September 19, 2017

Magazines are no fun anymore


Within a week after Graydon Carter announced he was leaving Vanity Fair, three other editors of major magazines have said they’ll be stepping down from their posts: Robbie Myers of ELLE on September 11th; Nancy Gibbs of TIME on September 12th; and Cindi Leive of Glamour on September 14th. (“As in all things magazine related,” Leive quipped, “damn Graydon got there first.”)

And as of Monday, Jann Wenner, the publisher of Rolling Stone, announced he’s selling his controlling stake in the magazine he co-founded when he was just a twenty-one-year-old kid in San Francisco.

So why are all of these truly legendary and influential people walking away from their publications?

The answer is probably pretty banal. As former Vanity Fair and The New Yorker editor Tina Brown said in an email to Keith J. Kelly of the New York Post’s Media Ink, “The trend is, the business has become no fun for anyone with options.” With print circulation down (duh), and digital shares miles behind Google and Facebook (of course), “My guess is that everyone has looked at the projections for 2018 and blanched,” said “one magazine veteran.”

Basically: this party’s kicked, and some people just know when it’s time to go home (or to move on to a better one). What could be interesting, though, is to see whether this critical mass of veterans taking their leave might make some real room for change across companies and publications. Of his own magazine at least, Wenner said, “I think it’s time for young people to run it.”

Everyone else is too old for this shit.



Taylor Sperry is a former Melville House editor.