Wednesday, July 11, 2007

R.I.P. Jane Magazine

Upon learning that Jane magazine had officially folded Wednesday morning, I was struck by nostalgia and went out and bought myself the latest and last issue. I haven't read Jane in years, but Jane and I go back a long way.

As a quirky, confused teenager stuck in a conservative Midwestern suburb, reading Jane made me feel like there were other girls like me out in the world, girls who owned their dorkiness and wore their non-conformist status like a badge of honor. They were outspoken and unafraid of being labeled as feminists. They weren't embarrassed to act silly or admit to having cheesy interests. They were adventurous and willing to take big risks. And they called "bullshit" when they saw it.

I loved that Jane didn't talk down to me with those obligatory first-person rape narratives, or list 100 ways to make my man moan. They spared me celebrity profiles on vapid actresses and guides to a bikini-ready bod. Amazingly, I could actually afford to buy a lot of the things featured in articles. And who didn't idolize editor-in-chief, Jane Pratt, who founded her first magazine at 24 and her second at 35? The girl had guts.


Unlike every other major women's magazine, Jane's goal was not to create an unreachable, unattainable lifestyle that sucked women into buying more things in a desperate attempt to become that perfect woman. This business model is an effective one: create an aspirational lifestyle, tell readers what products and services they need to achieve this lifestyle, then change the trends each month and sit back and watch as they scramble to stay on top of it all. All the while, publishers sit back as the advertising dollars roll in and subscription rates rise.

I'm not going to pretend that Jane was some sort of profit-blind organization created for the purpose of bettering womankind. But for the most part, they did a good job avoiding the formulas and cliches of other women's magazines, and refused to prioritize product promotion and advertising sales over a general message of female empowerment and acceptance of oneself.

Sadly, this is why they no longer exist.

The lesson I get from Jane's demise is that there is no hope for a mainstream alternative women's magazine. As much as a magazine like Jane may have hated it, they had to stay beholden to the bottom line, and that meant not pissing off potential advertisers and making enough money to keep their corporate owner happy.

This is really disappointing for those of us who get depressed flipping through issues of Cosmo, In Style, Allure and Elle, feeling like we're reading the same articles every month. The same viewpoints are always presented, and the aspirational lifestyle they're selling is one we can never achieve.

Luckily, there's the internet and the opportunity for anyone to present their opinions for free online, for the whole world to read. Independent bloggers don't have to worry about selling enough ads or subscriptions each month. They don't have the overhead of a magazine or newspaper and they can write on their own time and terms, about whatever topics they want. There's incredible freedom, and it's interesting to think what Jane could have been like, and whether it would still be around, if it existed online only.

While the standards of women's magazines continue to drop, it's encouraging to think about the endless possibilities that online media can offer. I'm sure there's a smart, young version of Jane Pratt out there, coming up with ways to revolutionize women's blogs. In all likelihood, there's more like 1000 of them.

14 comments:

dianabobar said...

Yeah, you can find anything you want on the internet. Why waste money on paper and advertisements??

Anonymous said...

her first magazine, Sassy, was WAY better than Jane.

Anonymous said...

I just recently found JANE, and I held them in really high fashion esteem for one little article where they jokingly claimed credit for the black nail polish trend, and said that if you wanted to stay ahead of the curve you should find a good *white* nail polish now.
A year later, and the runways all have models with white nails. Sure it was kind of easy to see coming, but I still thought it was awesome.

Sadly though, the JANE blog (they do have one) is pretty lame. I'm going to miss the print, though some of the feminist blogs are posting a top 10 list of reasons they hate the magazine.

Becky said...

She didn't found Sassy. She guided it as the editor, sure, but it was imported from Australia and founded by another woman. Jane was a lame attempt at trying to recapture the Sassy market. I subscribed to it when it first started, hoping it would be everything I loved about Sassy, but grown up a bit, and was disappointed every month. You know, I've never actually paid for my Jane subscription since that first year but it has come ever since.

kamo said...

i never read jane, but i agree that the internet is the best resource. i've gotten so much more (and better) info since i started reading blogs. i only buy the huge september issues of magazines anymore.

willikat said...

agreed, sassy was a sad RIP, this one was more embarassing to see go down the tubes. but i completely agree that it was oen of the few that had things in it that didnt' break the bank or send me into debt, and spoke to me as a twentysomething unlike all the other mags out there. and i iwsh there was a super mainstream 'alt' mag, but then that woudl defeat the 'alt' title. i love b*tch, bust, venus, and several others that aren't that hard to get on newsstands at bookstores. and blogs! what i'm really wondering is... they just soaked me for my $10 subscription renewal and i'm not going to see an issue of that... so are we getting refunds???

Anonymous said...

Hmm funny coming from just about the most status-obsessed person I know. Eccentric my ass!

M. said...

I liked Jane, but my favorite magazine for an off-center, thinking woman's magazine is Bust. Definitely not one of the mainstream condescending mags out there right now.

ambika said...

I'm with M. I've really come to love Bust. They actually have gorgeous fashion shoots that often feature DIY stuff I know I could do as well as high end and affordable items. I've actually tracked down stores featured in their ads (which I almost never do with other mags) and the cover stories are always awesome (Amy Sedaris? Bjork?)

Anonymous said...

Jane Pratt has a show on Sirius if anyone cares to follow her!

Anonymous said...

I liked Jane and Bust, too when I was in my twenties. They were much more reflective of my actual life than Glamour or Cosmo. The only problem was they were strictly geared towards twentysomethings. I would love if someone could take the innovation of Jane and package it for an over thirty market - anything not to have to see another article about PTA meetings and hamburger casserole!

Vixenlibra said...

Oh my word! I can't believe this happened! Jane is no more?! I was wondering why I did not see it on the shelves. I liked the magazine, it wasn't so everydayish. Sorta reminded me of a girly girl rock star mentality. By the way, just found this blog, love It! Fabvixen@blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

What? Jane was not a great magazine and it was not above trashy articles about women and their looks. I remember reading an article where a contributor obsessed about her nipple size (and how guys felt about it!) and decided hers were too big. So she had a boob job to make her nipples appear smaller.

I thought the article was in jest and wrote a letter congratulating the magazine on satirizing the great lengths women go to please men. Got a nice note back saying the article was not satire. So much for feminism.

Anonymous said...

Eh, ya'll are too young to remember Francis Lear doing this first with her divorce money and launching 'Lear' Magazine, which blew me away by featuring a female car mechanic showing her outstretched grease monkey hands like benediction or Grace Mirabella who was bumped out of Vogue editor-in-chiefness by Anna Wintour and got her own mag called Mirabella...Grace was so classy and so sassy for real by insisting on real health articles and women's issues in Vogue...love Jane but props to those who paved the way.