Where did the magazines go?

PHOTO from jooinn.com

I mentioned this in this blog's About page: Magazines played a paramount role in my adolescent life. Flipping through the glossy journals was my escape from reality during the five grueling years of pursuing my undergraduate engineering degree. Magazines have been instrumental in igniting the youthful dreams that I was lucky enough to live by now and the goals that I’m getting through as yet.

I read Appetite, Yummy and Cook when I was obsessed of becoming a restaurateur (I almost left engineering for a culinary discipline back then). I skimmed Real Living when I was mentally detailing the house that I had wished to realize when my years in the corporate world would finally bear fruit.

Being an Anglophile lead me to Mercury Drug’s Enrich—I started when Prince William and Kate Middleton graced its cover in 2011, in time of their royal wedding. Enrich encompasses an eclectic mix of topics on health, personal development, housekeeping, history and culture, latest events, sports and travel among others. It brims with subjects that feed my passions and provides information that are of great help to parents like myself, so it became a staple when I have errands to run at the drugstore.

When I started earning my own money and got hooked to traveling, I began with travel magazines. I hoarded back issues instead of what’s currently on the stand because they’re cheaper while the write-ups could still take its readers by the hand to the places written about—exactly what I needed when tons of workload impede travel plans.

I enjoy it when restaurants got magazines for dine-in customers to browse through while having their food prepared. I became a habitué of my go-to diner along Makati Ave. for this reason. When getting myself a haircut or a once-in-a-blue-moon foot spa, I grab a magazine as soon as I enter the salon. I’m not much into vogue, but some fashion magazines have travel components too.

But I episodically pursue a minimalist lifestyle. There are occasions when I’m into Marie Kondo-ing my life and doing so entails bringing my magazine purchases to a halt. But magazines do “spark joy” that I can’t just discard even the thought of picking them up from the stand if the cover story seems compelling or educative. I trimmed down my to-buy list instead. I left myself with Enrich because it’s relatively cheap and virtually an all-in-one read, thus economical, and it’s within easy reach. I live near a Mercury Drug branch where I get baby’s essentials and my mom’s maintenance medicines, and copies of the magazine’s latest issue are stacked right at the counter so it’s hard to miss. It beckons!

On a magazine-hunt

The past weeks had been professionally and emotionally draining. Covid crisis seems far from over and I can’t just pack and go for a spontaneous sojourn as I do pre-pandemic. At once, I was in a slump on a craft that’s beyond my day job, something I am passionate about and keeps me cocooned at home: writing. Reading magazines helped in discovering my love for words and it engendered a desire to pen stories and insights of my own. My travel blog exists because of that leisure pursuit. So I went out to get some magazines for two reasons: to reaffirm that I’m doing well—that I already attained most of the aspirations formed subconsciously as I leafed through the magazines of my youth—and to stimulate creativity, to get the words flowing. But to my disappointment, the local bookstores in my hometown do not sell magazines anymore.

I drove to SM Center Angono, to the National Bookstore (NBS) branch nearest my place. NBS was where I get my copies back in college. In most NBS branches, the magazine rack is a large, oak-stained wall panel that has a fiberglass casing partitioned to hold different magazine titles, each transparent enclosure has its right edge left open where magazine copies are pulled out. This store section was always crammed with copies. In SM Angono, however, the panel was filled not with magazines anymore, but with college textbooks and exam reviewer books. A bookstore already of nationwide scale having their magazine stocks significantly reduced had me thinking: are magazines still in print? Or did they just cease temporarily because of the pandemic?

I had the luxury of time and I was in a driving state of mind so I went on farther to SM Megamall, a substantially larger mall with a larger NBS branch and a handful of other bookshops. I was on a magazine-hunt.

In Megamall branch, the oak-stained rack was dismantled when the store renovated years ago. The magazine section was replaced with a small square display table placed in an inconspicuous nook that I needed to ask the staff’s help in locating it. The latest issues on display were only of Archiknost, Tatler Philippines and People Asia, whose cover story was of ex-President Aquino’s recent passing. The rest of the titles were back issues, the most recent December 2019.

I checked Fullybooked and I was informed that magazines were distributed only in select branches, in BGC, according to the staff. I went down to Booksale where magazine shelves fringe the entrance ever since. The shelves were still filled, but I only found 2019 issues of La Isla, Philpine Airline’s inflight magazine, and current issues of Animal Scene. I ended up getting copies of La Isla that contain features on Cebu and Siargao.

But I didn’t budge. I wanted the magazines that I used to read so I drove to Makati CBD for one final shot. I worked there for four and a half years and I knew for sure that the bi-level National Bookstore in Glorietta 1 contains a huge magazine section near the ground floor entrance. There was, but children’s books. Magazines were transferred upstairs in a tiny corner shelf filled with early 2020 issues of asianTraveller and Destinasian and current issues of Art+.

When I arrived home, I checked online and found old issues of Cook, Travel+Leisure, InFlight Traveller, and 7107 Island Travel sold in Lazada and Shopee.

Where printed magazines went

According to an article from techandlifestylejournal.com, Summit Media—the country’s biggest publishing house who owns around 15 titles, including Real Living and Yummy—has completed its “digital transformation” in May 2018. They already folded up their print editions and now marketing themselves as “the leading digital lifestyle network”. Magzter, a platform for digital versions of magazines, usually tops the search result when googling for certain titles such as Appetite. Some publishers also had already shelved the “Subscribe” button from their websites, or if there is, only the digital edition is up for subscription.

I never got used to on-screen recreational reading. I never liked it. I get dizzy after a few paragraphs. Besides, reading the prints is my way of giving my eyes a break from the job that requires an all-day vis-à-vis with my computer. But because the digital age brought practically everybody online, magazine publishers had taken their businesses to where they could turn a bigger profit. Many magazines went digital. That’s where they’ve gone.

The printed magazines of my youth had moved into the realm of memory and nostalgia. The yesteryear issues of magazines preserved on my shelf and those back issues on sale at the malls are now turning into keepsakes of the good old years. Will other magazines still in print follow suit? Will there ever be an end to the era of pulp and ink?


DJ Rivera is an I.T. professional, entrepreneur, travel blogger, writer and the online publisher of PinoyTravelogue.com based in Rizal province, Philippines. Click here to know more.

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