Key Concept 1: Genre
The word genre comes from the French word for type or class .
It is often used in literary and media theory to refer to a particular
type of text.
Genre is a key concept in Media Studies as media texts are often
discussed in terms of the similarities and differences they share with
other media texts.
Genre is a useful way of categorising media products for both the
industry and the audience. It s practical for the industry because they
can produce and market the product effectively and the audience can
plan their choices based on their likes and dislikes.
We started by looking at a range of different magazines to find that
there were obvious categories like cars, gaming, music, fashion, and
We could see their obvious similarities and differences just by looking
at the front covers and the contents pages.
To decide which magazines would fit into the LIFESTYLE magazine
GENRE we had to find which magazines had the following content:
Celebrity Fashion Health Beauty Sex Advice
This mix of contents is a convention of lifestyle magazines. This means
that a magazine must have all or most of these in the contents, to be
considered as part of the LIFESTYLE magazine GENRE.
The magazine is typical of a lifestyle magazine
because it conforms to the conventions of the
genre. It includes celebrity, fashion, health,
beauty, sex and advice ‒ everything the
audience would expect in the contents.
Conventions of lifestyle magazines can also be found in other
magazine genres. For example:
Has a HEALTH section
Has an ADVICE section
There are some magazines that mix genres and Grazia and Arena are
two examples of this. Arena (no longer publishing) mixed fashion and
music and Grazia mixes gossip and fashion. The reason for doing this
would probably be to compete in a different market with something
different to offer i.e. Grazia would be competing with Chat and other
gossip magazines. It has been able to tap into the younger target
audience with a focus on fashion trends.
CONVENTIONS OF LIFESTYLE MAGAZINES
1. The mix of contents such as celebrity, fashion, health, beauty,
sex, advice ‒ find evidence on the cover and the contents page
2. There is a model or celebrity on the front cover as the main
image and he/she is looking directly at the camera
3. Direct mode of address is used ‒ the magazine is talking to you
and makes direct reference to your lifestyle‒ i.e. Lose Your Gut,
Impress Your Girlfriend, New Styles for You!
4. The tone of the magazine is aspirational. The magazine assumes
the position of lifestyle coach ‒ it tells you what you need and
then offers you advice on how to get it.
5. The editor s letter is chatty and informal. It will often also use a
direct mode of address ‒ as though they are a friend of the
Key Concept 2: Media Language
Media language is another key concept in media studies and it refers
to the way the meaning is communicated between producers and
audiences. DENOTATION and CONNOTATION are terms used to
analyse how meaning is communicated through SIGNS.
There are 3 different categories of SIGNS in media
The SYMBOLIC sign ‒ you can t guess the meaning
just from looking at it, you have to have learned what
the sign represents. For example a traffic light is a
The ICONIC sign ‒ looks like the object or concept it
refers to so for example the female sign on a ladies
toilet is an ICONIC sign.
The INDEXICAL sign ‒ is produced by the object or
concept it refers to so for example smoke is an
INDEXICAL sign because it refers to a fire.
First level of signification is
DENOTATION. This is the literal/obvious/
common sense meaning.
Second level of signification is
CONNOTATION. This is the meaning we
attach to words and images depending on
our knowledge and past experiences.
Both the DENOTATIVE AND
CONNOVATATIVE meanings together
form our understanding of what we hear
and see in media texts.
DENOTATION: The image denotes is that this is the
letter m. It s a symbolic sign that in Western Culture
has become widely recognised as the brand logo for
the fast food restaurant McDonalds. So the signifier is
the m and the signified is McDonalds restaurant.
CONNOTATION: For me the image connotes ideas about unhealthy
eating and the possibility of putting on weight. It also has
connotations of Americanisation and the loss of individual cultures. So
here the signifier is the McDonalds brand logo and for me the signified
DENOTATION: The image is an iconic
sign and it denotes a man smoking a
cigarette. Most people will also
recognise him as singer and songwriter,
Pete Doherty from the band,
Babyshambles. So the signifier here is
the man s face and the signified is
musician Pete Doherty.
CONNOTATION: The photograph itself is telling the audience
something about the musician. The first signifier is the decision to
take and/or print the photograph in black and white. The second is
posture and facial expression because he is looking away from the
camera in a dreamy expression, as though something more important
than the photographer or the audience has caught his attention. The
third signifier is the cigarette he is smoking and the smoke it has
created. These three signifiers together signify that Pete Doherty is
carefree and rebellious. So even if we didn t know about the private
life of Pete already, this photograph is providing us with clues. Many
people will already know about Pete from his regular appearances in
the press. So when I look at the photo the connotations are drug
addict, ex-boyfriend of Kate Moss, co-front man of The Libertines and
Some magazine titles are CRYPTIC
like FHM (for him) and GQ
(Gentleman s Quarterly) so the
readers have to work out what
Other titles are information giving
like Men s Health tells us what the
magazine is about. However
health has an expanded meaning
which covers topics ranging from
sex to fashion.
