Deductive Argument on Advertorial

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A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily advertorial.
B. Negative commentary or reviewing directly violates the contract of an advertising buy.

THEREFORE: Japanese magazines cannot take critical stances.

A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily advertorial.
B. Larger amount of spending leads to larger content outlays.

THEREFORE: Japanese magazine content is decided by the size of advertiser promotion budgets and smaller players will not be able to win media space.

A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily advertorial.
B. A slight majority of Japanese consumers use magazines as their main guidance for consumption.

THEREFORE: The largest Japanese companies can directly determine major patterns of Japanese consumer behavior.

Notes:

A1. The better magazines like mid-period Relax tend to take on more of an independent editorial angle (which is why they are good!), but none of them are totally immune to the advertorial problem. Studio Voice sells its cover and main story once in a while. So did Relax
B1. Sometimes magazines do speak badly or less enthusiastically about their clients’ products and find contracts revoked. Inductive evidence for the opposite phenomenon: The most snarky and critical magazines like Cyzo have a set of non-mainstream advertisers who have no demands for positive commentary.
C2. Smaller magazines have smaller fields of coverage, but the dominant companies in those fields will probably get the bulk of coverage. Studio Voice may cover obscure artists and films, but there is not reason to believe that the art-house film distributors have not also paid for coverage.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

40 Responses

  1. Carl Says:

    If this is your way of implying the fix was in when Nintendogs won 40/40 from Famitsu, then I’m intrigued and would like to meet you in a poorly lit parking lot to discuss this further.

  2. digiki Says:

    I re-read your post without the word ‘japanese’ and it works quite well. Anyway, I disagree with the “largest companies can directly determine major patterns of consumer behavior”. As you know (you’re still working in the ad industry right ?) spending money on advertising is one thing, getting a ‘payback’ (sales increase, image) is another. This corelation is not a 100% guaranteed thing.
    Ad can increase brand awareness. Can it dictate consumer behavior ? I dont think so. Anyway, just my two euro cents, I dont know much about marketing and advertising.

  3. Momus Says:

    Digiki tried removing the word “Japanese” from the text. I tried a different exercise; I imagined a parallel world where Japanese magazines are primarily editorial, not advertorial. It’s a somewhat absurd world, because mainstream magazines (the kind which can influence consumer choices) are such a commercial format to begin with. But bear with me:

    A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily editorial.
B. Therefore they are free to fill up with negative commentary or reviewing.
    THEREFORE: Japanese magazines are free to take critical stances if they want to. But do they want to?

    A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily editorial.
B. There’s no relationship whatsoever between ad spend and content.
    THEREFORE: Japanese magazines are open to the offerings of large or small companies. But do the small ones suddenly get equal or better coverage? (See Clay Shirky’s explanation of how, even when blogs came along, power laws still applied. Massive inequalities of scale soon developed, despite equality of access and a “flat playing field”.)

    A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily editorial.
B. A slight majority of Japanese consumers use magazines as their main guidance for consumption.
    THEREFORE: The personal whims of the editors of Japanese magazines can directly determine major patterns of Japanese consumer behavior. Or can they?

  4. marxy Says:

    1) Digiki – I don’t think you can take out “Japanese” and have any of this make sense. 99% of Western magazines do not resemble Can Cam and Popeye and all the other “catalog” magazines. American fashion magazines, for example, have things like “articles” instead of just descriptive text. Also, the fact that a large number of Japanese consumer perfectly copy magazine instructions is not seen in other comprable markets either. (Maybe the rest of Asia is similar, especially Korea.)

    Ads are not great for dictating behavior, but imagine having an ad masking as “third-party editorial advice.” Then an ad works wonders. This totally and utterly abuses the implicit reader trust that the magazine is “independently” offering advice.

    2) Japanese magazines aren’t primarily editorial and you have played out exactly what they SHOULD be doing. When editors have control, they can make the consumer patterns more interesting and not just have things match up to company size.

    That being said, for your #1, I think it is naive to believe that no negative reviews is 100% cultural. Not to say that things will be a hate fest in a non-advertorial magazine, but they will probably start calling out obvious errors and bad points. Things would at least be more balanced. There is nothing about the internet dialogue in Japanese that suggests that 100% no negative comments is a “natural” situation. Also, magazines with ad freedom do make subjective judgements on culture.

