The Ten Best Magazines Launched in 2016

Print mags hold an important place in the overall media landscape and are not about to lose their value.


The continuing relevance of magazines is evidenced by the recent article “Containing Trump” (Atlantic, Mar. 2017). Jonathan Rauch writes that the watchdog group has “developed plans for a blog, an online dashboard on the state of liberal democracy, podcasts, and a new magazine” (p. 65). Whether the group will actually publish a magazine is as yet unknown, but Rauch’s quote highlights the ongoing significance of the print format, and Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni remains convinced of its future viability.

Husni identified 217 new magazines launched from October 2015 through September 2016, and I am indebted to his work, particularly as information about magazines is becoming harder to find. Oxbridge Communication’s Media Finder once published regular updates on new titles, ceased titles, and the state of the market, but, alas, no such releases were issued in 2016.

Currently, the best source of data comes from the Magazine Publishers of America (MPA). According to its annual Fact Book, the practicality of print magazines is supported by neuroscience. Compared to reading online, paper-based reading results in higher comprehension and recall and more focused attention and is preferred by a majority of individuals, including Millennials. The MPA states that the number of print magazines has remained fairly stable over the last several years, at about 7,300, and that overall advertising revenue reaches the impressive total of more than $6.5 billion.

Yet all is not rosy. Baird Davis argued in Folio magazine (Dec. 2016) that circulation difficulties are jeopardizing the future of magazines. He notes that newsstand sales continue to drop and subscriptions to online editions have flattened. Special-interest publications are increasingly taking away shelf space at newsstands and super­markets from regularly published journals, contributing to a 15 percent decline in newsstand sales last year. Davis further argued that digital subscriptions to magazines peaked in 2015 at 4.4 percent of paid subscriptions, well short of the ten percent for which publishers had hoped. Titles that ceased in print in 2016 include Condé Nast’s Self and Meredith’s More.

Still, print mags hold an important place in the overall media landscape and are not about to lose their value, certainly as demonstrated by the introduction in 2016 of the following ten excellent new publications.

ljx170402webbestmag7Ambrosia. s-a. $50. Ed: Adam Goldberg.

“Ambrosia explores a region’s cuisine through stories, photo essays, and light recipes from its great chefs,” according to its boilerplate. Each issue focuses on one geographic area, for instance, Baja Mexico, Denmark, and Brooklyn. Most articles combine an interview with a chef and a few favorite recipes. The Denmark issue explores New Nordic cuisine and offers dishes featuring pickled wild roses, sour curd, and mustard shoots. An interesting read for foodies curious about the creations from celebrity and up-and-coming chefs.

B Magazine. q. $24.99. Ed: Bryan Welch.

B stands for benefit, as in a benefit corporation. Editor Welch, formerly publisher and editorial director of Mother Earth News, is partnering with the nonprofit certifier of B corporations. To be certified, a company must meet standards of social and environmental performance. B Magazine is expertly written, visually attractive, and produced on good quality recycled paper; its engaging variety of profiles and success stories cover the globe. It is an excellent choice for any library serving patrons interested in social or environmental justice, as well as academic libraries serving business students.

ljx170402webbestmag10Beekman 1802 Almanac. s-a. $9.99/issue. Ed: Brent Ridge & Josh Kilmer-Purcell.

A couple from New York City bought a getaway in rural upstate New York and moved in permanently. With intelligence and creativity, they turned ­necessity into opportunity, and the Beekman 1802 farm became their sole source of livelihood. Beekman 1802 ­Almanac is partly a vehicle for promoting their products, but it also offers readers far more. Ridge’s and Kilmer-Purcell’s locavore ethic and embrace of the history and culture of ­Schoharie County blend urbanity with rural tradition. The content is a hodgepodge of recipes, decorating tips, and profiles of like-minded entrepreneurs, but the publishers’ vision and passion cohere these diverse topics into a visually and editorially compelling product.

Classic Sewing. q. $75. Ed: Phyllis Hoffman DePiano.

