TV Guide. One little red box and people think of the digest magazine, the large magazine, a TV channel and a web site. Over 56 years, what started out as a ―guide‖ to help people find programs to watch slowly turned into a television mediator telling people what to watch. No one anticipated the effect of the Internet and built in television guides on the magazine‘s role as a guide. In 2005, the magazine revamped from a digest size to a normal size to keep current. Under the magazine‘s original owner, Walter Annenberg, TV Guide served as a check on the television medium. TV Guide‘s push from a listings magazine towards a full fledge entertainment magazine affected its audience, advertising, and writing style. Different owners changed the magazine into the very thing Annenberg dreaded – a TV fan magazine.
This Isn’t Your Grandparent’s TV Guide How TV Guide Changed over the past 56 years When Walter Annenberg wanted to create a television listings magazine in the 1950s his friends told him he couldn‘t do it. Both Norman Chandler, then publisher of the Los Angeles Times, and Mike Cocules, whose company owned Look, agreed that Annenberg‘s
Current issues of TV Guide.
magazine was doomed. Fifty-six years later, TV Guide is still around. The magazine expanded into other countries, television channels and the Internet. TV Guide is a recognizable brand name despite drops in circulation, numerous owners and a complete redesign in 2005. The Annenberg Era – On Top of the World It all started in 1952 with an ad for TV Digest in The Philadelphia Bulletin. Walter Annenberg, the president of Triangle Publications, was the owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer at the time. He saw the ad for the TV listings publication in the rival paper. While wondering why the ad didn‘t run in the Inquirer, Annenberg couldn‘t help but stare at the number at the top of the ad. TV Digest claimed a total circulation of 180,389. Annenberg then wondered how many
other similar magazines existed. 100,000 people read Chicago‘s TV Forecast, while TV Guide in New York had a circulation of about 400,000. Each magazine provided listings for their own separate region. After some research, Annenberg saw an opportunity and decided to invest millions into purchasing these magazines and other small-television listings ones like them. He planned to combine the efforts of both a national and regional magazine all in one. His finished product boasted a color section with national articles of local listings for each regional area. Annenberg released the first issue of his magazine April 3, 1953 with editions in ten cities. The magazine had a circulation of 1,560,000. TV Guide was born. When summer approached, Annenberg noticed circulation numbers
The ad that started it all – This is the ad for TV Digest that Annenberg saw in the Philadelphia Bulletin that made him start TV Guide.
began dropping week after week. He attributed the slow in sales to less people staying indoors during the warm months. To increase sales, Annenberg started the now traditional Fall Preview issue of the magazine which promoted the new season‘s television shows. Numbers began to rise. A September 4, 1953 issue sold over 1.6 million copies, while the Fall Preview issue sold nearly 1.8 million copies. Under Annenberg, TV Guide saw its highest circulation rates. In the late 70s and 80s, TV Guide‘s circulation peaked at 20 million. The magazine attributed its success to its lack of celebrity stories with its focus on important issues within the television medium. A mission statement summary that reflects the embodiment of the magazine during the Annenberg era reads:
It certainly is not a fan magazine, nor a mere listings magazine. Rather, it is a keen and articulate observer and critic. It carefully watches and reports not only what is on television, but why it‘s on television, what is going on behind and to the sides of it, and what effect it is having on us and our society.
This statement reflects the investigative reporting of TV Guide under Annenberg. His TV Guide covered issues about the medium such as television‘s effect on children, its impact on family life, the political system and race. The magazine was not for television fans. The old TV Guide heavily criticized the new medium questioning if it was safe and whether it showed notable programs of interest. In its October 24, 1959 issue, TV Guide ran an exposé on The Quiz Show scandal revealing how contestants received questions, answers, and sometimes both. The magazine sided with angry readers telling how the quiz show sharks vied for ratings by fooling and lying to their viewers. In the article TV Guide asked, ―A detailed explanation of exactly what happened is past due. And with it a promise that never will the networks fail in their responsibility to keep faith with viewers.‖ TV Guide advocated for the viewer making sure they were provided with true accounts of television. In April 1961, TV Guide editors wrote to the FCC in the magazine asking for action against the amount of violent television shows aired, the accuracy of Nielson rating services, and the lack of informational shows among a list of other things. This letter prompted a response from the FCC in a May issue asking people to suggest what they want on television. It also gave readers thoughts of specialized channels and programs geared towards viewers‘ interests. In another article from 1963, TV Guide also attacked television for failing to use its power of freedom of speech. The magazine accused television of being afraid of stepping on government toes by staying away from controversial political topics. This TV Guide showed its influence in voicing television‘s responsibilities rather than merely entertaining the public eye.
