Can glossy gossip coexist with the sidebar of shame? 

Mucus movements, extra-marital affairs and outrageous outfit choices are among the many commonplace topics discussed in gossip media today. From OK! magazine to the Daily Mail’s ‘sidebar of shame’, celebrity reporting has successfully found its place amongst Web 2.0. However, will there continue to be a market for both printed and digital gossip in an environmentally-sensitive future society?

Delayed Gratification’s ‘Celebrity tree count’ is a regular feature which uses circulation figures, GSM values and the Environment Paper Network Paper Calculator to estimate the number of trees felled to bring a series of gossip headlines to print. Unlike celebrity culture, nature’s value is easily quantifiable; the average tree produces 260 pounds of oxygen each year, which means that 3,640 pounds of oxygen was lost as result of sharing the news that ‘Jennifer Lawrence looks nice’… It’s easy to deduce here that, as sharing mindless celebrity gossip online has less impact on the environment, it will/should be the direction this form of media takes going forward. However, I consider that there is still a market for printed gossip, particularly in regards to travel. Gossip magazines are often used to relax into time away from daily worries and routines. Whilst tablets and smartphones offer a new way to access this media, the printed magazine arguably suits the purpose better. Firstly, because it is easily consumed (in a sandy environment!) and then disposed of. And secondly, because people are now also using time away to switch off from the aforementioned mobile devices. The aspiration for ‘digital escape’ can only help to boost the market for printed gossip.

A recent Guardian article suggested that “online alternatives” were to blame for a 13-21% drop in circulation for gossip titles such as Closer, Heat and Grazia, in the first half of 2017. Meanwhile, news and current affairs magazines such as Private Eye are enjoying growth, which the article suggests is a symptom of current global political tensions (particularly in relation to Brexit and Donald Trump’s presidency). Taken simply, these figures indicate that people are turning to print to make sense of complex current affairs and spending less time and money on consumer gossip. This may be because the tangibility of printed media can offer some welcome clarity, away from the cacophony of opinions found online. However in contrast to current affairs, gossip media exists to be dissected by the ‘average joe’, indeed comments can span into the thousands underneath the most humdrum of headlines. This again suggests that online media channels are the natural spaces for celebrity gossip to inhabit.

Current evidence is unequivocal in showing that gossip-glossies are suffering at the hands of the internet. However with the rise of indie mags and the dominance of convergence culture, that’s not to say that they won’t find a way of adapting to survive in their traditional form. The success of NME’s transition to a free magazine in 2015 (read more here) is perhaps a suggestion of things to come; a new magazine culture in which adaption is the key to survival.

Natasha Pile