  5. Momus Says:

    Why do people willingly suspend disbelief again? Ah yes, it’s because they want to get carried away in a moving story! And why do we stand outside the theatre (or the society) telling them they’re wrong, that it’s not “a true story”? Ah yes, because we come from another country where everything is done just the same. No, wait, where everything is done slightly differently.

  6. Andy Says:

    Isn’t it simply a case of Western magazines being more subtle about their obviously pro-advertiser bias? The great majority of their revenue comes from their advertisers and they’re obviously not going to take a critical stance to an advertiser who pays 10% of their running costs are they?

    What you tend to see more in Western magazines is criticism by omission; if one of their key advertisers releases a genuinely bad product they will simply not review it or devote a tiny amount of column space to it unless the advertiser chooses to take out one of those horrible full-page adverts that has the same formatting as the rest of the magazine but has “advertising feature” in tiny letters at the bottom of the page.

    Isn’t the difference a question of formatting rather than motive? Western magazines do the same thing but they try to hide it, whereas Japanese magazines follow the same format as television sponsorship; you see the adverts and know that bias towards those companies will be inherent in the text straight away.

    What about the idea of consumers choosing their magazine at least partly through advertising content? I mean, I’m much more likely to choose to read a magazine that has adverts for products i am likely to purchase than if it carried adverts for barbie dolls. I think the majority of readers are aware of the relationship between advertising revenue and positive coverage and don’t really mind it; indeed, some use it as a way of selecting which magazines to read – “I like these brands; these brands are featured heavily in this magazine; i’ll buy this one over the competition” rather than “I haven’t got a clue what I like; I’ll choose a random magazine and lap up its opinions like the word of God”.

  7. check Says:

    An entire culture above constructive criticism…?

    My, that seems absolutely stagnant.

  8. alin Says:

    American fashion magazines, for example, have things like “articles”

    so do french and japanese and australian and german magazines mate. For japanese , if you’re after a read, i don’t know why you look at camcam and shit, just pick up ryuko tsuushin or ‘high fashion’ or commons&sense or composite (if still going) and you’ll find plenty decent reading material for goodness sake. (you’re stuck in the microcosm of your [hypo]’thesis’.

  9. nh Says:

    99% of Western magazine, huh? Wrong. 73% is the correct number as far as I confirmed. And 59% is the number for Japanese magazine in fact. So, deliberately or not, you are just exaggerating 14% thing as if it’s huge.

    And more importantly, Japanese don’t have any of poor products like you Western do. As a result, most of comments can’t be critical at all. You can’t find any critical comments on Japanese product in even western magazines in fact, right?

    All of Japanese products are that good. Sorry about that. But you actually know that, don’t you?

  10. Momus Says:

    Well, 100% of Japanese people posting on Marxy’s blog this month are thoroughly annoyed by what he’s saying. So much for the heroic gaijin speaking for the silent majority of the society whose conduct he holds up to its ideals!

  11. alin Says:

    All of Japanese products are that good.

    now that’s quite a point, haha. i’ve recently come back to the same conclusion. after my swiss-made skrewdrivers screwed up doing just what they’re meant to do , after deciding not to buy the domke camerabag for almost 4man and get a hakuba 4000¥ cheapie bag i’m more than happy with, … the ogasaka skis … the messner tent and loads more i realized i was totally wrong thinking the quality of japanese production lowered after the economy crash.

    now this is not the pop-sociology of pop culture but the same applies there. you can basically only criticize or dismiss the entire paradigm. (which is what you, marxy, actually do – i can’t believe seeing you revert to such crass means.)

    now for all this wa bullshit, please. eg. i hardly ever watch tv but the other i turn it on , whatever channel, not NHK, it was and there’s this full-on discussion around american army, koizumi, yasukuni and stuff so intense i thought i was watching latino telebi or something./

    why don’t you ever mention all the magazines and loads and loads of books that are only critical (at least mention that they exist), you know people who don’t know much about this country might start believing you and you’ll get really bad karma

  12. marxy Says:

    All of Japanese products are that good. Sorry about that. But you actually know that, don’t you?

    Busted!

    there’s this full-on discussion around american army, koizumi, yasukuni and stuff so intense i thought i was watching latino telebi or something.