Titles can signify a character type
like DIVA (a magazine for the
lesbian community). Sometimes
words with negative connotations
are invested with positive
meaning. This is an example of
AMELIORATION. Diva has come to
mean prima Dona but its Latin
meaning goddess is probably the
meaning which the producers are
hoping to communicate.
The contemporary meaning is
familiar with many parts of the
world; sophisticated or urbane. It s a
compound noun (it combines two
or more words in a single unit), and
is derived from the Greek word
Kosmos (the world or universe) and
polites (citizen). The intention is
probably to appeal to a welltravelled, sophisticated individual.
Tatler has a reputable name as a
middle class magazine having been
established in 1709. It s unlikely that
modern readers will be aware that
tattle comes from the middle Dutch
talelen meaning idle talk or chatter .
Tatler is the noun.
MAGAZINE LAYOUT CONVENTIONS
Masthead ( log o)
The name of the magazine displayed in a specific typeface. This is the
visual branding of the title and is often done in a specially designed
typeface to be very recognisable and unique. The masthead is usually used
on the contents page inside as well as the front cover, and as a logo for
advertising and branding purposes
Month and year of publication, often with the price. Note that a monthly
magazine usually hits the news-stands the month before the cover date
Mai n im ag e
In the case of this front cover there is a single image of the model Shania.
The image is used in a classic way, the face is big enough to stand out on
the news-stand, with the model making full eye-contact. The image on a
magazine s cover represents the personality of the magazine. Each aspect
of the image is analysed, from the expression to the colour of the model s
hair ‒ everything that might make the readers identify with the magazine.
The reader is meant to aspire towards being like the cover model.
This says: 'Shania: So hot.' It is unusual for such a credit to appear on a
magazine front cover, but is done on fashion magazines. The
photographer and model credit is usually on the contents page
Cosmopolitan magazine uses a lot of cover lines, which are distributed
around the main image without detracting from it too much. A mistake
often made with cover lines is that they run over an image that has a lot of
colour changes, rendering the words invisible. This is a problem here with
the red text on the hair on the left and the smaller yellow text against
In our culture we learn to read from left to right and from top to bottom of
the page. This is why the prime position for information is the top left hand
corner. Front covers also make good use of underlining, emboldening
and a variety of font sizes, styles and colour. Magazines usually stick to the
same set of fonts for each cover to keep the HOUSE STYLE even though
the colours may or may not change.
A lot of information needs to be crammed into a short space to tell the
reader what s inside the magazine. Without doubt, today s magazines are
pre-occcuppied with sex, packaged as a commodity and sold within the
Mai n c over line
This is very large - taking up almost a quarter of the magazine cover - and
comes in three layers, each with a different colour. It promotes the use of
naked male centrefolds, a feature of Cosmopolitan in the UK since its first
issue. Note the main cover line is positioned against the model's shoulder
so it shows up clearly
The left third of the magazine cover is vital for sales in shops where the
magazine is not shown full-frontage. The title must be easily recognisable
in a display of dozens of competitors. The start of the masthead is
important here, as are short cover lines that are easy to read
B ar c od e
Standard bar code used by retailers
S elli ng li ne
Short, sharp description of the title's main marketing point (for
Cosmopolitan: 'The world's No 1 magazine for young women') or perhaps
setting out its editorial philosophy.
Analysing a Double Pag e Spread
The title is at the top left of the double page spread and this is fairly
typical. It is much larger than the rest of the text on the page so it is
clear it is where we should start reading. The typography chosen is in a
serif font which usually connotes tradition and in this case it is chosen
because this is the style of typography used for the Twilight books
and films. The title is a pun on the film title new moon .
This is the subheading for the article and it usually sets up the angle of
the story, telling the audience a bit more about the article. In this case
it is placed directly under the title, centred and in a sans serif font. The
technique it uses is a rhetorical question Is Jamie Campbell Bower
going to eclipse RPatt? They are suggesting that Jamie might be a
bigger star than Robert Patterson.
These are nearly always used in magazine articles so they are
conventional. They are usually a design feature on the page and the
choice of typography for this usually tells us something about the
article. Again here they have chosen a serif font.
Body te x t, Columns and Gutte rs
The body text in this article is divided into 3 columns on the right side.
Each column is of equal width and length to achieve a sense of
balance on the page. The body text is a conventional black font in size
8 or 9 with some line spacing to make it easier to read. There is
actually quite a lot of text in this article for a teenage audience so the
text is broken up by the format, a pull quote and images. The area
around the text and in between the columns is called the gutters. This
gives the text some space to breathe.
Pa g e numbe rs
These aren t always found on every page in a magazine but in this
case they have put a page number on the side with all the text. Here
they have also put the name of the magazine beside the page
Beside the page number they have placed a plug (advert) for the film
at the bottom of the page so if the reader is interested in Jamie they
have the information they need to go and watch the film.
It s very conventional for a magazine article to use a quote from the
main body text and make it larger with quote marks. It breaks up the
page and supports the standfirst in the angle of the story.