Authors contributed pieces to TV Guide as well. In February of 1964, Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique, wrote about television‘s incorrect portrayal of women as nothing but naïve housewives. As TV Guide tried to change and adjust with the times, changes in ownership caused the magazine to stray from its staple of investigative journalism. TV Guide changed into more of a ―TV fan‖ magazine. When Annenberg sold the magazine in 1988 to News Corporation, 140 regional versions of the magazine existed.
Rupert Murdoch’s TV Monopoly Expanding with the growing TV medium In 1988, Rupert Murdoch, owner of News Corp., purchased TV Guide from Triangle Publications for an estimated $3 billion. Circulation was down to just over 16 million. As television channels began to multiply and guides started appearing on television sets people stopped paying for a listings digest when it no longer seemed practical. People could just as easily press a guide button on their television remote for instant access listings. Murdoch saw the need for electronic assets to help bolster the magazine‘s sales, therefore, TV Guide turned to the Internet. Murdoch founded TVGuide.com, and in May 1997 began offering its complete editorial section online for free. With focus on expanding the TV Guide brand name, News Corp. began to lose sight of the magazine Annenberg created. The magazine gained a soap-opera summary and horoscope, while articles shortened and became more photo heavy. More personality profiles and gossip pieces centering on television stars surfaced. Morris Wolfe, writer for Canadian publication The Globe and Mail, criticized magazine departments for running fluff. An old department, What I Watch reported celebrities‘ favorite
programs. In another department, Celebrity Chef, TV stars shared their favorite recipes. These columns reflect big changes from the articles that ran in Annenberg‘s TV Guide. The only sign of investigative journalism appeared two pages before the listings under the Robin‘s Report. One article from June 28, 1997 showed an article on MTV trying to pull back on reality shows by reverting back to music. Another story covered Dan Rathers tackling three jobs as host of 48 Hours, The CBS Evening News, and 60 Minutes II. By utilizing a variety of vocabulary, writers didn‘t tone down articles
An article on Dan Rathers from the June 28, 1997 from the Robin‘s Report show traces of journalistic advocacy pieces still featured in TV Guide.
for readers. Despite Murdoch‘s attempt to expand TV Guide, circulation continued to decline. With a circulation of 13 million in 1998, Murdoch sold his TV Guide assets for $2 billion to cable TV TeleCommunications Inc (Telecomm) to create an interactive onscreen version of TV Guide. News Corp remained tied to the company holding 40% of all shares. The $2 billion deal combined the magazine with Prevue Channel, an over-the-air listing service owned by Telecomm. The channel scrolls on-air television programs. Along with the change in ownership, TV Guide‘s website changed from TVGuide.com to TVGEN.com. This sale by News Corp. foreshadowed the tossing around of TV Guide‘s ownership that would continue for the next ten years.
Gemstar Changes TV Guide Forever Little more than a year after changing ownership, TV Guide was sold again in 2000 to Gemstar for $9.2 billion. TV Guide‘s website quickly returned to the former TVGuide.com. Under Gemstar, TV Guide‘s circulation continued to shrink to 9 million. In 2005, the magazine announced that due to its struggle to keep up with online and cable listings it would revamp to a
full size magazine. On October 17, 2005, the first non-digest sized magazine hit newsstands. The complete revamp took TV Guide from a 5.5 by 7.5 inch digest to a standard 8.5 by 11 inch magazine. Lisa Chambers, managing editor of TV Guide, sees the change as an effort to make the magazine more modern. ―It was no longer your grandparents‘ TV Guide. It was a whole new magazine. If the magazine was going to survive it needed to change. It wasn‘t realistic An Extreme Makeover indeed! Ty Pennington, star of the reality show on ABC, was featured on the cover of TV Guide‘s first larger format issue released October 17, 2005.
