While paying for a box of balls at the local pro shop I noticed the cover of the magazine that was sitting in a pile next to the register:
“Justin Timberlake?,” I scoffed. “What’s next? Brittany Spears?”
The clerk shook his head. “It’s sad what’s happened to those magazines. I don’t read them any more.”
I agreed that I had been reading much less of the major magazines lately, and that set him off. Matt then went on to recite a litany of complaints with Golf Magazine and Golf Digest: repetitive tips, contradictory tips, worthless tips, fluff coverage of the Tour and players, celebrity worship, and Tiger worship (I’m surprised he didn’t accuse them of Satan worship). He managed to accuse them separately of naked jingoism and an Anti-American bias (I lost track of which magazine he was referring to.) Matt accused them of essentially taking bribes from the equipment companies for good reviews of “worthless clubs,” and of writing good things about high end resorts in exchange for free vacations. He claimed that three quarters of the magazines were advertising (not true. I just counted. A recent issue had only 80 pages of advertising out of 172)
For a guy who didn’t like the magazines, Matt apparently had done quite a study of them.
After another twenty minutes of conversation, I found that we agreed on a couple of things. First, that the two “majors” have become a bit hackneyed and cliched. And second, that Golf World and Golf Week both had superior coverage of the things we cared about. He liked the stats, the lists of tournament winners and such; I liked the general freshness of the two—something that comes from their weekly publication.
I wondered how the circulations of Golf Digest and Golf Magazine have been holding up. As it turns out, circulation for both have been flat over the past eight years—at about 1.5 million each (Golf Digest is a little higher, Golf Magazine a little lower). Given the increase in population, and the supposed increase of interest in golf, I would have expected better, though. We might also note that Golf For Women magazine, and arm of Golf Digest, has gone under.
I also wonder about the legitimacy of the circulation figures. At one local pro shop, you can get an issue of either of these free with any purchase. They keep a stack next to the register. I also was able to get a free subscription by attending a local golf show last winter. In my mind, giving magazines away is not the same thing as having actual active subscribers.
As it stands now, I’ve half a mind to let my subscriptions to Golf Digest and Golf Magazine lapse when renewal time comes around. And if I see one more celebrutard cover, I will.