What’s being sold is you… Another magazine read

This is one of those posts where I read magazines and ramble.

Another month, another magazine. Another excuse. This time the excuse is that I quite like mascara. Some people say that foundation or concealer or bronzer is their favourite or most important of “must-have” item on makeup. Mine is without a doubt mascara. (not that you “must” have any  of course) I don’t mind you seeing what my face looks like, but I do want to encourage you to focus on my eyes.

This month’s Elle magazine has a mini mascara on the front from Benefit, called They’re Real! The exclamation mark is part of the name. Some swear by Benefit. Others say it has funky packaging but that the stuff inside isn’t so good. The name refers to fake eyelashes – I imagine one is supposed to summon up an imaginary friend who says “wow, look at your eyelashes, are they fake, what mascara are you using?” and answer both questions with just the name of the product.

So, a chance to try out a £20-ish mascara for £4. Not too bad. You don’t get the full £20-worth, but you get enough to know if you like it.

And along with that mascara you get a free magazine. This is the key to reading these magazines. Pay for the “free gift”, think of the magazine as free. Because you’ll never feel that you’ve got your money’s worth in terms of reading material. I have paged through to page 27 to find the first page that was not entirely adverts, and it’s just the contents page.


I’ve said that Elle costs £4. It does in the shop, and on the cover, but page 30 tells me that I could subscribe and get 12 issues for £15, a much more reasonable £1.25! And along with that, you get some Benefit makeup. Who could refuse? Watch the small print thought, it looks like the subscription automatically renews at a higher price. Plus subscribers never get the free stuff.


The obsession this month seems to be with smoky eyes. The subscriber gift is an eyeshadow kit, with the admonishment (I am now wondering if that word means the opposite of what I meant) to look at a later page for a guide to making smoky eyes. A few pages later Lancome have bought a page of extra thick glossy paper, the kind that makes the magazine fall open on that page, to advertise their eyeshadow kit and give you dine instructions on how to do light, moderate, or dramatic makeup (the lightest of which requires 3 different colours of eyeshadow). It’s a bit like the YouTube tutorials. They are great for learning how to do things, but the women demonstrating seem to have a rather skewed view of what is “light”, or “casual”, or “quick”. “This only takes ten minutes”, they say, “TEN WHOLE MINUTES?”, I think.

There is also the invitation to go “behind the scenes” of the cover shoot. If you like that sort of thing you should definitely have a look, and check out Adam Gichie of Image and Picture, whose diverse portfolio includes behind the scenes at fashion magazines, Richard Branson, and SwiftKey.

It’s page 43 before we get any real content – the editor’s “welcome to this month’s magazine” piece. It’s an internet truism that if you are getting something for free, the thing being sold is you. Your data, your eyes on adverts. I didn’t get this for free, but I feel that my eyes on the adverts are a bigger money maker than the cover price. I’m actually now suspicious that the high cover price is there to persuade the advertisers that they will be advertising to the “right kind” of women. The kind who will throw away £4 on a magazine.

Now that we have got to the content, a quick rundown of three things that I have learned.

No, I am not going to wear a sailor hat. Or a summer jumpsuit. Or any kind of jumpsuit. Or a playsuit. I have enough trouble with dresses, when the average height of a woman in the UK is 5’4. Something designed to be knee length never is. I’m not likely to take the same risk with the crotch of a jumpsuit, if that’s too high the consequences are much worse than simply having a bit more leg on show.

There’s going to be a TV adaptation of a Philippa Gregory book. I probably won’t watch it but I do like those sorts of books. If you like them, and if you would like them even without the sex, I highly recommend Melanie Clegg’s books about Marie Antoinette and Minette, youngest sister of Charles II.

The V&A is having a display on 80s fashion. I had a conversation lst night about buying things to last, and whether you’d think it looked good in 10 or 20 or 30 years time. I thought that in the 80s everyone believed not just that their clothes were “in fashion” but also that they “looked good”, and so who knows what people (including us) in the 2040s will think of what we wore in the 2010s. My bets are on leggings and ubiquitous skinny jeans as the items with the best “what on earth were they thinking?” score.


Apparently this is a cocktail made with Cointreau. It looks nice. I think I might go and have one.

(EDIT: I realise that looks like I’m off drinking at lunchtime on a Monday – while I like this idea in principle it’s not true, I wrote this at the weekend!)


One thought on “What’s being sold is you… Another magazine read

  1. Pingback: Glamour magazine and editorial consistency | screenfulofwords

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