The Influence of Advertising on Magazine Journalism

Please, just call me Ms.

Ms. Magazine was the first U.S. magazine to feature prominent American women demanding the repeal of laws that criminalized abortion, the first to explain and advocate for the ERA, to rate presidential candidates on women’s issues, to put domestic violence and sexual harassment on the cover of a women’s magazine, to feature feminist protest of pornography, to commission and feature a national study on date rape, and to blow the whistle on the undue influence of advertising on magazine journalism.

Ms. Magazine covers national and global news relating to women’s issues. It features investigative reporting, political analysis, and content about feminist leaders, as well as issues related to women’s relationships, religion, civil rights, money, health, and the environment. This magazine is very unique in that its readers represent a variety of ethnicities that span the globe, all ages from the young woman in college to the 37-year-old suburban feminist and older, and a broader perspective of concerns addressed. The only primary thread interwoven into its being is that its focus is on women through the advocacy for feminism, and therefore fairly exclusionary towards men. However, the content is well written in way so that it retains its value even for the enlightened male reader to enjoy. The Ms. community spans the globe focusing on issues from Israel, Afghanistan, Rwanda and France, and back to America. It is common place to find articles about feminism in practice in such nations, or the fight for civil rights for the women who live there. Special interests’ features such as “French Women Do Get Fat” or praise for work of fearless women also highlight readers outside the United States.

Ms. Magazine is committed to promoting women’s advocacy and a feminism viewpoint, and bringing that viewpoint to the world. It is written to inform readers of women’s rights, assaults to those rights, and points of action. It celebrates successes, and motivates readers to take action and fight to achieve the next success in the next ‘wave’.

The advertisements in Ms. Magazine are primarily for other forms of feminist journalism such as Bitch, Herizons, or RockrGrl, or human/women’s rights organizations such as the National Center for Human Rights Education ( or the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice ( The ads are all distinctly related to actual women’s interests and concerns, and for the most part are non-commercial. As such, you don’t see any ads for cigarettes, cars, or alcohol. Instead there are ad’s for environmentally friendly menstrual products, eco-friendly t-shirts emblazed with feminist slogans and Ani DiFranco’s newest album tour.

Ms. Magazine’s content is original content written and produced by staff members of the publication based in Virginia or California. Articles are not reprinted from elsewhere, and while a rare tidbit may be derived from another source, the content remains original and fresh.

The target audience for this magazine is women of all ages, ethnicities and class. According to Tracy Wood, editor in 2002, “The actual subscription demographics for Ms. has a high percentage of college students. Extremely high. Ms. has a very unusual subscription base overall. Most magazines are geared toward a certain age group. When they did the analysis of Ms. demographics they found that it was almost equally spread among young women, women in the middle and older women, which is almost unheard of. So the problem really isn’t reaching out to any age group. It’s reaching more people in all age groups.”

Un-glamor-ous in Comparison

The first thing you notice in comparing issues of the alternative publication Ms. Magazine to the commercial press publication Glamour is the covers. Of the five issues I have spread in front of me of Ms. only two feature photos of women. The other three covers all have large text headlines with a heavy emphasis on red. These three covers are also sans photos. Glamour on the other hand features close up photos of heavily made up women in glamorous gowns or other sexy clothes. Articles highlighted on the covers of Ms. Magazine are about “Sex, Greed and Forced Abortions…“, “Ending Breast Cancer by 2015“, and “6 Steps to Getting Paid What You Deserve” compared to Glamour’s “12 Tricks to Steam Up Your Sex Life“, “Exactly What to Eat to Stay Slim“, “The Real Reasons You’re Gaining Weight and How to Stop” and “Our 7 Best Sex Secrets Ever“. While both magazines focus on women reader’s Ms. Magazine successfully empowers women and motivates them to positive social action, while Glamour encourages self-obsession as the cover declares “Look and Feel Sexy… The Clothes, The Hair, The Body, The Whole Package!” Unfortunately, apparently looking and feeling sexy – and ‘the whole package’ – doesn’t include social awareness and intellect.

Diving into the Glamour magazine you quickly see that blurbs are repurposed from one issue to the next. I call them blurbs because you can’t even consider them to be mini-articles. There are a few mini-articles that speak to getting out of debt or getting ahead in your job, but instead of in depth advice for such warranted subjects there is merely a brief paragraph or two of meager advice.

The majority of the content is focused around how to please a man, how to be appealing to a man, how to get a man, how to keep a man, and how to have the best sex (uh, yeah, you guessed it!… with a man). Glamour is all about you so you can be all about him.


Advertisements are likewise focused on women but, unlike Ms. Magazine which reflects empowerment of women and feminist viewpoints, Glamour magazine has a self-obsessed collection of advertisements from makeup to perfume, clothes, hair products and alcohol. There is very little, if any, eco-friendly awareness and even less on promoting feminism.

The target audience of Glamour is the unmarried middle and lower class 20-something woman. For such an influential time in life it is said to see how this magazine merely perpetuates the existence of our social norms that spurns responses from such magazines as Ms. and Bitch. If only such mainstream rags would show a little social conscience and start developing real content that begins to empower their readers, and broaden their awareness of social issues. To be fair, over the past few years it seems Glamour has spent more attention on inspirational examples of female leaders, and has even added the new column “Global Diary” which first run featured “How Sex Slavery Is Ruining Young Girls’ Lives In Cambodia“. However, a picture is worth a thousand words. There just aren’t enough pages in this magazine to undo the damage of all the destructive pictures and imagery in advertising in the magazine.

In summary, while both Ms. Magazine and Glamour focus on women as the target audience, Glamour is concerned with a much smaller demographic than the broad and global reaching Ms. Magazine. While Glamour services a smaller audience they fail to take that opportunity to provide rich content that would make a positive impact on women’s lives. Just as television being introduced into a once T.V. free culture seemingly founded a wave of weight distraught girls, Glamour would likely do the same. An introduction of Ms. Magazine would appear to educate women on world politics, human rights, and personal empowerment. The fluff of Glamour is dust in comparison to the level of depth in investigative reporting shown in Ms. Magazine. In conclusion I believe that it would be of great benefit to young women, and women in general, to learn about and read Ms. Magazine regularly. However, I believe reading Glamour magazine is detrimental to female self-image and confidence, and barely requires brain cells to read. The commercial aspects of Glamour make it a magazine inspired only to support the advertisements it houses. Here’s the Ms. and overcoming ‘undue influence of advertising on magazine journalism’.

Magazines Used in Analysis and Comparison

Ms. Magazine Issues: Spring 2006, Winter 2006, Summer 2005, Fall 2005, Spring 2005

Glamour Magazine Issues: September 2006, August 2006


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