When is a magazine a magazine?

Is it a blog?  Is it a magazine?  Is it a website?

Attempting to discern and define the differences between various media, is, at best, a moving target; rapidly changing in the digital environment.  For us at Wooden Horse, it’s a constantly shifting, headache-inducing occupational hazard.

If you look in a dictionary, you will find definitions for the word magazine, such as, “A periodical containing articles, stories, pictures or other features.”  And while all other dictionary definitions closely resemble this one, the meaning of a blog finds less agreement.

One definition claims a blog is a personal website, where one posts their thoughts, opinions and experiences.  Another says it can have one or many contributors, and may be focused on a single topic.  More comprehensive definitions for a blog mention common characteristics, such as writing in the first person, unfiltered content, reverse chronological order and comments.

As for a website, that all-inclusive term, can refer to any web page with hyperlinks that is hosted on a web server.  Gee, that narrows it down.


To cope with the issue, many freelancers have developed their own criteria for determining how to identify a magazine, website or blog.  Some of the personal rules we’ve run across include:

– If the content is updated daily, that makes it a website and not a magazine.
– It’s a magazine only if there’s a print edition (sorry, LONNY and sisters).
– Blogs use “I” and “We,” while magazines use those references only in editorials.
– Blogs have an informal tone, while magazines have more rigorous rules for language.
– A blog is a site created with blogging software.
– A magazine has an editorial staff to plan, filter and polish content.
– A magazine accepts contributions from outside sources, not just in-house.

One recent example that brings this growing dilemma into focus is ROOKIE, the new online fashion and lifestyle magazine launched by teen blogger Tavi Gevinson.  Much has been written about her association with Jane Pratt, founder of JANE and SASSY magazines, and about whether Gevinson is a style sage or just a flash-in-the-pan novelty.  But our question was more basic.  Is her magazine even a magazine?

Does it have monthly content?  Yes.  Is there an editorial staff?  Check.  Are there contributors?  Check.  A masthead?  It’s there.  But it also features updated posts three times a day, with someone’s personal musings.  Major media outlets refer to Rookie as a magazine, but a visit to http://rookiemag.com reveals that Rookie describes itself as, “a website for teenage girls,” in one place, and “an online publication for teenage girls,” in another.  It would seem even the staff is ambivalent about the correct label.

Regardless, it’s likely that more hybrid publications with multiple personalities will appear in the future, and with increasing frequency.  Life is going to get tough in the Wooden Horse offices.

What do you think?  How do you define and label media outlets?


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