to keep printing as many editions as we were,‖ says Chambers. ―There just wasn‘t as much of a need for a guide where you could read all the little listings because most people were going to their TV sets to see what was on at night.‖
Changing to a larger format brought many other changes to TV Guide. Listings which once took up 75 percent of the magazine currently take up only 25 percent. Editorial now comprises the bulk of the book. The newsstand price rose from $1.99 to $2.49. The book went from a perfect-bound to staple-bound magazine. For cost reasons, the magazine would no longer print its 140 regional versions. Instead, TV Guide became a national magazine with an edition for both the East and West coasts. The largest change came when TV Guide rid of their digest format. In changing to a larger format, the magazine intentionally cut its total circulation by two-thirds from about 9 million to 3.2 million. The magazine no longer gives subscriptions to hotels or sells through third party agents due to the more costly larger format. Articles continued to report heavily on TV celebrities.
In March 2004, a year before the U.S. version decided to revamp their magazine, TV Guide Canada changed from a digest to a larger size magazine. Separate from the U.S. version, the publication also expanded its news and features. Listings still made up a large part of the magazine, comprising of 65 percent of the content rather than 85 percent. With a circulation of fewer than 250,000, the magazine closed shop on November 20, 2006. TV Guide Canada reverted to an on-line website and continues to rely on advertising for its revenue. TV Guide Canada‘s demise brings up the question of whether the U.S. version of TV Guide will follow in its footsteps and one day cease to exist as a publication. Although the answer is not certain, the U.S. version of TV Guide continues to see a decline in their circulation year after year. TV Guide Canada‘s circulation, however, was never as high as the U.S. version. In 1996, when the magazine separated from News Corp., it had a circulation of 820,000. Canada‘s version of TV Guide held its highest circulation of about a million in the 80‘s when the U.S. version‘s circulation peaked at 20 million.
Worn, Torn, and Bruised – TV Guide under Macrovision Tossed around like a rag doll, Macrovision bought Annenberg‘s TV Guide in early 2008 for $2.8 billion. From the moment the company bought it, they made it clear they didn‘t want TV Guide magazine. According to The New York Times, only the brand‘s electronic assets appeared of interest to the company. Macrovision, seeing no profit in the magazine, sought a buyer. They shortly found one in October of 2008 – OpenGate Capital, a private equity firm that had never owned a magazine.
OpenGate – TV Guide‘s savior or final nail in the coffin? Macrovision really wanted to get TV Guide magazine off their hands. They sold it to OpenGate Capital for $1. The sale essentially split the brand name in half, forcing TV Guide to
lose everything Murdoch did to build an empire for the magazine. They have no television channel. A website that shares their name doesn‘t even belong to them. TV Guide faces a challenge – starting over. OpenGate believes they can turn the magazine around by purchasing other entertainment magazines, television stations, or Internet sites to strengthen it. The magazine started its own website, tvguidemagazine.com, at the start of 2009. TVGuide.com, however, still exists. When Googling TV Guide magazine the new website comes up second behind its former website. Debra Birnbaum, current editor-in-chief of TV Guide magazine, remains optimistic about the developing website. ―It‘s unfortunate, but it‘s not an uncommon situation,‖ she says. ―If you want to go look for US Weekly online you have to go to US Magazine. There are many different issues built around websites and domain names. I guess we‘re the newest one who has to deal with it.‖ OpenGate needs to prove whether the magazine that started 56 years ago can still flourish under new ownership. Meanwhile, TV Guide will continue to drift from the course of its previous self by following television celebrities and advocating for the TV fan; an idea Annenberg rejected in his original digest form.
