How We Live: The Decline of Shelter Magazines and the Rise of Blogs

9 years ago

Last week, publishers Condé Nast announced the closure of Domino magazine. Domino fell in the wake of other shelter titles including everything from newcomers like Blueprint (from Martha Stewart) and classics like Home and Garden (after more than 100 years of publication) to titles including Cottage Living, Home and O at Home from Oprah Magazine. The outcry and wails of lament over the loss of Domino have ricocheted around the blogosphere this past week and petitions and blogs protesting the shuttering have sprouted like May flowers.

The New York Times took notice of the "howl of protest" coming from design blogs that appeal to similar demographics as did Domino. In announcing Domino's closure Decorno (which sports the tagline: "If decor is your porn, this is your blog." received 104 comments, Apartment Therapy received 177 and Design Sponge received a whopping 506.

Domino closing seems surprising even in our currently dismal economy. By all accounts subscriptions and readership were growing. Additionally, Domino, in contrast to many other old media properties, *got* the web and had a terrific website. Plus, readers tended to be young people setting up and designing their homes, developing their style and taste and using Domino as a combination of a how-to manual and catalog.

It used to be that one would hire a designer to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to get pictures of ones home in Architectural Digest or Metropolitan Home. Now those of us with ordinary pocket books shop Etsy, Craigslist and eBay, gain low cost DIY inspiration from shows like Trading Spaces and Design on a Dime and more affordable shopping emporiums like JC Penny, Costco, Wal-Mart and especially Target, have morphed into havens of modern design elements. But even though we no longer take our design decisions as commandments handed down by Sister Parish or The Prince of Chintz, Mario Buatta, it is still fun to get a glimpse at someone else's decisions especially coming from a talented designer or a do-it-yourself'er with savant-like style and taste.

I know because I used to be that girl. Shelter porn was my vice. I got them all and diligently tore page after page out to someday place in binders full of inspiration and win. I even took interior design classes so I could learn how to make all the magazine pages come to life. Shelter porn then became "research."

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But, problem is that I keep moving. And, in addition to all my lovely design pieces getting trashed in the process or being left behind because the buyers love my taste so much they want my cute stuff thrown in on the deal or, like fabulous light fixtures or door knobs, they become part of the house that I could not removed after showing the house with it installed. Plus as my space changes so does my taste. What I would have found perfect for my cute little Cape Cod on the snowy east coast would have looked oddly out of place in my California suburban Ranch house and wouldn't make the transition to the Spanish Bungelow style of my current apartment. Dreaming of design is fun but the practical realities of sprucing up an ever-changing series of domiciles is fantasy bubble-buster.

Most of all, in addition to no longer wanting excess paper in my house (As part of my junk-reduction project, I recently sent to the recycling bin a stack of those torn-out magazine pages, including several from Domino) I have blogs. If I need inspiration I turn to those same sites which bemoaned the loss of Domino. Design Sponge has "Before and After", Apartment Therapy has "House Tours" and their Scavenger series. I can bookmark inspirational posts and pictures and return to them someday, if and when I ever settle down long enough to seriously put together a stylish home.

In addition to the lack of need for physical magazines, the primary problem that brought down Domino and others is declining advertising. Here is my completely un-scientific hunch. Design blogs have allowed us to show off and democratize our style on a mass scale. Perhaps what folks are learning along the way is that we no longer need what advertisers are selling - either the guidance or the objects. For a while there, remember when you'd head over to a friend's house for dinner and recognize their living room as a faithful re-creation of a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog or a room vignette in an IKEA store? Or when a magazine ad announced Target's latest global goods design event? Now, if you're like me, you find out about it when you read about it on a blog. If I were an advertiser I would move my dollars to supporting blogs rather than much pricier print ads.

Some of the response is along the lines of "old media needs to get new media" but in this case, Domino at least, seemed to get it. I think what this really shows is that old advertisers and marketers need to get new patterns of content making and consumption.

It is quite the cruel irony - by blogging their love inspired by shelter porn magazines might be helping to kill the magazines they loved and from which their blogging was, at least in part, born.

Will you miss Domino and the other shuttered shelter mags? Do you say good riddance? Do you think there is anyway Domino could have been saved or could be re-born? And are blogs killing magazines?

Related Reading:

Kate McNeil at Long Story Short: p.s. Real Simple, if you want to survive the death of print media, hire some web peeps. Ahem, me?

From a comment from Susan on Conde Nast Closing Domino Magazine, Web Site by Dan Frommer at Silicon Alley Insider:

Can interior magazines really remain in print when websites ... offer unique content which is free?

Jill Fehrenbackher at inhabitat Domino Magazine Folds Under Weight of Crappy Economy

Domino also was one of the first major magazines to bring attention to the green design movement, so we are really sorry to see it go. And of course, they featured Inhabitat last year, along with many of our green design friends and compadres, so we are very sad to hear this news. I guess things are really looking bleak in the shelter magazine category!? Domino, you will be missed!

Morgan at Curious Morgan Lamenting the end of Domino (excellent Domino memory saving resources)

As everyone knows, Domino magazine is no more. This news broke my heart last week as Domino was the last magazine I truly loved after the untimely demise of Blueprint. The publishing industry is taking a really hard hit, and as great as the Internet is, it's not the same as pulling a glossy magazine from the depths of your tote bag and flipping through its pages with the grace of a cool breeze. People need pretty images. They need something to tear out and hold onto. While the Internet can give you any image you want in a split second, those shiny printed pages are secrets we can steal away in our pockets, stuffed inside a day planner, tacked to a wall. They will yellow and curl and the name of the magazine from which you pulled it will be long forgotten, but that pretty picture will wind up in a jewelry box or sock drawer that someone comes across in 2045. It will become their treasure--and it shouldn't be because they've never seen a magazine before!

Gendy Alimurung at The Style Council (LA Weekly Blog) Bye Bye, Domino Magazine

The hip shelter magazine is dead. No more DIY gardening projects. No more party planning tips. No more decorating inspirations.... As US News and World Report [which has itself shifted to a web-only publishing model] said: "Take a magazine built around peddling products, couple that with a deepening recession in which people are less likely to purchase things, and you've got a recipe for failure."

At Home with Kim Vallee Domino Magazine is the Latest Magazine to Fold

With this announcement, we are even fewer magazine choices. On the brighter side, we will have more time to blog.

shelterrific more sad news: domino magazine folds

We know that eventually the economy will improve, but we’re sad to be losing some of our favorite magazines just the same. Domino will be missed.

You can follow along with BlogHer CE Maria Niles as she recycles her shelter porn at her personal blog PopConsumer.

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