The strength of magazines begins on the basis that people have strong interests and needs which vary from person to person. Even within groups with similar interests, needs may differ. In order to serve the individual needs within these broad interest groups, magazines have become particularly adept at developing varied characteristics and approaches to deal with the same broad content. The Henley Centre has identified nine basic media needs, split into two main classes; information needs and cultural needs.
- Instrumental: information for daily life which takes on a very functional role
- Analysis: to understand the world, form views, have o[pinions.
- Enlightenment: Keeping up with the world, national and local events; being and becoming informed.
- Self-enhancement: bettering ourselves, self-enhancement, knowledge for its own sake of for later application; acquisition of skills
- Ritual: media use which frames daily routines, such as getting up, going to work, relaxing after work, accompanying domestic chores
- Default: absorbing media because it is available or others within the social context are using it.
- Entertainment: Keeping ourselves amused, keeping others amused, having fun.
- Relaxation: passive absorption of media, unwinding.
- Escapism: frees the user mentally from constraints and/or dullness of daily life, enabling them to enter into new experiences vicariously.
This wide range of needs, by subject matter and by Henley-style categories, creates a demand which magazines can meet because there are such a variety of them. Each subject area tends to be broken down by magazines focusing on more and more specialist areas within it, and thus striking an increasingly personal link with those readers who are especially interested in a given subsector.
The fulfilment of these needs is not just a function of the content delivered in the magazine; it can also be a function of the values and associations of the magazine brand and of the physical qualities of the magazine. The table below illustrates how four different types of magazines can engage with reader across these need states.
Magazines uniquely fill numerous needstates simultaneously. Current affairs magazines which are strongly information driven by nature for example also meet cultural needs such as ritual and entertainment. Style & Fashion which is best at fulfilling cultural needs perform quite well on the information spectrum as well.
This deep level of engagement across multiple need states explains the unusually intimate and engaged relationship readers enjoy with magazines.
Magazines never fulfil the ‘default’ function as a magazine cannot be consumed passively.