TV Guide: Entertainment for the TV Lover According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American owns at least two television sets and watches more than four hours of TV each day. An individual will watch nine years worth of television by the time they reach 65 years of age. Today‘s revamped version of TV Guide thrives off statistics like these, by speaking for the TV fan. The magazine connects readers with television by focusing on entertainment:
TV Guide: The Official Magazine of Television, TV Guide Magazine is completely dedicated to television entertainment and connects readers with America‘s #1 leisure activity. We ignite conversation and build community around their shared passion. Our exclusive behind-thescenes access, authoritative insight, breaking news and reviews simplify the ever-increasing number of programming options. We guide viewers to the moments everyone will be talking about and enable them to discover new shows, characters, specials and more. TV Guide Magazine empowers readers to make informed decisions, maximizing their viewing experience. We watch everything so readers miss nothing.
Editor-in-chief Debra Birnbaum claims TV Guide is one of a kind, serving to the wide scope of TV viewers without competition. Although the magazine is a TV celebrity and listings book, the magazine classifies as an entertainment weekly. Therefore, TV Guide finds weeklies such as People, In Touch, Star and US Weekly magazines as some of its competitors. Since TV Guide speaks to television viewers, the magazine appeals to all niches - to teenagers, women, skiers, or basketball lovers – people who watch television. The magazine reader base aims to people ages 18-54. College students, the employed, and parents all read TV Guide. Even as many as 8.7 million children read the magazine. Since television viewers probably read TV Guide, the types of people who consume their magazine aren‘t the upper class. The average consumer of the magazine makes a yearly household income of about $47,000. Subscriptions account for over 95% of the magazine‘s circulation revenue bringing in over $7 million. About 8.6 million readers subscribe to TV Guide. The last five percent comes in single copy sales which accounts for $345,000. Nearly half a million copies sell off store shelves each year. TV Guide Inc. publishes the magazine. Other than TV Guide, the company used to publish SkyMall catalogs, a book that sells high-quality merchandise. Now, it solely publishes TV Guide. As TV Guide continues to change and emerge with the times, so does its reader. When the magazine started in 1953, the magazine appealed to everyone both male and female. Since
the larger format of the magazine came out in 2005, TV Guide attracts a younger and more affluent female audience. Today‘s magazines target demographic is women between the ages of 25 and 49. In total, the age group accounts for 9.6 million of its total 20 million readers. Although women serve as primary readers, men account for nearly half of the readers of the magazine as well contributing to 43% of readers. Lisa Chambers, TV Guide‘s managing editor, says the magazine targets women because they go to the store and purchase the magazines. ―TV Guide is a family magazine; however, it is the women who tend to buy more magazines than men,‖ she says. ―Since they bring the magazines home to their families we do try to appeal to them (women).‖ TV Guide Basic Demographics Rate Base Audience Target Demo Female/Male Audience Median Age Median HHI Male/Female Readers
2.9 Million 20 Million Women 25-49 57%/43% 44 $46,882 8.6 Million/11.7 Million
TV Guide Reader by Group 18-34 34-49 HHI $75,000 + HHI $100,000 + Any College + Employed Parents Children in HH
6.6 Million 6.2 Million 5.6 Million 3.4 Million 9.3 Million 12.5 Million 6.6 Million 8.7 Million
Joining the Entertainment Bandwagon TV Guide: More than Just Listings - For the TV Fan Department after department fills today‘s TV Guide magazine. A typical issue houses 11 departments just in the front of the book. By comparison, in 2004 eight regular departments ran in the magazine. In an issue from January 1968, the then-digest-size magazine was split into only five departments: Articles, Columns, Program listings, Reviews, and Teletypes (which included up-to-date information on upcoming programs and ins and outs on shows in both New York and Hollywood). According to Birnbaum, the departments expanded and changed due to the fast growing number of television viewers and the plethora of channels. ―When it was small, it was really just a listings magazine. If you wanted to find out what was on then, that was the magazine to read. There was some editorial content but not a tremendous amount of it,‖ says Birnbaum. Now, plenty of editorial content fills the book‘s pages. Flip through department after department today; the interior doesn‘t look much different than those of People or US Weekly. TV Guide magazine‘s mission statement says that it ―watches everything so readers miss nothing.‖ Today, the staff writes for the TV fan as opposed to giving investigative pieces as the magazine did during the Annenberg era. The magazine fills minds with stories and highlights on reality shows from MTV‘s The Hills to the weekly drama of American Idol. The magazine also keeps readers in touch with the lives of actors from hit shows like ABC‘s LOST. Birnbaum defends the new feel of the magazine, saying she wants to make TV Guide more current, fresh, and newsy. ―We want to make sure that we cover all the big shows that everyone‘s talking about and continue its evolution away from a listings magazine to a full entertainment magazine,‖ said Birnbaum. Before revamping its style to a larger magazine in 2005, listings comprised the majority of TV Guide. With listings becoming more obsolete due to on-air and on-line TV guides, the
magazine began focusing on being less of a ―guide‖ for when to watch television and more of a modern entertainment ―guide‖ that informs of television.