The newest addition to the magazines from Birmingham, AL–based Hoffman Media focuses on high-quality needle craft. It has an advisory board that includes representatives from leading sewing machine and sewing supply vendors. Classic Sewing is no beginner’s guide but rather a sourcebook for those pursuing advanced-level work using top-quality materials. Each issue includes several patterns. The primary reader­ship appears to be those who sew pretty, conservatively styled dresses for children—the pointers to fabrics, techniques, and tools favor anyone interested in styles circa 1950–80.

ljx170402webbestmag9Cured. s-a. $20/issue. Ed: Darra Goldstein.

Celebrating the preservation of food by time-honored methods is the mission of Cured, a colorful offset-magazine printed on 142 pages of heavy paper in a perfect binding. Pleasing stories, intriguing recipes, and expert photography describe the myriad ways food is preserved, for example, through fermenting, salt-­curing, pickling, drying, smoking, burying, and sugaring. Included are recipes for those wanting to re-create these processes at home, but the magazine offers much more than how-to. The visually and editorially appealing presentation of this distinctive take on the culinary arts makes Cured a fine addition to any cooking ­collection.

Illustoria. q. $56. Ed: Joanne Meiyi Chan.

This fun and eclectic visual feast is meant to be “a space for creative kids and their grown-ups where imagination is king; where stories and art would inspire one to draw, write, make, and express something unique and original.” Magazines with very diverse content sometimes fail to achieve a unifying theme, but the creative breadth of Illustoria works quite well. The stories, comics, and DIY coalesce around eliciting interaction from readers. Interviews, artist profiles, graphic short stories, coloring pages, and craft projects are presented informally and distinctively, affording ample opportunity for adults and children to collaborate on creative endeavors.

ljx170402webbestmag8Milk Street. bi-m. $19.95. Ed: Christopher Kimball.

Milk Street’s readers are adventurous cooks who don’t want to fuss unnecessarily over tasty dishes. Editor Kimball was a cofounder of America’s Test Kitchen. The ad-free mag describes how to enhance traditional American dishes via simplified techniques that achieve admirable results. In Kimball’s words, “Ethnic food is dead, it smacks of colonialism. This is culinary, not cultural exchange.” Techniques and recipes are put forth clearly and matched with attractive and appropriate visuals. Milk Street is one piece of a media strategy that includes a PBS radio broadcast and a television show slated to premier in September 2017. Concise and creative; a solid choice for inventive cooks with busy lives.

Misadventures. s-a. $20. Ed: Zoë Blaconis.

“The adventure magazine for women” plays on the prefix “mis” as in Miss or Ms., acknowledging the value of learning from efforts that might appear to have been mistakes. Trips to exotic locales and descriptions of escapades in the back­country feature prominently, but adventure is broadly defined. Short- and long-form articles address volunteering, scientific explorations, and unusual occupations. How-to guides and illustrative depictions of various types of outdoor gear round out the content. Misadventure’s dedication to women’s experiences distinguish this appealingly designed publication from others in the rather crowded travel genre.

ljx170402webbestmag5Phosphenes. irreg. $15/issue. Ed: Scott Shapiro.

Fashion magazines that emphasize photography over editorial content usually don’t pass muster for this annual best-of list, but Phosphenes’ mission nudges it over the bar. Editor Shapiro seeks a version of the American Dream in which life is full for everyone, particularly people of color and the LGBTQ community. Wikipedia defines phosphene as “a phenomenon characterized by the experience of seeing light without light actually entering the eye.” Aptly titled, Phosphenes’ perspective sheds light on diverse points of view via fashion photography. The young, multicultural vibe is a welcome addition to the cultural dialog.

Racquet. q. $60. Ed: David Shaftel.

This literary magazine “celebrates the art, ideas, style, and culture that surround tennis.” Articles in the inaugural issue consider how tennis dresses fit with concepts of sexiness, the historical origins of the game, and the politics of tournaments. A piece comparing the style and social influences of Arthur Ashe and Mohammed Ali is particularly fascinating. The editorial and the production quality are top-notch, with an exceptionally well-executed melding of imagery with text. Ads are few yet well matched to the theme. Racquet successfully employs the lens of tennis culture to examine important aspects of our society.

Steve Black is Associate University Librarian at Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

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