The other day, I received the March 2019 edition of Runner's World magazine. On the cover was a bunch of shoes, which told me it's time for the annual new shoes are coming out. There were the standard teasers, like training for 26.2 miles that intrigued me, but when I flipped open the magazine, it was 100 pages of shoes. A few ads, a couple of long features, but mostly, it was shoes. I threw the magazine down in complete frustration. I have been a subscriber to Runner's World for nearly four years, and in the past year, the magazine has seen not just a steady decline, but a sharp one. It began when it changed ownership from Rodale to Hearst. Then it announced it was going to be bi-montly instead of monthly. But when it went through three editors in that time, the content of the magazine also went from great information and helpful hints, to long garbage features and hawking new shoes and gear. In other words, it's become a catalog for its sponsors. Why? Same reason why every publication is going that same route, it's dying a slow death.
I have been a magazine lover all my life. Blame my mother, who would often have six to eight magazine delivered to the house each month. My mother subscribed to Newsweek, Glamour, People, Us, Cosmopolitan, Vaniety Fair and Sports Illustrated, which meant there was always a magazine to thumb through. My mother still gets a slew of magazines delivered to her house. So naturally, I followed suit when I got a real job. I have been a loyal subscriber to SI since the 1980s. Walk into my garage and you will see my corner with boxes and boxes of magazines, to my wife's chargrin. I also subscribed to The Sporting News, and Maxim at points in my life, and for one year, Playboy. Don't judge, they had great writers. The Sporting News surrendered its print in 2012, which was a shame because I loved their quick hit, and quirky news and layout. Maxim, once my favorite magazine because of its quirkiness, design and funny articles, was bought out several times and is now, well, I don't know what it is. Instead of celebs, it takes pictures of anerexic European models and has llllong, boring features of glamorus places I have no intention of visiting, nor do I care. It's the same as Runner's World, but the audience it's trying to reach is younger, richer and more ambitious than me. So I surrendered my subscription last year in complete frustration.
Here's the thing, for $4-$5 dollars a pop, I want to be informed. I get it that there is cost cutting happening in print media and understand why. That's why newspapers and magazines are slicing off body parts and sacrifices great info for ads and sponsors. But I still feel ripped off and duped. Sports Illustrated, despite going from a weekly to a biweekly last year, remains strong. Yes, a lot of their better writers bailed, and they have some editing flaws pop up more and more, but the way they deliver information remains strong. They don't kill their readers with boring, shitty features that have nothing to do with anything. They have strong photography, a hallmark of SI, and solid writing. While I wish it was still a weekly, I am ok with it because the magazine remains vital. People magazine has also stuck with its format. Quick-hit info, features that are easy to read. I can thumb through it in 10 minutes and get what I want.
I know Playboy made the terrible decision to end photos of nude women. Playboy is world famous for spreads of beautiful naked women and celebs. Their photography is the best in the business. So when they thought their features and articles would carry the publication, they were dead wrong. As subscribers bailed on them quickly, Playboy had to go back to what makes them great. Runner's World will lose a subscriber in me when it runs out in a couple of months. It's a shame because that magazine motivated me to run and taught me some great tricks. I still hold on to old editions as reference points, but the last few will end up in the trash because it's useless to me. I am not one to go in an write reviews, but Runner's World and Maxim would get scathing reviews from me. Both were the best at their peak. Now, they don't know nor understand their audience, and that is a terrible shame.