Page Breakdown Front of Book: What‘s Going on this Week? TV Guide contains 11 mostly fun and laid back FOB departments designed as quick reads to provide updates on weekly happenings on shows. Birnbaum reintroduced Watercooler after made EIC in May 2008. This column devotes itself to what everyone talks about this week in television. Readers can find anything from people coming back from the dead on LOST to the latest body count on 24 in Watercooler. Hot List consists of a two-page day calendar featuring three must-sees on television for each day of the week, accompanied by a blurb of what to expect on each show. Following the Hot List is the Web Hot List which points readers to websites to check out popular web-series, parodies, and television memorabilia. Readers then get a chance to rave or vent about shows or articles found in the magazine in the Inbox. Breaking News does for television and its stars what People magazine does for celebrities in Scoop. People updates on celebrity‘s lives; TV Guide uses television as a way to talk about celebrities by discussing those who are currently on-air. For instance, in a September 2008 issue, featured an update on what goes on in the life of Lauri Waring Peterson, a housewife on The Real Housewives of Orange County. William Keck gives the scoop on the latest shows and offers either a Question and Answer or a sidebar on specific characters from television shows in his weekly column What the Keck?! Rochell D. Thomas‘ column, ―Is it Just Me?‖ discusses oddities that happened on television in the past week that seemed either out of place or similar to something seen in the past on television. Readers can submit their own questions in some issues. Questions range from
―Why was a family on HBO‘s Big Love dining in space at the end of the episode?‖ to ―Did Starbucks pay for product placement on TNT‘s Trust Me?‖ Like People‘s Star Tracks, which showcases photos of celebrities, Behind the Scenes shows pictures of TV celebrities at ceremonies and on the set of their shows. Managing editor Lisa Chambers says the large photo spreads are due to readers‘ shrinking attention spans: ―People want to see big pictures and short stories and don‘t have a lot of patience for reading long think pieces about the philosophies of TV anymore,‖ says Chambers. The long time Cheers and Jeers column gives a thumbs up and down to different happenings on television for the week. Readers are invited to get involved by submitting their own cheers and jeers. The Roush Review by Matt Roush rates different shows and made for TV movies every week. Roush tells readers whether or not they should tune in. Lastly, The Goods features merchandise found in television programs. It‘s basically a shopping page. This was another section reintroduced in June 2008 by Birnbaum along with Watercooler. One week it features good buys for Valentine‘s Day; another week television shows on DVD for sale. One random column contained a selection of furniture, among other household objects, for sale in the issue dated June 10, 2008. Nothing in this column reflects what TV shows inspire items on the page. This column doesn‘t seem to fit among the others. Birnbaum says the page is ―due to the longstanding relationship between TV and product sales.‖ Feature Well – The 411 on All Your Favorite TV Stars TV Guide devotes about 20 pages to feature wells. The well consists of about five stories. The magazine always gives readers one long article that runs about five to seven pages. Long features can cover anything television related, from LOST star Evangeline Lily and how she deals with fame to ABC‘s Christina Applegate‘s battle with breast cancer last fall. Feature stories
