MCKINNOL MSCONTNT 93 MAG _Ms._ Advertising + Editorial Content 1972-1992
_Ms_.ing the Free Press:
The Advertising and Editorial Content of _Ms._ Magazine, 1972-1992
Department of Communication
University of Oklahoma
601 Elm Ave., Room 101
Norman, OK 73019
In 1972, publishers introduced _Ms._ magazine as a forum for feminist
debate. Publishers intended _Ms._ to be both a political resource and
a mass-mediated publication. However, during the majority of _Ms._'s
history (1972-1989), conflicts occurred between editorsU ideology and
advertisersU wishes. In 1990, editors reintroduced _Ms._ as an
advertisement-free publication. A content analysis of _Ms._ from its
beginning as a publication supporting feminist ideology to its
current status as an advertisement-free forum helped to determine
if a relationship existed between advertisers' ideology and what
_Ms._ chose to print. This study examined the advertising and
editorial content of three womens magazines between July 1972 and
July 1992: _Ms._, _Mademoiselle_, and _Ladies Home Journal_. The
findings suggested that although _Ms._ sometimes compromised its
original promise to be a mass-mediated forum for feminism, its
current advertisement-free format has allowed _Ms._ to present a bold
vision of feminism.
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It has been charged that throughout the years, commercial
advertisers have limited the diversity of news and entertainment
that American women receive. Although advertisers may influence
the content of both print and broadcast media, the most blatant
relationship between advertisers and their control of editorial
content appears to be found in women's publications. Historically,
editors have made the final decisions about what is published
in women's magazines. However, these decisions may have been
influenced more by advertisersU pressures than by readers'
wishes. With few exceptions, advertising dollars continue
financially to support today's magazines, leading one to
ask, "Who actually sets the agenda in women's periodicals?
Readers, editors, or advertisers?"
Background of _Ms._
When _Ms._ began publication in July 1972, its editors hoped that it
would serve as a "laboratory," useful to both advertisers and readers.
_Ms._ editors encouraged readers to write letters to _Ms._ and to its
advertisers if the readers disapproved of any advertisements, and
they adopted the advertising policy:
Obviously, _Ms._ won't solicit or accept ads whatever the product
they're presenting, that are down-right insulting to women. (Nor
will we accept product categories that might be harmful. Feminine-
hygiene deodorants for instance are definitely out until doctors
are sure of their safety, and until the ads themselves are less
guilt-producing and more like the deodorant ads directed at men).
("Personal Report From _Ms._," p. 7).
_Ms._ vowed to be unlike traditional women's service magazines;
instead, it would serve as a forum for feminist political debate.
In fact, the early _Ms._ heroines were not homemakers but were
most frequently from political life and public service.
Most of its heroines were not particularly famous and many
were minority figures (Phillips, 1978). In addition, _Ms._
vowed not to give in to the demands of advertisers. When _Ms._
began, it didn't consider not accepting advertisements because it
wanted to keep the cost of the publication low enough for most
women to afford it. According to Steinem (1990), _Ms._ established
two primary goals:
First, we would convince makers of "people products" used
by both men and women but advertised mostly to men -- cars,
credit cards, insurance, sound equipment, financial services,
and the like -- their ads should be placed in a women's
magazine. Since they were accustomed to the division between
editorial and advertising in news and general interest magazines,
this would allow our editorial content to be free and diverse.
Second, we would add the best ads for whatever traditional "women's
products" (clothes, shampoo, fragrance, food, and so on) that
surveys showed _Ms._ readers used. But we would ask them to come
in without the usual quid pro quo of "complementary copy" (p. 19).
_Ms._ put together an all-female sales staff and attempted to
obtain the advertisers it desired. However, advertisers were not
as receptive to _Ms._'s new way of doing things as _Ms._ editors had
hoped. Non-traditional female advertisers were not eager to
advertise their products in _Ms._ (p. 57). In fact, some
advertisers were so filled with venom toward _Ms._ and what it
represented, that they would set up appointments with _Ms._'s
advertising executives just to abuse them (Emmrich, 1982).
In addition, the advertisers that _Ms._ managed to obtain were quick
to cancel their ads when something upset them. For example, when _Ms._
did a brief report on a congressional hearing into chemicals used
in hair dyes, Clairol became outraged. Steinem said, "...in spite
of surveys that show _Ms._ readers are active women who use more of
almost everything Clairol makes than do the readers of any other
women's magazine -- _Ms._ gets almost none of these ads for the rest
of its natural life" (p. 20). Steinem also reported that Revlon
once canceled scheduled advertising because Soviet women in a cover
photo were not wearing makeup. Leonard Lauder of Estee Lauder told
Steinem that he would never advertise in _Ms._ because his company
was selling a "kept-woman mentality" (p. 24). After years of
trying to avoid harmful ads, _Ms._ decided to accept advertisements
for Philip Morris' brand Virginia Slims. _Ms._'s editors explained
that the "You've come a long way, baby," slogan wouldn't set well
with _Ms._'s readers, but Phillip Morris was convinced its slogan
would work with all women. Steinem explained:
Finally, we agree to publish an ad for a Virginia Slims calendar
as a test. The letters from readers are criticalPand smart.