    Read my post again: consumer magazines. I am not saying that there are no political discussions in the culture. I am saying that politics hardly carries over into consumer culture.

  13. dzima Says:

    Marxy reminds me of Noel Gallagher when he said “if your album doesn’t sell 10 million copies, there’s no point in having a band”.

    I am saying that politics hardly carries over into consumer culture.

    I’m trying to remember mainstream (consumer culture) political events that took place in developed countries in recent history: Seattle riots in 1999; Jose Bove wreaking havoc in Europe and elsewhere; 9/11, etc.

    The only mainstream media reaction I can think of regarding these events is one of total disapprovement, about how the right wing is right and how globalisation is inevitable. And I’m not sure if we could call this “political debate”.

    Marxy sets up these unachievable incredible high standards for Japan, when it’s clearly not bad or even “behind” America.

  14. marxy Says:

    Marxy reminds me of Noel Gallagher when he said “if your album doesn’t sell 10 million copies, there’s no point in having a band”.

    You have never ever understood my idea about market value and musical value, so please stop using my name in any sentences you write about the topic.

    I think your point this time is: Marxy is only interesting in mainstream Japanese culture as if fringe culture does not matter. My point is that most people writing about Japan recognize the mass embrace of certain cultural items in Japanese culture – Louis Vuitton, for example – as a unique phenomenon. When people say, “the Japanese have better design taste than Americans,” they don’t mean “0.01% of Japanese” they mean “40% of Japanese.” And that brings us back to mainstream culture and trying to figure out the engine behind it.

    And I’m not sure if we could call this “political debate”.

    I am not going to claim that American magazines are the herald of Left wing politics or that they fight against the central conceits of consumerism, but their market strategy often involves self-branding as an independent media source on culture, which means they take it upon themselves to judge products and items. My interest in Japanese magazines is that they do not take this stance, which seems to be a natural reaction from their financing structure.

    American magazines are not 100% advertorial free, although most find it in their interest not to be primarily advertorial. (I have worked as a magazine editor, and there are times when advertorial duties pop up, but they do not determine the cover stories or editorial spin.)

    My point about the “99% of American magazines” was that most American magazines are not “catalog format” with the rare exception of Cargo, which intentionally copies the Japanese consumer magazine layout. If you were going to plan your entire lifestyle and consumption habits through GQ, you would have a hard time, with all those aspiration photo shoots and articles and opinions. Does anyone really deny that Japanese magazines don’t have a different function than American magazines? Imagine “The Style Guy” not being a column but an entire issue.

    And yes, the Japnese catalog format lends itself to advertorial much more. But it is also more dangerous, because Japanese consumer magazines present themselves as a “guide” – which implies a certain objective third-party teaching style. The lessons, however, are determined by ad revenue.

    All of this being said, none of which should be that controversial, let’s see what we have here in place of actual dissent on my deductive statements.

    1) Momus turning all the statements backwards – the opposite of reality – to prove that what he believes about Japanese magazines to be true.
    2) Someone making that discussion-squashing claim that “Americans magazines are exactly the same”
    3) Dzima claiming we should stop discussing this because America as a country is worse.
    4) Someone (sarcastically?) claiming that “Japanese consumer culture is so perfect that it cannot be criticized to start with.” (I will remember that next time I put my Koda Kumi CD into my Minidisc player.)
    5) Alin taking the conversation totally off-topic to “political TV debates” in order to prove something that I never claimed.

    Blogging is fun! (Offline: grabs the pepto-bismal…)

  15. Jed Says:

    Gulp!(Slowly puts down mouse and moves away)

  16. marxy Says:

    Japanese don’t have any of poor products like you Western do. As a result, most of comments can’t be critical at all. You can’t find any critical comments on Japanese product in even western magazines in fact, right?

    I also forgot that Japanese magazines exclusively cover Japanese products.

  17. alin Says:

    I also forgot that Japanese magazines exclusively cover Japanese products.

    what do you mean ?

    youe essays are often weird in that they’re not essays as such they’re just banging the same point with a hammer, (now this one was so nakedly so that i initially thought you may have finally given up and were kind of de-constructing and taking the piss of your own neo-marxisme of old, which would have been rather refreshing – now if you have done that on some level , coz i’m sure in reality you can’t be that one-track minded, all my regards for that, however even when that is the case , as usual with these kind of entries by the forth/fifth comment the discussion becomes ludicrous – both the forced polarisation (between marxy & co vs momus,dzima,alin,the odd japanese person) and the attempt to narrow the topic and come with some conclusive results by looking only at some tiny slice of a complex and subtle giant thing.

