Elsewhere in The Journal you will read of the demise of yet more regional newspapers. It would be easy to form the view that “the Press” here in Britain is shrinking. But is it? While “news”, especially at the local and regional level, may be harder to come by in printed form than it was, say, a decade ago, the number of “special interest” and feature-based periodicals seems to be growing exponentially. Take, for example, the proliferation of history magazines.
Between 10 and 15 years ago I was a regular writer for several such publications, including Living History and Medieval History Magazine, both monthlies, widely available in bookshops and newsagents, and both aimed at a general rather than academic readership. The former eventually merged with BBC History Magazine and the latter ceased publication in the UK – although it continued for a while in France. At the time I lamented the apparent decline in the market for periodicals aimed at the history enthusiast.
Any visitor to one of the larger branches of WHSmith now, in 2017, could hardly miss the vast plethora of monthly magazines on historical subjects, with titles such as All About History, History Revealed, World Historia, History of War, Military History and Historic Scotland. These are just the tip of the iceberg as there are also numerous monthly magazines for the amateur archaeologist, the Egyptologist, the collector of coins and medals, the treasure-hunter and metal detectorist, too. Then there is the largest category of all within the history section – the publications on family history and ancestry research, no doubt boosted by the popularity of television series such as “Who Do You Think You Are?”
Other hobbies and interests have also produced a massive upsurge in monthly periodical publishing, from country walking to basket-weaving, as well as old favourites such as stamp collecting, train spotting and angling. For those of us who feared that “hobbies” might be dying out in the internet age, and with them the specialist Press that catered to the needs of these enthusiasts, the good news is that, judging by the heaving magazine shelves of the local newsagent, there is still a monthly magazine for just about every special interest – and in many cases you will be spoilt for choice.
It goes without saying that this is not just a cause for celebration among consumers of such periodicals, but for the journalists who write on these subjects too. While the media landscape may often seem gloomy these days, the revival of Britain’s special-interest Press and the emergence of so many new monthly magazines should be seen as a very welcome glimmer of hope.