For instance: Would you show a black man picking cotton,
the same man in a Cardin suit, and symbolize the antislavery
and civil rights movements by smoking: Of course not, but
instead of honoring the test results, the Philip Morris people
seem angry to be proven wrong. They take away ads for all their
many brands. This costs _Ms._ about $250,000 the first year
However, advertising revenue began to decrease in 1985, and _Ms._
began to ignore its original policy. _Ms._ published a greater number
of ads for products harmful to women and stories focusing on the three
C's of traditional role performance -- Cooking, Cleaning, and Caring.
According to Steinem (1990), _Ms._ was forced to change to keep up
with the demands of advertisers and to remain financially stable.
Farrell (1988) wrote, "Neither of these criteria were possible [sic]
as long as advertisers and potential owners perceived _Ms._ as a 'cause'
rather than a "market opportunity." To change this perception, _Ms._
introduced a new image in 1987 (p. 1).
Ferguson, Kreshel, and Tinkham (1990) showed that _Ms._'s
advertisements became more sexist and promoted more harmful products
as the years progressed (pp. 40-41). Faludi (1991) wrote,
"...as the '80s advanced, _Ms._'s readers would find the magazine
retreating almost as quickly as the culture around it" (p. 81).
Milligan (1986) reported, "There is little anymore that distinguishes
_Ms._ from other mainstream women's magazines such as _Cosmopolitan_,
_Mademoiselle_, _Working Woman_, or even magazines such as _Playgirl_."
In _Decoding Womens Magazines_, McCracken (1993) explained
that although _Ms._ intended to be a feminist forum, it was also a
business venture. For example, of _Ms._'s 1983 revenues totalling $9.3
million, advertising revenue accounted for $5.1 million. She wrote, "The
conflict between the magazine's commercial goals and its feminist
ones surfaces in the interplay between the ads and editorial
materials. The reinforcement between ads and editorial features at
work in most women's magazines also functions in _Ms._ but this
relation additionally becomes one of conflict and opposition in
_Ms._S In fact, this conflict sometimes worked against _Ms._'s positive
editorial messages (pp. 279-280).
Along with other contextual changes, _Ms._'s heroines
changed too. Now, _Ms._ featured wealthy women and celebrities.
Milligan wrote, "_Ms._ used to run articles that criticized
society's emphasis on a woman's appearance. The magazine
"...which [once] ridiculed the rituals of using makeup to
please a man, now carries as many ads for cosmetics as any
mainstream beauty magazine..." (pp. 18-20). Faludi explained,
"The magazine that had once investigated sexual harassment,
domestic violence, the prescription-drug industry, and the
treatment of women in third-world countries now dashed off gushing
tributes to Hollywood stars, launched a fashion column, and
delivered the really big news -- pearls are back. The first
magazine ever to run the pulpy face of a battered wife on the cover
now showcased instead the powdered faces of starlets -- and pulled
a photo of battered wife Hedda Nussbaum from its cover to pacify
advertisers" (p. 108). Faludi said, "Only once, after the
Supreme Court issued the Webster decision restricting women's
reproductive rights, did _Ms._ truly rouse itself from its lip-gloss
reveries. It's WAR! the August 1989 issue exclaimed -- as if just
waking up to the backlash at this late date" (p. 110).
According to Reilly (1989), this feature on abortion, like others,
cost _Ms._ many of its advertisers.
Hovey (1990) explained that changes in _Ms._'s content accompanied
changes in its ownership. In 1987, the magazine changed hands from the
_Ms._ Foundation for Education and Communication, under which it held
non-profit status, to Fairfax Ltd. The new firm installed Anne Summers
as editor after founder editor Gloria Steinem moved to a consulting role.
After only one year, Matilda Publications took over as the new owner. Then
in the fall of 1989 Dale Lang signed on as majority owner in a partnership
with Citicorp Venture Capital. Lang suspended publication of _Ms._ in
December 1989. In hopes of saving the magazine, he relaunched _Ms._ as a
subscriber-supported bimonthly. The advertisement-free _Ms._ debuted in
The newly launched _Ms._ sold for $4.50 an issue and $40 for the
six bimonthly issues. Lang knew that for readers to pay the
magazines' high price, _Ms._ had to give readers what they wanted:
a new forum for feminist ideology. However, not everyone was as
sure as Lang that the advertisement-free formula would be a
success. According to Wollenberg (1990), "Industry analysts have
expressed doubts about the magazine's chances for survival without
advertising. They say the relatively high price will discourage
some readers, and that the topics _Ms._ made its reputation on are
now being covered adequately in other magazines" (p. B7).
Fortunately, the revamped _Ms._ is succeeding with a circulation
rate of 100,000 (Kissling, p. 665). Denworth (1991) said, "The
success of _Ms._ defies not only publishing wisdom but also the
frequent pronouncements that the women's movement is over" (p.
