By definition, a magazine paginates with each issue starting at page three, with the standard sizing being 8 3/8 × 10 7/8 inches. However, in the technical sense a journal has continuous pagination throughout a volume. Thus Business Week, which starts each issue anew with page one, is a magazine, but the Journal of Business Communication, which starts each volume with the winter issue and continues the same sequence of pagination throughout the coterminous year, is a journal. Some professional or trade publications are also peer-reviewed, an example being the Journal of Accountancy. Academic or professional publications that are not peer-reviewed are generally professional magazines. That a publication calls itself a journal does not make it a journal in the technical sense; The Wall Street Journal is actually a newspaper.
Magazines can be distributed through the mail, through sales by newsstands, bookstores, or other vendors, or through free distribution at selected pick-up locations. The subscription business models for distribution fall into three main categories.
In this model, the magazine is sold to readers for a price, either on a per-issue basis or by subscription, where an annual fee or monthly price is paid and issues are sent by post to readers. Paid circulation allows for defined readership statistics.
This means that there is no cover price and issues are given away, for example in street dispensers, airline, or included with other products or publications. Because this model involves giving issues away to unspecific populations, the statistics only entail the number of issues distributed, and not who reads them.
This is the model used by many trade magazines (industry-based periodicals) distributed only to qualifying readers, often for free and determined by some form of survey. Because of costs (e.g., printing and postage) associated with the medium of print, publishers may not distribute free copies to everyone who requests one (unqualified leads); instead, they operate under controlled circulation, deciding who may receive free subscriptions based on each person's qualification as a member of the trade (and likelihood of buying, for example, likelihood of having corporate purchasing authority, as determined from job title). This allows a high level of certainty that advertisements will be received by the advertiser's target audience, and it avoids wasted printing and distribution expenses. This latter model was widely used before the rise of the World Wide Web and is still employed by some titles. For example, in the United Kingdom, a number of computer-industry magazines use this model, including Computer Weekly and Computing, and in finance, Waters Magazine. For the global media industry, an example would be VideoAge International.
The earliest example of magazines was Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen, a literary and philosophy magazine, which was launched in 1663 in Germany. The Gentleman's Magazine, first published in 1731, in London was the first general-interest magazine. Edward Cave, who edited The Gentleman's Magazine under the pen name "Sylvanus Urban", was the first to use the term "magazine," on the analogy of a military storehouse. Founded by Herbert Ingram in 1842, The Illustrated London News was the first illustrated magazine.
The oldest consumer magazine still in print is The Scots Magazine, which was first published in 1739, though multiple changes in ownership and gaps in publication totalling over 90 years weaken that claim. Lloyd's List was founded in Edward Lloyd's England coffee shop in 1734; it is still published as a daily business newspaper. Despite being among the first mass media outlets to venture from the bible, periodicals still remained rooted in the naturalized class and gender system held by European and American society.
Manufacturing of the early magazines were done via an archaic form of the printing press, using large hand engraved wood blocks for printing. When production of magazines increased, entire production lines were created to manufacture these wooden blocks.
Under the ancien regime, the most prominent magazines were Mercure de France, Journal des sçavans, founded in 1665 for scientists, and Gazette de France, founded in 1631. Jean Loret was one of France's first journalists. He disseminated the weekly news of music, dance and Parisian society from 1650 until 1665 in verse, in what he called a gazette burlesque, assembled in three volumes of La Muse historique (1650, 1660, 1665). The French press lagged a generation behind the British, for they catered to the needs the aristocracy, while the newer British counterparts were oriented toward the middle and working classes.
Periodicals were censored by the central government in Paris. They were not totally quiescent politically—often they criticized Church abuses and bureaucratic ineptitude. They supported the monarchy and they played at most a small role in stimulating the revolution. During the Revolution, new periodicals played central roles as propaganda organs for various factions. Jean-Paul Marat (1743–1793) was the most prominent editor. His L'Ami du peuple advocated vigorously for the rights of the lower classes against the enemies of the people Marat hated; it closed when he was assassinated. After 1800 Napoleon reimposed strict censorship.
Magazines flourished after Napoleon left in 1815. Most were based in Paris and most emphasized literature, poetry and stories. They served religious, cultural and political communities. In times of political crisis they expressed and helped shape the views of their readership and thereby were major elements in the changing political culture. For example, there were eight Catholic periodicals in 1830 in Paris. None were officially owned or sponsored by the Church and they reflected a range of opinion among educated Catholics about current issues, such as the 1830 July Revolution that overthrew the Bourbon monarchy. Several were strong supporters of the Bourbon kings, but all eight ultimately urged support for the new government, putting their appeals in terms of preserving civil order. They often discussed the relationship between church and state. Generally, they urged priests to focus on spiritual matters and not engage in politics. Historian M. Patricia Dougherty says this process created a distance between the Church and the new monarch and enabled Catholics to develop a new understanding of church-state relationships and the source of political authority.
