I have gone through about 1/6th of the magazines I have and entered the details (cover copy, cover image, issue publication details, notes on individual issues) into a spreadsheet. I have just finished oredering the rest into publication dates. One interesting problem is that Street Machine, the most popular of the magazines, continually evolved throughout the last 25 years or so. During the 1980s it was published every two months and then six weeks. Since then it has almost doubled in size and is published every month. It means that the stack of (every) Street Macine published in the 2000s (6.5 years) is bigger than the 1980s stack (8.2 years) which also includes every magazine. It is only in the 1990s that I do not have all the magazines (1994, 1995, 1996, 1997).
I started doing the spreadsheet simply so I would know which magazines I have and don’t have. It is a time consuming process, with each magazine taking 5-10 minutes to do properly. It is lucky that this is the ‘second sweep’ through the magazines (I read them when they arrive), so I have some idea of what has happened, when certain topics or issues have come up, and most importantly, what I am interested in writing about for my PhD.
Suffice to say I have a massive amount of stuff and it has all cost a small fortune. I am going to sell some (multiple copies) back on eBay to try and recoup some of my costs. At least I’ll be able to write a detailed description for the item!
I am going to write some more about ‘magazine methodology’ because it is somewhat tricky. The whys and the whatfors and all that jazz.
You referring back to Joke Hermes with the magazine research? Esp useful for thinking about a ‘match’ between your analysis and likely interpretations in the ‘real’ world of readership.
no, not really referring to Hermes. That ‘everyday’ reading stuff isn’t really relevant to the way I am setting up my argument. Her “fallacy of meaningfulness” argument certainly is relevant tho.
I am not interested in the ‘meanings’ that readers generate from reading a text, if researchers want to know that then they can become an enthusiast. It is not that such meanings are irrelevant, but it would be impossible to pin down or to do research on any acceptable scale that would make the results useful. Street Machine sells only about 80,000 issues a month. Say the other dozen or so titles currently out there sell about 400,000 between them. With some overlap there would be about 350-400,000 potential readers. (In the early 1980s the NSW government said there were roughly 500,000 illegally modified cars on NSW roads, so that gives you some idea of scale of magazine readership to amateur modification practices.) Although it is allegedly ‘niche’ or ‘enthusiast’ media the size is just too big for a PhD. No one would ever get funding to do this audience research, unless it was funded by the magazine and then I suggest it wouldn’t be academic.
I am interested in what a magazine does, ie a ‘magazine’ does not only produce a document of photos and text every month or so. To focus on the ‘meanings’ is to remain at the level of the alleged consumer of the text, the audience. I focus on the cultural industry side of things. Who consumes the audience? The advertisers. What else does the magazine do? Sponsor events, build ‘project cars’, select and organise a particular territorialisation of the culture, which then selects and organises a particular audience for the advertisers, and so on. Remember I am coming at this in part as an enthusiast but also as a freelance writer for the magazines. I’ve had to think of things like layout, the particular discourse of the magazine (slang, argot, etc), histories of the mags, etc.
The way I look at it, I ask myself: am I trying to produce critical readers of enthusiast car magazines or produce a critical understanding of the role of magazines in the culture (not just as ‘texts’)? Because, really, if you need someone with a phd to tell you how to read car enthusiast magazines critically then there is a problem!!! Much more interesting is the enthusiasm itself and its role in the culture…
Hermes-esque or not, I’m not really talking about performing your own critical media literacy or examining that of the readers; I just wondered at what level you were interested in how they operate textually as part of the cultural work they do. Like there are words, and pictures of stuff. On pages, in a thing called a ‘magazine’, which circulates as a symbolic object in particular social contexts. Surely the car mags do textual things, within or on the economy of enthusiasm and affect, or whatever the problematic that is at the core of your enquiry is. Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing more about the methodology chapter as it gets written up.
PS very interesting take on how you demonstrate PhD-ness or lack thereof! I never thought I had to be especially clever, I just thought I had to design and carry out a rigorous, thoroughgoing and sustained enquiry that contributed to ‘knowledge’.
wait, I get it; something to do with D and/or G and a-signifying something-or-other…back to my prosaic little world.
“Surely the car mags do textual things, within or on the economy of enthusiasm and affect, or whatever the problematic that is at the core of your enquiry is. Anyway, I’d be interested in hearing more about the methodology chapter as it gets written up.”
never textually! I refuse textuality! Never! only events!
ok, a really good example of the sort of thing I am interested in is the “V8 till 98” campaign waged in 1984. The amagzine exists on a certain level that isn’t about the audience and what the audience does with the magazine.
Street Machine June/July PAGE 13, V8 till 98 HOLDEN V8:
“The momentum is gathering, the ink is flowing but Chuck Chapman still needs convincing.
In our last issue we kicked off our ‘V8s ’till ’98’ campaign and we should hope that you have taken the time to write personally to GMH and voice your disapproval at the prospect of them giving the V8 the flick. Support for the programme has also been forthcoming from our compatriots at other magazines, newspapers and radio stations. Our pals down the hall at Wheels have thrown their might behind saving the V8, their opposition in publishing but sympaticos in this cause, Modern Motor, weighed in with a coupon to send to GMH. Dragster Australia (Australia’s only fortnightly drag racing paper) kicked in the tin and gave it a good burst and Peter Brewer writing in Mike Kable’s ‘Mirror on Wheels’ in Sydney’s Daily Mirror also gave it a good run. Across the other side of town Sun Herald motoring writer, Phil Scott, took up the cause and in this issue Brian Plankkman has devoted his entire column exclusively to telling us what was in his official memo to Chuck. Good of Mark Fogarty, a rev head from way back, hit the 3XY and 2MMM air waves voicing his support and the editor had a run on Melbourne’s 3AW ‘PM’ show just a few weeks ago. Were you listening Mr Chapman? There’s more to come over the next few months. A few of the blokes haven’t anted up with their promise of support yet but no doubt they will. After all, we don’t want a barrage of publicity for this campaign and then nothing – slowly, slowly, catchee monkey! The word through from our informants within Holden is that Chuck has implemented a ‘task force’ to study the feasibility of retaining the 308. Now this just might be a ploy to have us drop our guard so we won’t relent. Keep those letters flowing to Chuck and to make matters easier we have included a coupon for you and your mates to fill out. Let’s do it!”
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