60). Goodman (1990) wrote, "The new magazine is less gloss, less
hip than _Ms._ at its best, but more focused than _Ms._ in its long
schinzy decline..._Ms._ is entering a second phase. It's called
'promising'" (p. B5).
Current editor Robin Morgan (1991) explained that the new _Ms._
is "finally free" to tell the truth. She wrote, "For every story you
read, many get filed but languish on the desks of editors forced to
defer to the publisher or owner of the newspaper or magazine, or the
station or network executives who, in turn, shrug that -- you guessed
it -- the advertisers would complain if...And the ad agencies and
their clients insist that 'the public' wants it that way" (p. 1).
Feminism in the Mass Media
From the beginning of the United States' modern, feminist
movement in the 1960s, the mass media have been the object of
feminist criticism and scrutiny. It is evident that the two most
frequently cited founding events of modern feminism, the
publication of Betty Friedan's _Feminine Mystique_ in 1963 and the
creation of the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1966,
contained at their core a critique of the mass media. Friedan used
a content analysis of traditional women's magazines to illustrate
how the media created a myth about the proper source of women's
happiness: being housewives. Likewise, NOW was active from its
beginning in monitoring mass media content and agitating for
Researching feminist issues in the mass media is most
often accomplished through content analysis. Butler and Paisley
(1980) noted that the most systematic analyses of mass media
images of women have been conducted since 1970. Content analysis
helps to explain the structure of mass-produced messages that help
to define society and culture.
Advertisements in magazines have been studied more extensively
than any other aspect of the print media. Courtney and Lockeretz's
(1971) landmark study of magazine advertisements found that the
advertisements of eight general magazines showed more men employed
than women and presented more men in higher-status occupations.
Parts of this study were replicated by Wagner and Banos (1973) and
by Culley and Bennett (1974) producing similar results.
Venkatesan and Losco (1975) studied the changes in
advertisement content over time (1959-1971). Overall, researchers
found that, although women were still depicted unfavorably in many
cases, the sexist portrayal of women in ads had decreased
considerably since 1961. Similarly, Warren (1978) found that
representation of women in advertising conformed to traditional
stereotypes -- mother, wife, homemaker, sex object. Researchers
have also studied the sexist portrayal of models in ads. Reid and
Soley (1983) noted that the portrayal of decorative female models
actually increased during the "feminist active" 1970s, while the
portrayal of traditional female roles decreased. An analysis of
130 ads from selected issues of _Time_, _Newsweek_, and _Sports
Illustrated_ suggested that a decorative female model can be
employed by advertisers to enhance the probability that an ad will
Rossi and Rossi (1985) studied the appeal of magazine
advertising to college students and how these students perceived
sexism displayed in magazine ads drawn from _Ms._, _Cosmopolitan_,
_Playboy_, _Psychology Today_, and _Time_. Researchers asked
137 students to view a randomized sequence of 10 sexist
target ads and 10 control ads. They concluded that both males and
females found the target ads to be much more sexist than control
ads. Interestingly, they discovered that the females studied
displayed more liberal attitudes toward the women in the ads than
Soley and Reid (1988) studied how women are dressed
in ads by randomly selecting ads appearing in six magazines
during 1964 and 1984. Their findings implied that the advertising
industry, reacting to increased sexual openness, responded by
allowing more sexually explicit and provocative portrayals of women
in magazine advertising during 1984.
Tuznik (1989) investigated whether advertising portrayals of
working women had changed over time. Her results indicated that from
1979 to 1988 the advertised portrayals of working women did not reflect
significant changes overall. The results suggested that readers
were receiving somewhat outdated information about the roles of
Ferguson, Kreshel, and Tinkham (1990) studied the changes in the
portrayal of women in ads appearing in _Ms._ magazine between 1973 and
1987. Based on _Ms._'s published advertising policy, the authors felt that
if the ads presented in _Ms._ were found to be sexist, then it could be
assumed that ads in other media vehicles were equally, or perhaps, more
pervasive in the sex roles portrayed in ads. Unfortunately, the
researchers found that advertising practice at _Ms._ was inconsistent
with its stated advertising policy. They found that nearly one-third of
all ads in the sample promoted products generally perceived as "harmful."
In addition, they concluded that sexism in advertisements increased
dramatically over _Ms._'s fifteen-year publication.
Analyses of Magazine Article and Short Story Content
Studies of articles and short stories have examined themes,
images, social norms, types of occupations, and attitudes found in
women's magazines. Rakow (1985) explained, "In the early 1970s,
research on media portrayals of women and their effects on
audiences began to appear in academic communications journals,
signaling that the topic was becoming a legitimate one within the
existing frameworks of media research" (p. 1).
Early examples of research on feminist issues appeared in several
theme sections of the Spring 1974 _Journal of Communication_. Included
was Franzwa's (1974) content analysis of 155 heroines appearing in
women's magazine fiction. She found that women were portrayed in
four basic ways: single and looking for a husband; housewife-mother;
spinster; widowed or divorced.