In the mid-1800s, monthly magazines gained popularity. They were general interest to begin, containing some news, vignettes, poems, history, political events, and social discussion. Unlike newspapers, they were more of a monthly record of current events along with entertaining stories, poems, and pictures. The first periodicals to branch out from news were Harper's and The Atlantic, which focused on fostering the arts. Both Harper's and The Atlantic persist to this day, with Harper's being a cultural magazine and The Atlantic focusing mainly on world events. Early publications of Harper's even held famous works such as early publications of Moby Dick or famous events such as the laying of the world's first transatlantic telegraph cable however the majority of early content was trickle down from British events.
The development of the magazines stimulated an increase in literary criticism and political debate, moving towards more opinionated pieces from the objective newspapers. The increased time between prints and the greater amount of space to write provided a forum for public arguments by scholars and critical observers.
The early periodical predecessors to magazines started to evolve to modern definition in the late 1800s. Works slowly became more specialized and the general discussion or cultural periodicals were forced to adapt to a consumer market which yearned for more localization of issues and events.
Mass circulation magazines became much more common after 1900, some with circulations in the hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Some passed the million-mark in the 1920s. It was an age of Mass media. Thanks to the rapid expansion of national advertising, the cover price fell sharply to about 10 cents. One cause was the heavy coverage of corruption in politics, local government and big business, especially by Muckrakers. They were journalists who wrote for popular magazines to expose social and political sins and shortcomings. They relied on their own investigative journalism reporting; muckrakers often worked to expose social ills and corporate and political corruption. Muckraking magazines–notably McClure's–took on corporate monopolies and crooked political machines while raising public awareness of chronic urban poverty, unsafe working conditions, and social issues like child labor.
The journalists who specialized in exposing waste, corruption, and scandal operated at the state and local level, like Ray Stannard Baker, George Creel, and Brand Whitlock. Other like Lincoln Steffens exposed political corruption in many large cities; Ida Tarbell went after John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company. Samuel Hopkins Adams in 1905 showed the fraud involved in many patent medicines, Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle gave a horrid portrayal of how meat was packed, and, also in 1906, David Graham Phillips unleashed a blistering indictment of the U.S. Senate. Roosevelt gave these journalists their nickname when he complained they were not being helpful by raking up all the muck.
In 2011, 152 magazines ceased operations and in 2012, 82 magazines were closed down. Between the years of 2008 to 2015, Oxbridge communications announced that 227 magazines launched and 82 magazines closed in 2012 in North America. Furthermore, according to MediaFinder.com, 93 new magazines launched between the first six months of 2014 and just 30 closed. The category that produced new publications was "Regional interest", six new magazines were launched, including 12th & Broad and Craft Beer & Brewing. However, two magazines had to change their print schedules. Johnson Publishing's Jet stopped printing regular issues making the transition to digital format, however still print an annual print edition. Ladies Home Journal, stopped their monthly schedule and home delivery for subscribers to become a quarterly newsstand-only special interest publication.
According to statistics from the end of 2013, subscription levels for 22 of the top 25 magazines declined from 2012 to 2013, with just Time, Glamour and ESPN The Magazine gaining numbers.
Immortalized in movies and magazines, young women's fashions of the 1920s set both a trend and social statement, a breaking-off from the rigid Victorian way of life. Their glamorous life style was celebrated in the feature pages and in the advertisements, where they learned the brands that best exemplified the look they sought. These young, rebellious, middle-class women, labeled "flappers by older generations, did away with the corset and donned slinky knee-length dresses, which exposed their legs and arms. The hairstyle of the decade was a chin-length bob, which had several popular variations. Cosmetics, which until the 1920s were not typically accepted in American society because of their association with prostitution, became, for the first time, extremely popular.
In the 1920s new magazines appealed to young German women with a sensuous image and advertisements for the appropriate clothes and accessories they would want to purchase. The glossy pages of Die Dame and Das Blatt der Hausfrau displayed the "Neue Frauen," "New Girl" - what Americans called the flapper.She was young and fashionable, financially independent, and was an eager consumer of the latest fashions. The magazines kept her up to date on fashion, arts, sports, and modern technology such as automobiles and telephones.