this week. This documentary follows Anna Wintour as she supervises the assembly of Vogue’s renowned September issue, traditionally the biggest of the year. Are the Femmeinistes going to see it? Of course. (Does the devil in fact wear Prada? Stay tuned!)
Aside from the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing whether Anna Wintour, arguably the most powerful figure in fashion today, is really as difficult as reputed, I am looking forward to seeing what light, if any, the movie sheds on Vogue’s position in today’s increasingly shaky publishing industry. We all know it’s been a hell of a year for publishing – Domino magazine folded, newspapers seem to be fleeing to the online world right and left. Vogue may be the bible of American fashion, but I have trouble believing it’s entirely immune, especially given its extremely high end focus. With all the hand wringing going on about how luxury fashion is going to weather the new economy, Ms Wintour must be thinking about it.
One thing that has brought my curiosity to the fore is my recent review of Vogue’s actual September issue for this year. It certainly had some compelling content, as it always does, but the thing that struck me most was that the letter from the editor, the first piece of substance in the magazine, didn’t start until page 208. That’s right, there were TWO HUNDRED pages of ads before the magazine actually started. Based on my rough count, the whole 584 page magazine only had 190 pages of actual content. That, for the math averse, is less than one third. I’m not sure if this has gotten worse or if it’s always this bad and I just wasn’t paying attention, but it makes me wonder if Vogue is having or going to have trouble staying afloat. I realize that the advertisements are where magazines make their money, but I start wondering what I’m reading the magazine for when most of it is ads. Can I even say I’m reading it when there’s this little content?
Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed the issue, especially Jeffrey Steingarten’s piece on eating in bars. (No shock there.) Fashion’s night out? I’m so there. But I do wonder how closely in touch with their actual readership they are these days. I know there’s an audience for the lifestyle profile pieces on high society folks, even if they mostly bore me, but how much of Vogue’s readership is that audience? Even their attempts at recognizing the recession occasionally come off as laughable. Their feature “100 under $500,” a list of “smart buys” for the new economy with an emphasis on getting your money’s worth, includes a $450 beach towel from D. Porthault. Seriously? A pricey beach towel may be a fun buy, but in what world does that constitute a smart buy for getting your money’s worth? Who are they talking to?
I’m guessing that Vogue’s economic woes, if any, were kept far away from the camera, but you bet I’ll be watching. There’s no getting around the fact that this is a time of flux for the publishing industry, and I’ll be interested in seeing how Vogue weathers it.