In addition, the Winter 1978 edition of the _Journal of
Communication_ featured nine articles on women's issues. Lazler and
Dier's (1978) study found a discrepancy between magazine fiction in the
_Atlantic Monthly_ and the _Saturday Evening Post_ and real-life jobs
between 1940 and 1970. The researchers wrote,"...the number of working
women is so small that the undesirability of work for women is the
Also included in this issue were several studies on the Equal
Rights Amendment (ERA). First, Butler and Paisley (1978) presented
an analysis of magazines' coverage of the ERA from 1922-1976. They
found that magazine articles were more devoted to women's rights
between 1922-1926 than in any subsequent five-year period until
the end of the 1960s.
Farley (1978) conducted a content analysis of 39 women's magazines
that participated in an effort to increase ERA awareness by running an
article in their July 1976 issues. She concluded, "Editorial
policy, circulation, and class of readership was linked to amount
of magazine coverage, but not necessarily advocacy, of ERA."
Spieczny (1987) examined 13 women's publications to
determine how they covered the ERA between 1970 and 1979. Results
showed that, during this period, _Ms._ magazine published the most
articles on the ERA, 45. _Ms._ was followed by _Redbook_ with 14
_Hearth and Home: Images of Women in the Mass Media_, edited
by Tuchman, Daniels, and Benet (1978) represented an effort to
understand more about the impact of media images of women.
Included were three chapters on the images found in women's
magazines. The chapters in this section tell us that all women's
magazines project a similar image of women. In Chapter Five,
Ferguson presented a content analysis of the cover photographs of
three British magazines. Ferguson argued that buyers are
encouraged to model themselves after the images presented in the
magazines. She found the overall picture was unified: women strive
In Chapter Six, Phillips presented a content analysis of the
heroines in _Ms._ and _Family Circle_ in selected issues between 1974
and 1976. She found that the early _Ms._ was not like traditional
women's publications. Phillips learned that _Ms._ presented heroines
in a wide range of roles while _Family Circle_ presented its heroines
primarily as housewives. Although Phillips concluded that _Ms._ differed
from other publications, she found that _Ms._ stressed a key element in
traditional women's magazines: "Creativity and personal growth come
from helping others, not from an ambitious (and supposedly male) attempt
to satisfy one's own needs."
In Chapter Seven, Lopate focused on the images of
the popular heroine Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis presented in twelve
magazines during 1975. Lopate found that one common theme ran
through all of the images of Onassis: work outside the home is
Clark (1981) found that, although many American women live alone,
women's periodicals pay little attention to single-woman households.
Clark investigated non-fiction articles appearing from July 1978 to June
1979 in _Ms._, _Glamour_, _Ladies Home Journal_, _McCalls_, and
_Redbook_. She discovered that articles on living alone were primarily
of an indirect, helping nature.
Farrell (1988) explained that when _Ms._ changed from its
non-profit status to its for-profit status in 1987, its editors
claimed that only _Ms._'s skin (i.e., cover representation, size, and
format) would change. In an attempt to determine how readers of
women's magazines "read" or "construct" the meanings of the covers,
subjects examined old _Ms._ covers, new _Ms._ covers, and the November
1987 issues of _Self_, _Mademoiselle_, and _New Woman_. Respondents'
initial reactions to the recent _Ms._ covers were negative. They
felt that _Ms._'s 1987 covers resembled current women's magazines.
However, when comparing the _Ms._'s covers to the other magazines'
covers, readers felt that _Ms._ portrayed women more positively.
Farrell observed, "Both the changes in 'skin' and the changes in
'heart' affect the way readers make meaning from texts."
Farrell (1991), drawing from a textual analysis of _Ms._, interviews
with its editors and writers, and an analysis of letters written to the
magazine, showed how "..._Ms._ worked as a powerful, yet
contradictory, channel for the women's movement, torn between
articulating a bold vision [of feminism] while at the same time
mediating, controlling, and sometimes undermining its initial
promise to be a mass media resource for women around the country"
(p. 2). Farrell wrote, "The final months of _Ms._'s history
demonstrate the ultimate economic power of advertisers to shape or
to break any mass media resource." She anticipated that, although
the new _Ms._ could once again serve as a feminist forum, it would
lose its mass-mediated "popularity."
Some publications say that advertisers pressure them into
doing advertising-related stories. Hays and Reisner (1990)
concluded that many farm magazines feel pressured by advertisers.
A mail survey of 190 journalists who write for farm journals showed
that about two-thirds of the journalists studied said that
advertisers have threatened their journals on occasion, and about
one-half said that advertising actually had been withdrawn. In
addition, the journalists reported that advertisers sometimes
attempt to win over journalists with gifts, free meals, and in
Hesterman (1986) examined the top 100 consumer magazines
from 1972 to 1979. She found that despite the care given
by the journalism industry to maintain the separation of editorial
and advertising interests, 49 percent of editors at the magazines
studied felt some pressure from advertising offices, and 2 percent
said they felt considerable pressure.