  18. marxy Says:

    what do you mean ?

    Sarcasm!

    the odd japanese person

    Oh, your team gets all the Japanese people, huh? Fine, I get first picks next time.

  19. Momus Says:

    Oh, your team gets all the Japanese people, huh?

    No, you have lots of invisible Japanese. Celebrities, sons and daughters of the powerful, disgruntled employees, media whizzes. We just get the odd visible one, sorta pissed at what you’re saying.

  20. nh Says:

    Well, 100% of Japanese people posting on Marxy’s blog this month are thoroughly annoyed by what he’s saying.

    I am not annoyed. Therefore, it’s not 100% of Japanese. Maybe you don’t take jokes or you think Japanese are not supposed to make jokes but believe it or not, 89% of my comments here consist of jokes. Sorry if they were not so funny but we have a different taste.

    Does anyone really deny that Japanese magazines don’t have a different function than American magazines?

    From Japanese point of view, American magazines are a full of advertisement. It seems that editors put a lot of ads randomly in order to prevent readers from concentrating articles.

    By the way, if you really think there are no negative comments in Japanese magazine, it’s very interesting…

    If you read Japanese like Japanese do, you can easily sense a negativeness in positive comments. As you know, Japanese don’t publicly say “it sucks”. Instead, they say “maybe, it could be little better”.

    Yes, Japanese editors can’t put critical comments but it’s not only because of their financing structure but also the culture of politeness; sounding polite rather than arguing right is right. (i can’t agree though… oh, is this why someone called me the odd japanese?) Anyway, no critical comments doesn’t necessarily mean there are only praising comments.

    So, I don’t think there are full of compliment garbages in Japanese magazines while I agree with you that American magazines are much fairer. (but this doesn’t only apply to magazines though… fairness doesn’t matter in japan, you know)

  21. marxy Says:

    Anyway, no critical comments doesn’t necessarily mean there are only praising comments.

    I agree, but there are also limits to “soft criticism.” There are whole areas of discussion which cannot be approached if the central idea is a critical one. Advertorial also forces companies to pick up products that maybe they would “softly ignore” otherwise.

    I agree with you that American magazines are much fairer.

    While I am ethically predisposed to praising fairness, I think I am more interested in how advertorial changes buying patterns, and ultimately, consumer culture itself. 上記の「演繹法の明言」は規範的ではなく、実証的である。

  22. alin Says:

    If you read Japanese like Japanese do, you can easily sense a negativeness in positive comments. As you know, Japanese don’t publicly say “it sucks”. Instead, they say “maybe, it could be little better”.

    that’s one thing i’ve been trying to say ever since i came here, but thank heavens a real japanese person will hopefully have a bit more cred. even the most one-dimensional texts that marxy bullyishly chooses to stick to still have ambiguity embedded in them.

    marxy your primal mistake i think is your binary thinking (and i don’t mean to be mystical zen) you set up alternative or left or whatever as polar oposite to mainstream or whatever (when in fact they’re the same thing and follow the same pattern just on different, but relative, scales; then you set up ‘advertising’ opposed to content etc and everything follows from there.

    now finally i’d like to confess that my initial comment here was sponsored by Ogasaka ski, Nippin outdoors equipment, Hakuba and DonQuijote.

    //was there something on this page (that got edited out) saying that the cover of studio voice is occasionally sponsored. it’s uncanny, i’m sure it was here last night, i meant to ask the person who wrote the comment which of the covers do they know or have strong reason to believe is sponsored (and by who). my mind seems to be playing tricks on me though.

  23. marxy Says:

    The studio voice comment is in the notes section. I believe it was the Muji issue, if not others.

  24. marxy Says:

    I can’t find it online, but I was told that by someone at INFAS.

  25. dzima Says:

    You have never ever understood my idea about market value and musical value, so please stop using my name in any sentences you write about the topic.

    I wish, for the sake of clarity, that you would have stressed out all these points beforehand. As is, it works out as if you had thrown a hand grenade at us and ran away, only to come back later and explain yourself in the comments section. Though I must acknowledge that it was much more fun and dramatic the way you did it.