usually cover TV celebrities although the February 16, 2009 issue featured the emergence of online television. Other features consist of usually one, two, or three pages. One-page articles on shows like Survivor or a Q&A with an actor or actress break up longer articles of three to five pages. Stars even write some articles; Rosie O‘Donnell wrote a one-page article about a Lifetime movie she starred in. BOB Departments: Show Me What‘s On TV This Week Already! After the feature well, the reader can finally check out the TV listings, or grids, along with the other six back-of-the-book departments. Highlights consists of small previews of what will air on television that week. The small blurbs with pictures running alongside them parallel to the front-of-the-book‘s Hot List. This is followed by the Sports Hot List, which tells readers what games will play during the week. Fifteen pages of listings follow the sports page. The grids underwent many changes since the magazine started and now display only prime-time listings for shows. TV Guide adapted to more easily accessible cable and internet guides by creating a smaller selection of listings. Listings used to take over as many as 200 pages in the once digest size magazine. After the grids come small one page departments. Soaps gives updates and looks at daytime dramas. The TV Guide Crossword and Horoscope come next. A Countdown list of lighthearted material that ranges from ―10 Shows the Editors Would Like to See Crossover‖ to ―10 Fantasy Television Couples‖ finishes the magazine.
TV Guide Lingo – Writing for Today‘s Texting Society As an entertainment and service magazine, TV Guide provides TV fans with everything they need to know about anything on television. The magazine is written for people who watch TV by those who watch it. Articles read as if the writers discuss shows that they watch directly with the reader as they would with a friend or neighbor. The stories and departments are written in a colloquial style where writers shorten words and try to use hip phrases like ―WTF‖ and ―FYI.‖ Reading the cover lines of TV Guide, the reader can tell it is a much different magazine than its predecessor. The cover of the February 16 issue reads, ―Ewwwww! Is TV Getting Too Gross?‖ A December 22, 2008 cover line reads, ―Oprah Confesses – I weigh 200 pounds.‖ Another cover line from the April 19, 2008 issue states, ―The Hills‘ Heidi to LC – ‗Now it‘s War!‘‖ The cover lines make the magazine appeal to a younger female demographic. By shortening words and taking a gossipy approach TV Guide turns a blind eye to its male demographic. Next to the photo of Dancing with the Stars, Cheryl Burke, a March 2009 cover line reads, ―New bod, new boyfriend, new ‘tude.‖ The reader assumes ―‘tude‖ is short for attitude (lingo I‘ve never heard of nor used).
Another headline on the same issue reads,
―Desperate Housewives – Susan kisses a girl (and she likes it).‖ Give the readers a break. Some of the cover lines are over the top. Stories appear hyped up to perk readers‘ interests. The lines read close to something found on a tabloid. Lately, TV Guide appears to channel its weekly entertainment competitors more. A story on the cover of its March 16, 2009 issue features Jason and Molly from the latest season of ABC‘s The Bachelor. The cover line reads, ―Jason and Molly Fire Back.‖ Compare this with a
People magazine cover from the same week: only Jason on the cover, with the words, ―The Bachelor Betrayal. He dumped fiancée for runner-up.‖ A May 5, 2008 issue from last year named Jennifer Love Hewitt the ―Sexiest Woman on TV‖ and then covered other sexy stars in the same issue. As Rochell D. Thomas‘ column in TV Guide presses, ―Is it Just Me?” or doesn‘t People already put out issues of the ―100 Most Beautiful People‖ and ―Sexiest Man Alive‖ every year? TV Guide can and does produce some decent stories month-to-month. A feature on LOST’s Evangeline Lily proved light-hearted and easy going. An interview about her life before being a star and how stardom affected her lets readers see another side of the person they know only on television. TV Guide does this with other actors as well, such as in a piece following Battlestar Galactica‘s Tahomoh Penikett. TV Guide featured Christina Applegate‘s battle with breast cancer in another article from last November. The article didn‘t report it from a gossipy edge as Star or US Weekly would. Instead, TV Guide treated the subject with care, showing the toll it took on Applegate‘s career and how her battle made her stronger. The story explains her mother‘s similar struggle with cancer and how Applegate started the Right Action for Women foundation to help raise money for those who can‘t afford to get an MRI to test for breast cancer. These features on Applegate and Lily help fulfill the editorial philosophy by giving readers looks at TV stars they‘re interested in. The Highlights section is also well done. It pinpoints shows to watch so readers don‘t waste time flipping through on-screen cable guides. Drama fills many of TV Guide‘s departments. Repetitive cover lines hype up stories. A January 19 cover line from this year reads ―LOST‘s 10 Biggest Mysteries Decoded.‖ This sounds quite similar to ―Office Secrets
