Are single-themed formats the newest magazine trend?

Variety is the spice of life, right?

At least that’s the premise behind most consumer magazines.  The average glossy contains a smorgasbord of subjects, with the hope that there will be a little something for everyone.

Even when a magazine assigns one basic editorial theme to each issue (Get ready for summer!), the articles inside are tethered together by the slenderest of threads in a wide-open field.

But as magazines must compete harder for a piece of the shrinking market, some are implementing a new survival strategy.  Instead of relying on broad subject matter, these magazines are choosing to focus on one themed topic per issue, going in-depth to cover multiple aspects and views.

Last week, both ESPN THE MAGAZINE* and the newly relaunched PREGNANCY announced they would follow an all-themed format. It’s a move that could make sense for both publications, setting them apart from the competition.  They can’t be first or fastest, but they can delve deeper.

Single-topic magazine issues are nothing new, although most of them are academic journals, trade magazines and B2B publications.  But new magazines like McSweeney’s LUCKY PEACH, which debuted last year, are eager to distinguish their product, and choose the format for that very reason.

While it may be too soon to call it a trend, if ESPN is successful, we could see more magazines ditching their existing formats.