    When people say, “the Japanese have better design taste than Americans,” they don’t mean “0.01% of Japanese” they mean “40% of Japanese.” And that brings us back to mainstream culture and trying to figure out the engine behind it.

    But then again, we go back to that old “1998 forever” point. One of the pillars of conversation in this blog is that “Shibuya-kei is the best music style ever created (with Grunge coming second)” (and don’t deny it because you’re clearly not interested in anime, technology/gadgets and traditional Japanese culture). Shibuya-kei is a gender that, as you have time and again pointed out, had its social and economic explanations but you have this deterministic view of art in which it (art/music/entertainment) cannot be explained outside the world of (freak)economics. Let’s not forget that Shibuya-kei and grunge had a freakish factor to them that went beyond any economic reasoning, something that I don’t expect to be repeated in the near future. And that basically means that there were and there will be many Shibuya-keis and Grunges which will never crossover to the mainstream.

    Rewind now to 1980 in Berlin. One could basically live for free (there were no keitais to burden your pockets) and dedicate all your free time to music or the visual arts. It sounds like a ripe environment for a new artistic movement boom, (since all the aesthetics and socio-economic ingredients were there) right? There were dozens of bands playing around that time but why did only Einstuerzende Neubauten survive for more than two gigs? Credit that to the freakishness of arts.

    In your country of America, they’d say that Shibuya-kei and Grunge were governed by “the hand of God”.

  26. alin Says:

    I believe it was the Muji issue

    there’s never been a SV muji issue (and don’t think there ever will be, for all i remember casa brutus put out a muji issue some 3 years ago. (infas and magazine house products are totally different things and admitedly i’m quite positively biased towards infas). as i’m moving things around the room i happen to have a big pile of SV right in front of me: honey painting, hyper-architecture, sexual healing, art books, art-books part 2, more art books, girlquake, boy’s life, lovely designs, ah wait, martin margiela now i wonder if the maison threw loads of cash at this (i kind of doubt it) but wether they did it or not this and the 2 volumes put out by the folks at street are the finest publications ever on the MMM. keepgoing speed king, airport for airport, scandinavian design, the cult of macintosh – a cult issue it came out in the early 90s pretty much forecasting the cult of macintosh to follow. (sponsored? who cares), mountains, art trips, soccer, dolphins, the matthew barney issue last year might imply some deal with the kanazawa museum, yoshitomo nara A to Z , this one too is a bit brutus-ish, art and war, progressive disco etc anyway basically all commitedly and tastefully put together nothing thrown in your face.

  27. Chris_B Says:

    dzima: I hated Einstuerzende Neubauten but got to see em for free. The most satisfying part of the show was when I pegged the singer with a half empty beer can. Not that its relevant to this discussion or anything…

    OK about magazines, both marxy and nh have good points. What I know going into mags I check is they are not selling to me. I’ve yet to find a single bought fashion layout that has anything to do with my tastes and the music reviews are pretty much the same. But as far as I’ve been able to determine, I can say the same for lifestyle mags in any part of the world I’ve been. The pop lifestyle mags here make all the males look like $5 bus stop restroom hookers and the business fashion stuff is little better.

    What I genuinely do like is how there are two or trhee magazines/free papers for reggae here. I know of none in the US and even in the UK I’ve only heard of one and they cant manage to publish regularly or even be evenly distributed.

    In any case while I dont hold most of humanity in the highest regard, I think most people anywhere can discern when they are being sold a line but make decisions on their own to some degree or another. You can lead a horse to water and all that.

  28. alin Says:

    that’s what i like about you chris. you’re as solid as a rock

  29. mill Says:

    Equivocation on advertorials I think ignores that the stakes can be high sometimes. If a manufacturing company making plastic toys, or colorful plastic bracelets, pours poison into the air from their plant, and gets nothing but glowing press because coverage was dictated by ad sales, the magazine is bunting a chance to warn people about the company’s practices. The omission is a subtle thing. If the axis you’re looking at is whether or not you were alerted about high and low-quality products, you could miss a whole other question. Not all ethical issues about the large-scale environmental or labor practices of a big corporation are esoteric and distant from a person’s daily life. Depending on which way the wind blows, the plastic toy company could be hurting everyone’s air or water, regardless of what they thought about the editorial freedom of magazines with regards to consumer buying patterns per se. Independence isn’t just a laudable academic notion- it can actually be important.

