[FOUNTAIN]Magazines in a New Century

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[FOUNTAIN]Magazines in a New Century

In the 100-year history of magazines in Korea, the 1950s were the most extraordinary period. During that decade, which is referred to as the renaissance of magazines, nearly all kinds of periodicals came into being. In April 1953, when the Korean War was going on, Jang Jun-ha, a progressive politician, published Sasanggye (World of Thought), a popular news monthly for intellectuals. Then Hagwon (The Academy), a popular monthly magazine for teenagers, was launched in Daegu. Entertainment magazines such as Arirang, Hope and New Sun also took root during that period.

Kim Ik-dal, a magazine mogul and the publisher of Hagwon, introduced women's magazines such as Yeowon (Women's World) and Jubusaenghwal (Housewives' Life), that sold more than 100,000 copies in the 1960s. The success meant that housewives had emerged as a major consumer group in the magazine market.

Thursday marks Korea's 36th Magazine Day. Magazines are a huge storehouse of a society's collective memory. They are also a leading indicator of the changes in time. The magazine market grew explosively in the 1970s. The following decade opened an era of magazines to look, not to read.

We are now living in an era of customized and specialized magazines that serve various and specific interests of readers according to their ages and preferences. It is an era of multiple media, and even Web sites compete with print media. To read the paradigm of the media war conducted by 5,038 Korean magazines is to see the direction of the market and the flow of money. There has been a power shift in that market. Monthly news magazines missed the boom a decade ago, while weekly news publications struggle against Internet media.

Affected by globalization, new kinds of periodicals are appearing: licensed magazines. If you have no idea what CeCi, KiKi and Cindy the Perky are, you are liable to be called old-fashioned.

For magazines in the future, there will likely be a change in focus from the center to the periphery. People now are interested in trends and style, rather than heavy subjects. Young people in their teens and 20s have replaced the adult generations as the major customers in the media market.

What strategies should the media take to survive? It comes down to this premise: "Be deep (specialize) or be broad (universalize)." Media organizations should forget, at least for now, the modernistic concept of the public or a general type of readership. Sound too radical? No. What is radical is that the world - and readers - are rapidly changing.

The writer is an editor of the JoongAng Ilbo publications.

by Cho Woo-suk

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