Some mags just rely more on evergreen topics than others, as if it's hardwired into their DNA. Take the upper left blurb on the September cover of Glamour magazine: "3 Flat Belly Secrets: Tone Up Your Abs Without Working Out." That sounded vaguely familiar, so I visited and used the search function to seek out all references to "flat belly" and... well, there were 330 returns.

Like a bridal magazine, Glamour needs to continually reach the same -- yet different -- new audience over and over again. And if you analyze it in those terms, you realize that's certainly a much harder task than winning and keeping the same readers. Glamour's been around since 1939, after all, so that's some 70-year parade of new abs that have needed toning up.

But make no mistake: Glamour's current tone is quite 2009. For example, "Ask Us Anything About Men's Bodies" is what Glamour does so well, presenting data and opinion as the unveiling of "secrets," while punching it up with real quotes from real guys, such as Adonis from Jonesboro, Ark. (Don't believe it? Check out page 267, second column). The accompanying "Where to Touch a Naked Man" chart may spur quite a few readers into Googling the term frenulum (no, not the one underneath the tongue).

I wish I could weigh in on this year's Glammy Awards, and speak intelligently on the selection of BareMinerals SPF 15 as a "best foundation" pick, but I'll defer to the editors. Of course, it's hardly worth noting that much of the book -- especially the first 150 pages or so -- is heavy with fashion and make-up and oh so many advertisements. But then just when you're at about the mid-point you pass through to something else, like Dorothy stepping out of her tornado-blown house.

And that's when you realize there actually are two Glamour magazines packed into every issue. The carnival barking on the cover may scream at you about flat bellies and sexy looks and better orgasms, because no doubt such perennials interest countless subscribers and newsstand browsers. But there's journalism of another sort tucked inside, and much of it is quite good:


  • "Sex With a Stranger" by Genevieve Field is a fascinating and somewhat scary investigation into the cultural phenomenon of young women who seek out sexual relationships online; the fact that the women featured don't look like those found in Glamour's advertisements or front-of-the-book sections only adds to the poignancy.
  • "36 Things Every Woman Should Know" by Sophia Banay is a solid service piece that compiles a variety of useful financial tips and strategies.
  • "They Give Lost Girls New Hope" chronicles two women who help rescue girls from the streets, and also lobby to change prostitution laws that penalize women more than men.
  • There are even some surprises embedded deep into these 296 pages, like celebrity pieces by authors named Affleck and Streep; Ben interviews Pulitzer Prize winners Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, while Meryl dissects how a roast chicken can live on for a week in a variety of guises.

    But for every original piece of content, there's something you've seen once or twice -- or 300 times. The fashion Dos and Don'ts on the back page undoubtedly will never get old. But it's hard to keep putting a fresh spin on "The Real Way to Romance a Guy" by Jake (the pseudonym used in a long-running column that gives "A Man's Opinion" on relationships).

    A close friend of mine was Jake for a while, and I've always thought it would make for a great Annie Leibovitz photo, to line up all those opinionated men in a salon, the Tony Curtis-era Jake clutching a Gibson alongside the Seth Rogen-era Jake sporting a beer pong cup. Further proof that, like the quest for toned abs, all that's new is old. Especially when condensed into a cover blurb.


    Published by: Condé Nast Publications

    Frequency: Monthly

    Web site:




  • 1 comment about "Glamour".
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    1. Andrea Learned from Learned On, LLC, August 20, 2009 at 2:23 p.m.

      Women's magazines are up against the wall these days, trying to maintain readership/advertisers but not doing much to develop any real longterm loyalty. The covers always scream at you (with those - as you mention - very familiar sex, diet tips, time-starved tips titles) - like that relatively short-lived TV series "Just Shoot Me." But, there are the occasional great feature articles/good writers that lots of readers may never find, because they are avoiding the sex/diet side of things so touted on the covers. Perhaps this challenging time for magazines will filter out the options, so the few that survive can really shake things up by trying a different route (imagine a cover WITHOUT the word sex on it?.. hmmm)

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