The Demise of the Doll Magazine

Doll magazines are dying.  It’s troubling and personally pretty sad.  15 years ago, we had a multitude of titles to choose from on newsstand racks (Barbie Bazaar, Fashion Doll Quarterly, Haute Doll, Doll Reader, Dolls, Doll Collector, etc).  Now, we have at the most three strictly related to fashion dolls (ie: not plush or art dolls).  Dolls and Doll Reader merged and are published under Dolls with an occasional issue of Haute doll tossed in, as well as Doll Collector and Fashion Doll Quarterly (FDQ).

In the past, doll magazines were resources.  My mom has a library of Barbie Bazaar‘s and even out of date issues still hold information in their articles that are useful to this day as references.

Nowadays, however, most doll magazines are one time reads.  Just the other day, I read the most recent issue of Doll Collector.  It was skinny, just 63 pages total, and filled with very little content.  The majority of the pages were dedicated to OOAK dolls using reader photo submissions.  The actual articles were disappointing.  They were short, much too short to be informative.

On top of that, none of the articles pertained to current fashion lines and few were about vintage.  Most of the content was, as mentioned, reader submitted photos or club spotlight/convention blurbs, also submitted by readers. The blurbs that were about new doll lines were literally no longer than a paragraph and nearly verbatim to the dolls press release.  I know this because they mentioned the new Vampire Mystixx dolls and having reviewed them myself, I know what the press release and promo material mentioned.  It was very obvious it was a cut and paste job.

It took me no more than 15 minutes to read Doll Collector and honestly, nothing inside it shouted, “I need to buy this” and even worse, “I need to subscribe to this.”

Periodicals across the board are disappearing or lowering their standards, but doll magazines, due to the small number there were to begin with, seem to be disappearing more quickly.  Why is that? Here’s what I think is causing the demise of the doll magazine.

The Internet:

Back in the day, before nearly everyone had internet and home computers, doll manufacturers needed the magazines to get word out on new doll lines and doll happenings.  Now, all a doll company needs to do is post promotional material on their own website or blog.  They don’t need to send samples to magazines or give them much information at all because most users will find it on their own via website, blog, facebook page, etc.  So, in that respect, doll magazines are losing one of the strongest things they had coming to them– doll manufacturers.

On the same note, the fact that you could visit a blog just like this one and see reviews or images of products that are literally brand new is something magazines have truly never had.  It was far more forgiving when we didn’t have websites like flickr, blogs like this, and well, Google.

Cost Cuts:

The only reason I see that all these magazines are eating each other up and combining is lack of funds.  They’re probably getting less funding from doll manufacturers and with sites like eBay, aren’t getting many extra sale listings.

You can clearly see the cost cuts in the low page count month after month, the high subscription prices, and most obvious, the overall ‘rushed’ look of the doll magazines of today.

This cost cutting has, I think, led to less well written articles and less professional photo sessions.

Aging Audience:

This isn’t something that the magazine publishers can control.  It’s the truth that doll collecting is not a hobby for the young.  I think there is some hope that people may be coming into doll collecting at a younger age now, but at this point, most collectors I meet are at least 20 years older than me.  I only know a handful (from the internet) that were born after 1980.  So, it makes sense that subscriptions would be down.

On the same note, freelance writers who made their living writing for these magazines are, also, aging.  Writers with vast knowledge of vintage doll lines just aren’t writing anymore.

What might help these magazines survive a little bit longer?  Here’s what I think might help them gain the momentum they once had.

New Blood:

The most important part of a magazine?  Good, well written, informative articles.  These magazines need to find young blood, even if it means scouring the web and finding it.  More over, editors need to actually reply to those who inquire about freelancing.  It’s not a very good sign when you have to send query letters or sample articles multiple times because no one seems to remember getting them.

Photographers, too, need to be brought in.  Most of the images I saw in the Doll Collector I read were reader submitted or taken from the manufacturer.  Nothing looked shot just for the magazine.

New talent would open a new door for these doll magazines and might usher in a new era.

More Articles, Meaningful Pictures:

We have flickr for pictures and while I think pictures are a fantastic resource in magazines, one of a kind dolls created by John Smith in Michigan aren’t going to be something I want to look at ten years from now.

We need well written articles with meaningful pictures.  Things we can look back at ten years from now and think, ‘Wow, that article came in handy, again!’.

A good example of an article series I truly miss is “Pink Box” from Barbie Bazaar.  It was a very personable monthly article about Barbie’s that were considered playline or pink box.

Reader submitted pictures are fine and dandy, but I don’t think they need to take over an entire magazine.

More Diverse Doll Coverage:

Why not write for those who collect the popular dolls of today, as well as vintage dolls?  There are a ton of playline doll collectors out there, especially since Monster High hit shelves.  Why not have monthly articles for all kind of doll collectors?  Right now, certain issues will focus on vintage, others on BJD’s, others on playline, but why not get staff writers to write articles that touch upon these month to month so the doll coverage is diverse on a consistent basis?

I may be in the minority here.  Maybe I’m the only person who finds that doll magazines are losing their luster.  I truly hope that one day, there is a doll magazine that I think is good enough to subscribe to.  Right now, however, they’re hardly worth the 15 minutes it takes to read them.

What do you think of the current state of doll magazines?  Are they worth it?  What do you enjoy most about doll magazines?  What are they lacking now and how could publishers breathe new life into them?  Share your thoughts below!

January 15, 2013. Tags: . Uncategorized. 70 comments.

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