A magazine, also known as a periodical, is a printed or digitally published collection of writings (essays, articles, stories, poems) that is released on a regular basis (excluding newspapers). Following that is a quick discussion of periodicals. See Publishing: Magazine Publishing for further information.

Early printed pamphlets, broadsides, chapbooks, and almanacks, of which a handful began to appear at regular intervals, are the forerunners of the modern magazine. The first magazines gathered a wide range of content tailored to specific interests. From 1663 through 1668, a German newspaper called Erbauliche Monaths-Unterredungen (“Edifying Monthly Discussions”) was published on a regular basis. Other erudite journals came shortly after in France, England, and Italy, and lighter and more fun magazines began to appear in the early 1670s, beginning with Le Mercure Galant (1672; later renamed Mercure de France) in France. Joseph Addison and Richard Steele published The Tatler (1709–11; published three times weekly) and The Spectator (1711–12, 1714; published daily) in the early eighteenth century. These famous publications published writings on political and topical issues that are still recognised as some of the best English prose ever written. Other critical reviews dealing with literary and political themes began to appear in western Europe in the mid-1700s, and by the end of the century, specialised publications devoted to specific disciplines of intellectual interest, such as archaeology, botany, or philosophy, had emerged.


By the early nineteenth century, a new, less educated audience had been identified, and new sorts of magazines for pleasure and family enjoyment, such as the popular weekly, women’s weekly, religious and missionary review, illustrated magazine, and children’s weekly, had begun to appear. Their expansion was fueled by the general public’s growing interest in social and political issues, as well as the increased demand for reading material among the middle and lower classes in both urban and rural locations. The monthly Illustrated London News (1842) was the first to employ woodcuts and engravings widely, and by the end of the nineteenth century, several periodicals had been illustrated. Magazine publishing profited from a variety of technological advancements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the development of low-cost paper, the introduction of the rotary press and the halftone block, and, most importantly, the addition of advertisements as a source of revenue. Since then, there has been a greater specialisation of topics; more illustrations, particularly those reproducing colour photographs; a drop in the strength and popularity of the critical review and a rise in the power and popularity of the mass-market magazine; and an increase in women’s magazines.

Innovations in technology

With the advent of the Internet in the late twentieth century, an increasing number of publications began to publish online copies of their content. Other forms of magazines grew in popularity during this time. Electronic periodicals, often known as e-zines or zines, were among them. E-zines were highly personal and irreverent, sometimes with a casual design and produced by only a few people. Another type of publication was the fanzine, which was created for enthusiasts of a specific sport or celebrity, among other things.

However, technological improvements had a negative impact on the magazine industry. Traditional publications saw a decline in popularity as individuals had easier—and often free—access to a multitude of content. Furthermore, as marketers increasingly switched to other online venues, ad income plummeted. As a result of these causes, a number of magazines folded in the early twenty-first century, while others were compelled to stop publishing print editions and only publish digital versions.