Yesterday, VIBE magazine called it quits. I had quit VIBE years earler.
Magazines on the whole are an endangered species. Just as much as newspapers if not even. Lack of advertising revenue, the Internet, short attention spans and the fact people hate to read anything longer than….oh…anything much longer than blog length all conspired to make magazines redundant, irrelevant or both.
As someone who grew up as a teenager reading rock magazines such as Crawdaddy, Fusion, CREEM and Rolling Stone before they all either disappeared or became unreadable, I not only read VIBE, I subscribed to make certain I’d never miss an issue.
But like so many other relationships I had outgrown VIBE. My first interest in a music magazine is the music and as rap and hip-hop became less prominent on my playlist, I found myself uninterested in feature stories about the likes Lil’ Wayne and Keyshia Cole.
Like Rolling Stone, VIBE started out when Quincy Jones owned it as a magazine that covered fashion, news and other subjects, but never lost sight that is was a music magazine first and foremost. But when mags like VIBE become better known for how close-to-naked they can get a pop star to pose and stunts like that become the only reason to read the rag, it just becomes easier to switch over to Black Tail or Players and cut out the “almost” naked crap.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a nice piece of eye candy too. But there’s plenty of skin available online for free. Why am I going to pull out five bucks every month to see a suggestive pose from Beyonce or Janet Jackson when the real deal is a URL or two away?
The problem for magazines like VIBE is once they go the route of showing a little bit o’ skin is there’s nowhere to go except showing more and more while never being able to go as far as adult magazines. They know a sexy girl sells but how long can they can put a discreetly naked Toni Braxton with her arms and a towel discreetly covering up her naughty bits and still be sold over the counter at the Wal-Mart magazine rack?
With the emergence of the so-called “lad mags” such as Maxim, FHM and KING with even more nearly-nude girls, the target audience for VIBE had other alternatives. The Source was always more hardcore about rap music and KING had more pics of a bootylicious babe than VIBE could begin to match.
Soft porn works as a marketing tool right up to the point until your audience can get their hands on the hard stuff. After that they’re gone and they aren’t coming back to be teased any more.
Unlike rock and jazz, 16 years is a long time to feel the same love for a rap and hip-hop act at 36 that you dug when you were 20.
VIBE stopped being about music long before its readership “greyed out” and moved on to other publications that reflected their changed tastes. So sad in a way, but totally predictable.
Blender had the intention of being a bratty younger brother to the cranky, pot-bellied old fart that Rolling Stone had become. For a time, Blender was cooler and hipper in a way Rolling Stone couldn’t be even if wanted to try. But by the time it was croaked in March 2009, I had canceled my subscription and put the magazine out of my mind. It took me another three months before I found out it was dead and gone.
Part of the same publisher that cranked out Maxim and FHM, Blender was the rock n’ roll bad seed of its more popular cousins, but like Maxim pretty girls who had forgotten to put on much clothing before posing for the cover were a staple of the magazine. At least until the end Blender seemed to actually like the music they covered.
Blender had no pretension of producing “journalism.” Exposes and in-depth interviews were not part of the DNA of a magazine that featured such material as “D’oh! The 20 Stoopidest Music Blunders” and “Heidi Montag: The Hills’ Superhot Supervillian.”
There were the occasional trend-breaking articles such as a in-depth feature about the shooting of hard rock guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott by a crazed fan at a Columbus night club and some revealing interviews where the artists answered questions posed by the fans.
From a purely music perspective, Blender’s CD reviews were top-rate and even forced Rolling Stone to redesign their own reviews to a similar format. I particularly enjoyed the critique of all the original recordings by such bands as The Rolling Stones, Beatles and the dearly departed Michael Jackson.
But like a good party that goes on just a little too long, Blender made changes in its editorial staff and the sagging ad revenues, reduction in pages and content and too many issues that could be skimmed through in less than 10 minutes without remembering a thing about it all led me to call up and cancel my subscription with another six months to go.
Rolling Stone chugs along while all its would-be competitors have fallen off the few remaining magazine racks. I still listen to rock n’ roll and hip-hop every now and then but as my tastes have evolved so have my choice of magazines. I’d rather read about sports, politics or jazz than this month’s hot rap act or semi-nude pop star some magazine writer believes I’m dying to know about.
It’s not so much a matter of growing old or even growing up. It’s more like I’ve outgrown what magazines like VIBE and Blender had to offer.