Some studies suggest that due to pressures from advertisers, women's
magazines are less likely to cover controversial topics. Ballenger (1992)
presented a content analysis of the 12 largest women's magazines' coverage
of abortion from 1972 to 1991. Despite the fact that abortion has
remained a hot topic, these women's magazines, with combined
circulations of 45-million, have published only 137 articles on
abortion during the last two decades.
Although more than 40-thousand American women die of lung cancer
each year, magazines that accept cigarette ads often fail to cover this
life-threatening issue. Hesterman (1987) examined how issues of _Ms._,
_Good Housekeeping_, and _Seventeen_ appearing from 1972 to 1979 handled
cigarette ads and editorial copy about smoking-related health
problems. Hesterman studied issues from 1972 to 1979. She found
that _Good Housekeeping_, which does not accept cigarette ads and
published an average of 11.2 health-related articles annually,
presented the most coverage on the dangers of smoking with an
average of 2.1 articles per year. _Seventeen_, which also maintains
a no-cigarette policy, published an average of 2.2 health-related
articles annually and an average of 1.0 article on smoking every
two years. Although _Ms._ published an average of 5.7 health
articles a year, it published no featured articles related to
smoking. Hesterman concluded, "The influence of tobacco
advertisers on women's magazine editors appears to have had a
powerful effect on editorial autonomy, perhaps to the point of
affecting journalistic responsibility."
Kessler (1989) found that six major women's magazines had virtually
no coverage of smoking and cancer, despite the fact that lung cancer had
been classified as the number one killer of American women since 1985.
Kessler analyzed the editorial and advertising content of every
issue of _Cosmopolitan_, _Good Housekeeping_, _Mademoiselle_, _McCall's_,
_Ms._, and _Woman's Day_ appearing between 1983 and 1987. In addition,
the health editors for the publications completed a questionnaire
that asked them how often they depended on 11 news sources for
health information and asked them to rank the importance of 13
health concerns. Although there were 1,300 articles on the dangers
of cigarette smoking published in medical journals between 1983 and
1987, not one of the six magazines studied published any
full-length feature, column, review or editorial on any aspect of
the health hazards of smoking during the same five-year period.
Warner, Goldenhar, and McLaughlin (1992) also found
statistical evidence to indicate that cigarette advertising in
magazines is associated with diminished coverage of the hazards of
smoking. They found that this is particularly true for magazines
directed toward women. Using a sample of 99 U.S. magazines
published during 25 years the researchers analyzed the probability
that the magazines would publish articles on the risks of smoking
in relation to whether they carried cigarette ads and in relation
to the proportion of the magazines' advertising revenues derived
from cigarettes. The results indicated that the probability of
publishing an article on the risks of smoking for a given year was
11.9 percent for magazines that did not carry cigarette ads and 8.3
percent for those that published tobacco ads. For women's
magazines, however, the range of probabilities was more drastic
with figures at 11.7 percent and 5.0 percent, respectively.
According to Steinem (1990), "That nothing-to-read feeling
comes from editorial pages devoted to 'complementary copy'; to text
or photos that praise advertised categories, instruct in their use,
or generally act as extensions of ads." Steinem randomly selected
issues of popular women's magazines and conducted a frequency count
of the number of pages that were not advertisements and/or
complementary to advertisements, and then compared that number to
the number of total pages. She found that most women's
publications provide plenty of complementary copy to please even
the most demanding advertisers.
In two studies Norris (1982 and 1984) reported that contrary to
popular belief, magazines do not need advertisers to survive. In his
1982 study, he explained, "Conventional wisdom holds that the media are
made available to the public 'at a fraction of their actual cost'
because they are subsidized by advertisers.'" By analyzing the
prices of 45 magazines and the number of ads in each magazine,
Norris found that price per page is not related to the amount of
advertising. He concluded, "The prices we pay per page of
editorial content in consumer magazines are inversely related to
circulation and the number of pages; they are not lower in
magazines 'subsidized' by advertisers or by tax-exempt status." In
1984, Norris conducted a detailed economic analysis of the supply
and demand of Mad magazine. He found that Mad magazine
successfully defied the conventional wisdom that magazines without
ads cannot be profitable.
Primary Study: Based on previous research on _Ms._ magazine, the
following hypotheses were formulated:
H1 There were no changes in advertising content over time for all
three magazines considered together.
H2 There were no changes in the advertising content over time of
each magazine considered individually.
H3 There were no changes in editorial content over time for all
three magazines considered together.
H4 There were no changes in the editorial content over time of
each magazine considered individually.
H5 There was no relationship between advertising and editorial
content over time for all three magazines considered together.
H6 There was no relationship between advertising and editorial
content over time of each magazine considered individually.
Secondary Study: The following hypotheses were formulated:
H1 There were no changes in the advertising content of _Ms._
magazine during times of ownership change (Times 5-7).
H2 There were no changes in the advertising content of _Ms._
magazine during all times considered together (Times 1-3 and 5-7).
H3 There were no changes in the editorial content of _Ms._
magazine during times of ownership change (Times 5-7).
H4 There were no changes in the editorial content of _Ms._
magazine during all times considered together (Times 1-7).