  30. Carl Says:

    Nylon Japan died, didn’t it? I haven’t seen it on the shelves recently… (This may just mean that I’m watching the wrong shelves.) Follow the money, Marxy-bashing Marx-blog commenters! Why does Marx wish Japan had an American-esque magazine culture? Because he writes American magazine articles for dough! (eye roll)

    Anyhow, if you want to really see magazine cultures where the advertisers control everything, try videogame magazines. The game publishers can give or withhold screenshots at their discretion, and game screenshots are the only thing gamers buy magazines for. The result is 7.5/10 is considered the lowest possible score for a game, and fans will complain if their favorite franchise takes home less than a 9.5.

  31. Chris_B Says:

    Carl: very true and thats been the case since before there were specific video game mags. My first job as a kid was writing game reviews for Apple ][ games for a local computer stores news letter. I learned my lesson about negative reviews really early. 20+ years later when I did some freelance reviews of Dreamcast games, nothing had changed.

  32. marxy Says:

    If I understand your personal experiences correctly, editorial content is mostly a product of structural/financial considerations and not entirely cultural.

  33. Momus Says:

    Follow the money, Marxy-bashing Marx-blog commenters! Why does Marx wish Japan had an American-esque magazine culture? Because he writes American magazine articles for dough! (eye roll)

    This argument plays right into Marxy’s hands, though: it says that money determines editorial content. It’s economic determinism. And it’s easily refuted. I also write for American magazines for dough. But I absolutely don’t want Japanese magazines to become American-esque.

    As with so much in life, this question of whether it matters that magazines make their money from product endorsements or tie-ins is not so much a matter of the verbs (whether they do it) as the adverbs (how they do it). This is where all the important differences between Japanese magazines and Western ones reside. And this comes down not to money, but to culture.

    For instance, I have in my hands the new Studio Voice. It’s an Art Books Best 150 issue. As Alin points out above, they often do art books issues. Art books are, like just about everything Studio Voice covers, commercial products which are also cultural artefacts. There is a sales angle to all the stuff I’ll see in here, obviously — it’s all for sale, after all, just like the stuff I make is all for sale — but there’s also a purely cultural angle too.

    Now, SV has asked various cultural figures in Japan, like Taka Ishii of Ishii Gallery, to list their favourite art books. There are also advertorial features like “Mini wears Bisazza at the Conran Shop”, or a puff for the Paul Smith Space bookstore.

    Far from seeing the financial element as the end here, the only necessary explanation for all this activity, I’d see it as just the beginning. What’s interesting to me, when I leaf through a magazine like this, is:

    1. The values that Japanese creatives, given a promotional budget, tend to associate with their products. On the whole, I personally find these values — art, nature, sex — more positive and reassuring than the values I’d tend to find in a Western magazine; I call these Western values “sharky”. They’re more aggressive, competitive, and often downright nasty.

    2. The values that lead cultural consumers (exemplary ones like the curators in SV, or ordinary ones out there in the bookstores) to select some products and not others. This is the Darwinian bit; it’s these values, and their harmony with the values of the producers and promoters outlined in 1, which keep Japanese magazines distinctive, and in fact keep them in business. It doesn’t have to be Studio Voice; I could be talking about Fudge or even the hated Can Cam (or Egg, or Nikita, or any of the mags I detail here) just as easily. The trouble is, examining the financial structure of these magazines tells us nothing about why they’re different from Western magazines. Following the money leads us directly to money, which tends to be pretty much the same anywhere. What differs is the stuff people do with it. And we call that culture.

  34. marxy Says:

    I just had to delete a comment – not because it was vulgar and mean, but because the guy is solate to find this site and start bashing me.

    Following the money leads us directly to money, which tends to be pretty much the same anywhere. What differs is the stuff people do with it. And we call that culture.

    But as a Galbraith fan, Momus, you should be aware of the fact that consumer culture has an element of “producers creating consumer wants for their own gain.” In this way, Can Cam and Studio Voice both have the same heritage, same tactics, just different subject matters. SV is a “style guide” to high-art, obscure music, and products, products, products. But more than saying buy, buy, buy, it also denatures all art and music to be little more than pure packets of information, which are traded in social conversation. SV can obviously be praised because of the subject matter, but to claim structural superiority over a trucking magazine, for example, seems to ignore the fact that they share the same format.

