13th Feb 2024
3 Min Read

The mags that changed the world

Declan Newcombe
Declan Newcombe
IC & Engagement

Don’t believe in the power of print? Think again. Let’s breakdown three milestone magazines that changed the world and discover how you can take a page out of their book to make your internal channels shine.

Can a magazine really change the world – and if so, how? To put it simply, yes, and many have. But it’s not as easy as sticking a free CD on the cover, as so many mid-2000s titles did.

To survive in the modern world of print journalism – a world that is increasingly under threat – you have to offer something special. To thrive and make an everlasting impact on print and pop culture as some publications have, you need even more still.

So, what does that mean for the world of internal communications? Many IC practitioners think this format has died a slow and painful death. But, with a steady increase in magazine readership in the past decade, this is far from the case.

As teams begin to realise and unleash the true power of print, it’s time to ask yourself: ‘how can my mag change the world?’. What are these world-changing publications? What is this special something that they have? And how can you use that information to make your messages land?

Iconic imagery

When TIME magazine first graced our shelves in 1923, it may have lacked the iconic red typeface – but it hailed a new epoch for print.

One hundred years on and TIME is a true titan with 26 million worldwide readers of its print edition alone. Its journalism has overshadowed competitors. But where it really shines is its mastery of the image.

From Kanye to Clinton, Ai Wei Wei to Artificial Intelligence: TIME has conveyed the cultural zeitgeist in a single image. Its front cover alone has cut through the noise, thanks to its photography, art direction, authenticity and authority. It’s something every editorial team – regardless of their audience – should aspire to.

What lesson can we take from TIME? A well-lit shot alone won’t make your mag a hit or convince that reader to keep thumbing their way through – your imagery has to be bold and honest. So, the next time you’re brainstorming image ideas, think: what would TIME do?

Topic in page - mags that changed the world 1
Credit: TIME magazine

Slow stories

The growing distrust in media and the shift towards fast journalism – fuelled in part by the efforts of outlets to churn out stories as quickly and as cheaply as possible – has made it harder than ever for modern magazines to cut through.

Enter Delayed Gratification – the magazine spearheading the slow journalism revolution. It’s an ethos that places accuracy, impartiality, context and depth above all. And it does it oh so well.

The magazine values being accurate over everything else and sets a refreshingly principled precedent: it invests in journalism, follows up on stories and values space – only filling 120 pages every three months. It’s why, if a story makes the cut, you know it’s probably worth your time as a reader.

Delayed Gratification’s slow journalism is the antidote to distrust and it’s why its readers are hopelessly devoted – and the publication itself is a testament to the fact that your story doesn’t need to be captured in a 30-second reel: it can be long-form, nuanced or mosaic. Just as long as it lives the slow journalism creed.

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Credit: Delayed Gratification

Captivating communications

The distinct yellow border has been a mainstay for newsagents and bookshops since 1888. Its stories of the natural world have enchanted readers across the globe. But there’s one thing National Geographic does better than anyone else.

Its creators could have printed blocks of black justified text on a white background – and yes, many of its readers would’ve still waited patiently for it to hit the doorstep – but it didn’t. Why? Because it knew that communication can be beautiful.

No reader is left behind. Through creativity and flare, they display data and distil complex scientific subjects into beautiful graphics. Want to know key dinosaurs of the late Jurassic period? How about what your brain gets up to when you sleep, or the hunting pattern of orca? Here’s what you need to know – presented in a brilliantly considered and accessible manner.

So, while you may not have data to plot in an artistic way, the lesson National Geographic teaches us is clear: communicate complex topics simply and creatively.

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Credit: National Geographic

Changing the world

Magazines have the power to change the world; to provoke and to broaden our horizons. But to do that, you need something truly special – you need the perfect blend of iconic imagery, slow stories and creative communication.

If you unite these three pillars, all while knowing your audience – just as these giant titles have done so well – then you’ll propel a publication to success. For IC teams, the rules are no different.

In a binary world, where most of the digital channels we use are oversaturated with accessible media, the magazine has more life than ever. In fact, these conditions alone have enhanced its power to provoke, to bring people together and to help share powerful messages.

Magazines can still change the world. Will yours?

Reach out to discuss your next publication and how it can change your world.

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