A content analysis of _Ms._ was performed to determine if a
relationship existed between the advertising and editorial
content of the magazine. For comparison, this study examined
selected issues of _Ms._, _Mademoiselle_, and _Ladies Home Journal_
published between July 1972, and July 1992. By examining these
publications, it could be determined if similar changes had
occurred in all three magazines during this 20-year period.
According to the 1992 _Writer's Market_, each magazine's overall
purpose is to provide information on issues of concern to women.
However, these magazines were also selected because each represents
a different style and type of magazine designed for women. _Ms._'s
primary purpose is to serve as a forum for feminist theory.
_Mademoiselle_ includes articles primarily of beauty, romance, and
fashion. And _Ladies Home Journal_ provides information primarily on
home, family, and health. By sampling different types of women's
publications, a greater diversity of sampled articles and
advertisements could be analyzed.
The 20-year span studied was broken down into four periods to allow
for a more equal representation of _Ms._'s historical changes. To insure
that an equal number of issues was studied in each period, the issues were
not selected randomly. Beginning with July of 1972 and selecting
every sixth year the four periods were established: July 1972-May
1973 (Time 1), July 1978-May 1979 (Time 2), July 1984-May 1985
(Time 3), and July 1990-May 1991 (Time 4).
To avoid seasonal variations in advertising and editorial content,
every other month was selected. Issues appearing in July, September,
November, January, March, and May were analyzed for each magazine in each
period. Entire issues of _Ms._, _Mademoiselle_, and _Ladies Home
Journal_ were studied in each of the selected months.
In addition, a secondary study was conducted to determine if changes
in the ownership of _Ms._ magazine were related to changes in the
publication's advertising and editorial content. Therefore, the
following three periods were analyzed: September 1987-July 1988
(Time 5), September 1988-July 1989 (Time 6), and September
1989-December 1990 (Time 7).
Selection of Items
Primary Study: Seventy-two magazines which appeared between July 1972
and July 1992 were analyzed. This totaled six issues per year each of
_Ms._, _Mademoiselle_, and _Ladies Home Journal_ for all four periods.
To be selected for analysis, all magazine ads and articles had to be
at least one-half page in length. Items greater than one full-page
in length were considered only once. Advertisements were
classified by product type, and articles were classified according
to feature type. The total sample yielded 4,601 ads and 1,940
magazine articles. The proportion for _Ms._ was 539 ads and 554
articles. _Mademoiselle_ issues contained 1,939 ads and 846
articles, and the _Ladies Home Journal_ issues contained 2,123 ads
and 540 articles.
Secondary Study: Fourteen issues of _Ms._ magazine which appeared
between September 1987 and December 1989 were analyzed. Magazines ads
and articles were studied based on the criteria set in the primary study.
The total sample yielded 440 ads and 276 magazine articles.
Three research coders, one male and two female, analyzed the selected
magazine issues. Overall, inter-coder reliability equaled 94.4 percent.
Coding was completed by following established guidelines. Coders classified
both articles and advertisements based on category type. Category
type was based on the most dominant theme portrayed and on previous
research. Ferguson, Kreshel, and Tinkham (1990) found that
advertisements in _Ms._ could be classified as:
1) personal appearance
2) business, travel, and transportation
3) home products (45).
For further clarification, the following categories were added to the
4) entertainment (including cigarettes and alcohol)
Land (1987) explained that most popular magazines offer their
readers articles based on 21 subjects. Therefore, magazine articles were
classified into the following categories:
1) diets 8) first-person experiences 15) cooking
2) health 9) human behavior 16) trends
3) sex 10) marriage 17) sports
4) money 11) children 18) hobbies/art
5) celebrities 12) travel 19) animals
6) how-to 13) fashion 20) nat. problems/politics
7) self-help 14) home furnishing 21) foreign news (18).
In addition, the following categories were added to the
Primary Study: Each ad or article was coded according to
established categories. Next, raw scores for all of the ad and article
subcategories were totalled. The scores for each subcategory were also
combined for each period and for each of the three magazines. Simple
chi square tests were used to see if there were any differences between
the ad and article categories for each of the three magazines in each of
the periods studied. In addition, complex chi square tests were used
to examine the relationships between the advertising and the
editorial content of the magazines together over time, and
Secondary Study: As in the primary study, ads and articles
were coded according to type, raw scores for all ad and article
subcategories were totalled, and scores for each subcategory were
combined for each period of ownership change. Simple chi square tests
were also used to see if there were any differences between the ad and
article categories of _Ms._ in each of the periods studied. In addition,
a complex chi square test was used to examine the relationships between
the ad and the editorial content of _Ms._ and between all of _Ms._'s
period changes considered over time.
Summary of Findings
Analyzing the advertising and editorial content of _Ms._ magazine
from its beginning as a publication supporting feminist ideology to its
current status as an advertisement-free medium helped to determine
if relationships existed between advertisers' ideology as depicted
in advertising content and the articles that _Ms._ chose to print.