    If there were a magazine where you could expect art criticism, social criticism, explosive interviews, well-researched articles, I would guess SV would be it. But that doesn’t make sense in its heritage. Magazines in Japan have a history of mostly being consumer magazines, and those have the expressed intention of being guides to help you buy things (which has its roots in the economic conditions of the hi-growth era). There is an obvious Bourdieuian bias in praising the format when the content is obscure and filled with access to cultural capital, and quietly deride it when it is filled with “The Top 150 Golf Clubs.”

  35. marxy Says:

    Also, I admit defeat on the SV Muji cover. I heard something to that effect from an INFAS employee, but clearly have not put the full story together.

  36. Carl Says:

    I also write for American magazines for dough. But I absolutely don’t want Japanese magazines to become American-esque.

    Of course you don’t, Momus: you can’t write Japanese. What good is it to you for there to be Japanese magazine writing jobs available? If anything, it makes Japan more like America, which means there’s less need for an “explaining those wacky Japanese” column in American magazines.

  37. Momus Says:

    SV can obviously be praised because of the subject matter, but to claim structural superiority over a trucking magazine, for example, seems to ignore the fact that they share the same format…There is an obvious Bourdieuian bias in praising the format when the content is obscure and filled with access to cultural capital, and quietly deride it when it is filled with “The Top 150 Golf Clubs.”

    You don’t seem to have read the bit of my comment where I say “It doesn’t have to be Studio Voice; I could be talking about Fudge or even the hated Can Cam (or Egg, or Nikita, or any of the mags I detail here) just as easily.” I’m saying all these magazines, high market or low, work in this way. And the important thing about the Galbraithian “producers create consumer wants for their own gain” isn’t that they do it, it’s how they do it. In other words, with what reference points.

    Of course you don’t, Momus: you can’t write Japanese. What good is it to you for there to be Japanese magazine writing jobs available?

    Actually, my Wired column appears twice monthly, in Japanese, in Hotwired Japan. So I already have a “Japanese writing job”. Apparently being basically respectful towards Japanese society is the way to land that kind of job (see also Jean Snow’s career over the last two years). If you think Marxy is trying to land a job writing for Japanese magazines with this kind of stuff, you’re crazy. Although I suppose there’s always Cyzo, his favourite read.

  38. marxy Says:

    And the important thing about the Galbraithian “producers create consumer wants for their own gain” isn’t that they do it, it’s how they do it.

    This makes no sense. The problem is the creation of “false needs” – whatever the psychological tactic. They can preach peace, love, and understanding, but if you still shell out money for some product you don’t need, it has the same effect.

    If you think Marxy is trying to land a job writing for Japanese magazines with this kind of stuff, you’re crazy.

    It would be redundant.

  39. Momus Says:

    The problem is the creation of “false needs” – whatever the psychological tactic. They can preach peace, love, and understanding, but if you still shell out money for some product you don’t need, it has the same effect.

    But why assume all the needs covered by magazines are “false needs”? It’s a given that we need clothes, for instance. The interesting thing is to ask why we choose the clothes we do chose, how those clothes are presented to us, what the producers of clothes want us to think about the clothes they make, how they align their marketing with cultural meanings, how we as consumers reward some of them with our custom and not others, and so on. It’s a delicate, continually self-adjusting mechanism by which several parties meet each other’s needs. I’m not sure why you insist on seeing it as a conspiracy in which a small elite with absolute power dictates false consciousness on a sheeplike majority…

    I mean, conspiracy theory is great, obviously. But there’s more to life than that, surely?

  40. Chris_B Says:

    momus holds up a self portrait to accuse marxy every one sniggers but not at momus’s joke.

    See whatever the state of japanese media, its momus’s beans & franks to maintain the momus position on Japan, to decode it all for readers of English. Perhaps decode aint the right word, perhaps the word is re-con-fuse. To once again smash element A with element B and get C, the desired saleable good, momus’s re-presentation of Japan.

    I wouldnt have him change a thing tho, thats our dear momus and were he to break character in public, horrible things might happen!

    Oh and FWIW, having something translated to another language is hardly the same as writing in that language.