Revealed,‖ from April 2008. While the story about LOST dished a few previews of the upcoming season, The Office feature prolonged revealing its ―secrets‖ and ensured the reader that they were coming with teasers like ―Don‘t worry, you‘ll get spoilers aplenty momentarily‖ in parentheses. The approach didn‘t appear effective or fair when the reader, three pages later, received one episode preview for the week that passed and two sentences about future episodes, followed by vague information on relationship futures on the show. Teasers like that make readers feel they are only reading fluff. Most articles in the magazine do relate to the magazine‘s purpose. They fulfill the need for reporting on television – its stars and its shows. Other articles straddle the line between television and gossip. Two cover lines that leave a ―What does this have to do with television?‖ effect are ―TV‘s Best and Worst Dressed‖ and ―American Idol‘s David Cook‘s Private Heartache.‖ Yes, Cook was on television, however, the relevance of his relationship to a television magazine seems unapparent. The Goods department doesn‘t seem to fit in the magazine. It speaks only to women, offering opinions on how to dress like a favorite character from a show or where to purchase a table seen on a show. It‘s reminiscent of People‘s Style Watch which showcases a fashion trend and shows readers how to get the same look for less.
TV Guide: New vs. Old The colloquialisms and slang of today‘s TV Guide feel much different from the concept of the earlier magazine. Articles in the past were written from more of an omniscient thirdperson perspective. During TV Guide‘s first 25 years under Annenberg, celebrities didn‘t drive the magazine. In January 1968, TV Guide‘s cover was not filled with cover lines or gossip phrases. A single line on the cover read, ―What Negroes Want From Television.‖ The four-page
feature explored the degrading portrayals of blacks on television and how frustrated it made them feel. Articles like this helped change television. But, TV Guide doesn‘t appear to do that anymore. When the magazine adjusted with the times by formatting its digest form into a larger magazine it left behind the kind of journalistic advocacy that made it the top circulated magazine in the late 70s and early 80s. Articles lack a sense of authority. Instead, writers speak on the same level as readers, as if they‘re speaking friend-to-friend. Stories don‘t question why viewers waste time watching reality television; instead, they report on the shows and stars themselves. This ―new‖ TV Guide appears to speak to the misguided representation of the ―real‖ American today. Forget articles with an underlying purpose to serve as a watchdog of the TV medium. Instead, aim towards the Average Joes who don‘t care how television affects them. Somewhere along the way, from the 50s to now, after being shuffled from publisher to publisher, TV Guide lost its edge. It‘s now just another loud and colorful weekly amid all of the other entertainment folly. If the Shoe Fits… Overall, today‘s writing fits the reader of the new TV Guide. Most of today‘s readers are not sophisticated—they‘re television fanatics. The typical reader‘s household income averages about $47,000. The middle-class read the magazine. Back in the era of Annenberg, however, television was not associated with just the middle-class. It was a privilege to have access to television because it was new and different. There wasn‘t as much ―junk,‖ like reality shows on TV, and the magazine reflected that. Today, unnecessary shows flood the airwaves. The readers make the magazine. As long as readers are TV fans rather than TV advocates, the magazine will continue as nothing more than an entertainment book. This ―new‖ TV Guide will continue to cater to reality-crazed couch potatoes – filling them in with the ―411‖ on TV‘s hot gossip.
Published on Mar 9, 2011