In fact, all of the null hypotheses in this study were rejected
based on evidence from Chi Square analyses performed at the .05
Primary Study: Results indicated that changes in the frequency of
ads occurred in all three magazines considered together during Times 1-4.
For all magazines considered together, the greatest percent of
advertisements promoted "Personal Appearance" (Type 1).
(Insert Table I)
It also appears that over time changes occurred in the advertising
content of each magazine considered individually. The difference between
the ads appearing in _Ms._ appeared to be genuine. During this time, the
largest percent of advertisements promoted "Entertainment" (Type 4).
Differences between types of articles appearing in both _Mademoiselle_
and of _Ladies Home Journal_ appeared to be genuine as well. The
largest percent of advertisements in _Mademoiselle_ and _Ladies Home
Journal_ promoted "Personal Appearance" (Type 1) and "Home Products"
(Type 3) respectively.
(Insert Tables II, III, and IV)
In addition, results indicated that changes in article types
occurred in all three magazines considered together during Times
1-4. For all magazines considered together, the greatest percent
of articles featured "Fashion" (Type 13).
(Insert Table V)
Results also indicated that changes over time occurred in the
article content of each magazine. In _Ms._ a significant difference
existed between article types. During this time, the largest
percent of _Ms._'s articles focused on "National Problems/Politics"
(Type 20). The largest percent of articles in _Mademoiselle_ and
_Ladies Home Journal_ focused on "Fashion" (Type 13) and "Cooking"
(Type 15) respectively.
(Insert Tables VI, VII and VIII)
Secondary Study: The secondary study examined changes in _Ms._'s
advertising and article content during periods of ownership change and
in all times considered together. Results indicated that changes in
advertisements occurred in _Ms._ during periods of ownership change
(Times 5-7). During this period, the largest percent of
advertisements promoted RPersonal Appearance (Type 1).
(Insert Table IX)
Results also indicated that changes in _Ms._'s advertisements
occurred during all periods considered together (Times 1-3 and 5-7).
During all periods, the largest percent of advertisements promoted
"Entertainment" (Type 7).
(Insert Table X)
In addition, the results indicated that changes in article type
occurred in _Ms._ during time periods of ownership change (Times 5-7).
During these times, the greatest percent of articles focused on
"Celebrities" (Type 5).
(Insert Table XI)
Moreover, results indicated that changes in article type
occurred in _Ms._ during all times considered together (Times 1-7).
During all times, the greatest number of articles focused on
RNational Problems/PoliticsS (Type 20).
(Insert Table XII)
A Free Press?
This study also speculated that as _Ms._'s advertising
policies gave way to the demands of advertisers, the advertisements
and articles appearing in _Ms._ would begin to resemble those
appearing in traditional women's publications. Although this
relationship was not proved statistically, evidence exists to
suggest that the theory may have merit. By comparing the
percentages of _Ms._'s advertisements in all seven time periods, it
seems that advertisements did become more like those in traditional
women's periodicals. Advertisements for "Personal Appearance"
(Type 1) increased over time. Moreover, article types also began
to resemble mainstream women's magazines. Until July of 1990 (Time
4, when _Ms._ contained no ads), articles increased on "Celebrities"
(Type 5), "Fashion" (Type 13), and "Cooking" (Type 15).
The findings of this study indicated that although _Ms._
sometimes compromised its original promise to be a mass-mediated
forum for feminist, its current advertisement-free format has once
again allowed _Ms._ to present a bold vision of feminism.
_Ms._'s status as a mass media magazine with a feminist slant gave
it the power to reach a mass audience of women. However, it also
created conflicting demands. Farrell (1991) wrote:
At the same time that _Ms._ promised its readers to be an "open
forum" and to "work for a better world" it also had to survive
in a media industry that dictated it attract as many advertisers
as possible, many of whom were less than comfortable with its
openly political perspective. Even in its years as a non-profit
organization (from 1979 to 1987), _Ms._ needed to attract
sufficient advertisers to support its mass circulation. Both a
"marketing opportunity" for advertisers and a resource within the
women's movement, _Ms._ magazine was an inherently contradictory
text (p. 15).
During the 1970s, _Ms._ published articles which broke most of the
conventions of popular women's magazines. However by the 1980s, editors
disguised any "feminist" articles behind more traditional women's topics,
providing perfect set-ups for advertisers' products. For example,
a 1973 article appearing in _Ms._, "Alice in Cosmeticsland,"
ridiculed the use of makeup to please a man and detailed the harms
of many cosmetics (Stewart, pp. 68-71, 106-110). On the other
hand, a January 1988 article, "Ode to Makeup," focused on the joys
of Maybelline and other cosmetics. The author stated, "I wouldn't
be caught, awake or asleep (or dead, even), without eyeliner"
(Egan, pp. 14-15). In contrast, "Faith Healers, Holy Oil: Inside
the Cosmetics Industry," appeared in 1991. Through this article,
the new advertisement-free _Ms._ once again uncovered the myths and
fantasies of the multi-million dollar beauty industry (Wolf, pp.
