As Blender magazine shuts down, are lifestyle magazines on the way out?

On Thursday, Alpha Media Group announced that it was closingBlender magazine. The periodical, which specialized in music reviews, employed thirty people. Some will be moving to Maxim and other Alpha publications.

To a certain extent, it isn't all that surprising to hear that Blender is closing. Amid tales of tanking newspapers and plummeting periodicals, the failure of yet another magazine is hardly noteworthy. Beyond that, I often hear my wife, a Blender subscriber, snarling at the magazine as she reads its reviews; I have to assume that any publication that regularly antagonizes its core audience has a questionable future.

Even so, Blender's closure bodes ill for the larger industry. Back in February, when Double Down media went belly up, it was easy to attribute its failure to the recession. The media company, which produced Trader Monthly, Private Air, Dealmaker, Corporate Leader and Cigar Report, positioned itself for a very small niche market of extremely wealthy, aggressive people with expensive tastes and jobs in finance. However, as Wall Street jobs evaporated and bonuses disappeared, Double Down's market shrank; even among those who were still able to afford the Double Down lifestyle, indulging in it started to look a little tacky.

On the other hand, Playboy Enterprises' recent decision to close its Manhattan office was downright shocking, even to people who have observed the company's financial problems over the past few years. After all, common wisdom states that recessions are good for so-called "vice stocks" and, fair or not, Playboy is generally regarded as America's most prominent and respected vice peddler. While one might expect the recessionary failure of a high-end rich man's magazine, the weakening of an American sexual institution is seriously counter-intuitive.

Beyond that, Playboy, like Blender, is a lifestyle magazine. Relatively inexpensive and targeted to distinct demographics, both publications should be somewhat resistant to the whims of the battered marketplace. However, it is increasingly apparent that, between the emerging primacy of the internet and the movement toward extremely careful spending, very few publications are completely safe. It seems like the days of the lifestyle magazine may be numbered.
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