Likewise, _Ms._'s advertising content also changed
considerably. Originally, _Ms._ attracted advertisements for
traditional male products -- cars, travel, electronics, insurance,
credit cards, etc. However, as _Ms._ strived to remain financially
afloat and changes in ownership occurred, the editors began
accepting more ads for traditionally feminine products -- fashion,
cosmetics, perfume, home products, etc. In _Ms._'s November 1974
report, editors told readers, RWe may no longer feel compelled to
spend a self-defeating proportion of our hard-earned dollars on how
we look, but we spend sensible amounts out of self-respect. This
real-life approach benefits the reader by offering information on
a full range of products. It benefits advertisers tooS (p. 90).
In _Ms._'s early days, editors encouraged readers to send in
distasteful or sexist ads that they found in periodicals, and they
included them in their RNo CommentS section. Editors abandoned and
picked-up this section from time to time throughout _Ms._'s 20-year
history. In fact, the RNo CommentS section reappeared in the first
advertisement-free issue of the new _Ms._ However, this time the ads
were not found in other publications but were _Ms._'s own.
Throughout the years, the editors of _Ms._ found themselves
caught between two worlds -- the world of the women's movement and
the world of the mass-mediated magazine industry. Eventually, _Ms._
became the only representative of feminism on commercial
newsstands. This allowed _Ms._ to reach women who would not
necessarily have read _Ms._ for its political stance on feminism.
However, its mass-mediated popularity also required the magazine to
become a "cash cow" often yielding to the demands of advertisers.
Farrell (1991) explained, "While the history of _Ms._ demonstrates
the power of this 'double standard,' it also points to the larger
problem confronting anyone attempting to use commercial media for
a political movement. Commercial media demand an atmosphere
conducive to a consumer ethic; they want to create a culture of
commodities, not a culture of politics and social transformation
which may either ignore, or perhaps even resist, a culture based on
the purchase of goods" (pp. 245-246).
In July of 1990, _Ms._ re-emerged advertisement-free and
subscriber-supported. Although _Ms._'s absence from the commercial arena
may prevent it from reaching a mass audience, it is once again free to
work toward the resurgence of feminist ideology. _Ms._'s editorial
content can now assume a feminist perspective, rather than strive to
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APPEARING IN ALL MAGAZINES CONSIDERED TOGETHER
Period Ms. (1) Mademoiselle (2) Ladies Home Journal (3) Total
N=539 N=1939 N=2123 N=4601
1 22.45% 75.50% 26.61% 46.73%
2 16.88% 2.89% 1.79% 4.02%
3 10.02% 6.40% 51.44% 27.60%
4 41.74% 11.09% 13.66% 15.87%
5 8.91% 4.13% 6.50% 5.78%
Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
PROPORTION OF ADVERTISEMENTS APPEARING IN MS.
IN PERIODS ONE THROUGH FOUR
Advertisement Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 4 Total
Type N=87 N=197 N=255 N=0 N=539
1 20.69% 13.71% 29.80% 0.00% 22.45%
2 3.45% 23.86% 16.08% 0.00% 16.88%
3 2.30% 10.66% 12.16% 0.00% 10.02%
4 55.17% 43.65% 35.69% 0.00% 41.74%
5 18.39% 8.12% 6.27% 0.00% 8.91%
Total 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00% 100.00%
Note: The tables above are provided as samples. For the complete
dataset, pleaese contact the author, Lorin McKinnon, at Department
of Communication, University of Oklahoma, 601 Elm Ave., Room 101,
Norman, OK 73019: (405) 325-3111.
PROPORTION OF ADVERTISEMENTS APPEARING IN MADEMOISELLE
IN PERIODS ONE THROUGH FOUR
PROPORTION OF ADVERTISEMENTS APPEARING IN
LADIES HOME JOURNAL IN PERIODS ONE THROUGH FOUR
PROPORTION OF ARTICLE TYPES APPEARING IN
ALL MAGAZINES CONSIDERED TOGETHER
PROPORTION OF ARTICLE TYPES APPEARING IN MS.
IN PERIODS ONE THROUGH FOUR
PROPORTION OF ARTICLE TYPES APPEARING IN MADEMOISELLE
IN PERIODS ONE THROUGH FOUR
PROPORTION OF ARTICLE TYPES APPEARING IN LADIES' HOME JOURNAL
IN PERIODS ONE THROUGH FOUR
PROPORTION OF ADVERTISEMENTS APPEARING IN MS. IN ALL
OWNERSHIP CHANGE PERIODS (5, 6, 7) CONSIDERED TOGETHER
PROPORTION OF ADVERTISEMENTS APPEARING IN MS.
IN ALL PERIODS (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7) CONSIDERED TOGETHER
PROPORTION OF ARTICLES APPEARING IN MS.
IN PERIODS OF OWNERSHIP CHANGE (5, 6, 7)
PROPORTION OF ARTICLES APPEARING IN MS.
IN ALL PERIODS (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) CONSIDERED TOGETHER
Presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communi-
cation (Magazine Div.) Annual Convention, Kansas City MO, 11-14 Aug 1993