Some articles will have a question and answer format, especially for a
younger target audience. This magazine has decided to use pink text
for the questions and black for the answers. The colour pink will
appeal to the target audience and it stands out clearly against the
Mod e of ad d r e ss
The mode of address is how the magazine speaks to the reader. In this
case the mode of address is chatty and informal. Puns and slang are
used and the questions asked are quite personal and not of a serious
nature. The magazine is asking the kind of questions it thinks a
teenage girl would ask and it is giving the answers to them like a friend
passing on information.
Photog ra phy
Photography is a key way for the magazine to attract readers for the
magazine. This is the cover story so Jamie will also have featured on
the front cover, to help sell the magazine. In the main image here he
has been photographed in very bright lighting to perhaps connote his
youth and innocence. This is supported by his innocent gesture of
scratching his head as though confused by his newfound popularity.
The idea of innocence and boy next door is further supported by his
puzzled expression and the choice of clothes for the shoot.
This is a guide for the style of the magazine, spelling and use of
grammar. This is designed to help the magazine s designers and
journalists write in a consistent way for the target audience. This will
direct journalists when deciding on format and mode of address for
Principles of Design: BALANCE
To understand balance, think of the balance beam. When objects are
of equal weight, they are in balance. If you have several small items on
one side, they can be balanced by a large object on the other side.
Visual balance works in much the same way. It can be affected not
only by the size of objects, but also their value (ie. lightness or
darkness, termed visual weight).
Symm e trical (Formal) Balance
Symmetrical balance is mirror image balance. If you draw a line down
the center of the page, all the objects on one side of the screen are
mirrored on the other side (they may not be identical objects, but
they are similar in terms of numbers of objects, colors and other
Asym m e trical (informal) Balance
Asymmetrical balance occurs when several smaller items on one side
are balanced by a large item on the other side, or smaller items are
placed further away from the center of the screen than larger items.
One darker item may need to be balanced by several lighter items.
Although asymmetrical balance may appear more casual and less
planned, it is usually harder to to use because the designer must plan
the layout very carefully to ensure that it is still balanced. An
unbalanced page or screen creates a feeling of tension, as if the page
or screen might tip, or things might slide off the side, just as the
unbalanced balance beam would tip to one side
Balance by colour: Our eyes are drawn by color. Small areas of vibrant
color can be used to balance larger areas of more neutral colors.
Balance by Value: Value refers to the darkness or lightness of objects.
Black against white has a much stronger contrast than gray against
white. To balance these two colors, you would need a larger area of
gray to balance the stronger value of black. Large flat areas without
much detail can be balanced by smaller irregularly shaped objects
since the eye is led towards the more intricate shape.
Balance by position: Using a balance beam, a larger weight closer to
the center point can be balanced by a lighter weight further away
from the center. This is the basis for balance by position. Sometimes
larger elements on one side of the page can be balanced by a smaller
element that is positioned by itself at the far end of the other side of
the page. This is a very tricky type of asymmetrical balance that often
ends up looking out of balance.
Balance by texture: Smaller areas with interesting textures (variegated
light and dark, or random fluctuations) can balance larger areas with
smoother, untextured looks.
Balance by Eye Direction: Your eye can be led to a certain point in a
picture depending on how the elements are arranged. If the people
in a picture are looking in a certain direction, your eye will be led there
as well. Elements in a picture, such as triangles or arrows, will also lead
your eye to look to a certain point and maintain the balance of a
When we look at magazine covers, contents pages and articles we
can study how balance has been achieved. It is usually either
symmetrical or asymmetrical for magazines.
This double page spread from Men s Health has achieved
asymmetrical balance with the use of colour and value. The designer
has been able to balance the page with text and large photograph on
one side and 3 smaller photographs with a side bar on the right side.
The same colours have been used on both pages, which also helps
balance the layout.
Can you name all the design features on the pages?
K e y Conce pt: Me dia Languag e
Topic: Putting word s tog e the r
As there is little space on the front of a magazine, the text producer
needs to cram a lot of information into a few words. There are a few
different techniques the producer uses on the front cover to ensure
the reader finds the content appealing.
Technique 1: Modifiers
To squeeze lots of contents onto the cover, nouns are heavily
Delicious cook-ahead str e ss fre e fea st (Bella)
The noun is feast but look at the number of modifiers ‒ delicious ,
cook-ahead , stress-free , Modifiers are words which give more
information about the noun. When modifiers come before the noun
this is referred to as pre-modification. In listing so many pre-modifiers
the producers build up the reader s anticipation of what is coming
next. Sometimes the modification comes after the head noun:
The 1 0 rules of Ex Etique tte (Cosmopolitan)
Technique 2: Elision
As well as heavy modification, a feature of front covers to consider is
what the producer chooses to leave out for reasons of economy. This
is referred to as elision or ellipsis.
Lose your belly
Se e re sults in two we e ks (Men s Health)
Presumably the results the reader will see in two weeks are those of
having lost their belly. The determiner the is omitted without
affecting meaning. Determiners are like adjectives, they make the
meanings of nouns more specific. Examples of determiners are; the ,
a , this , that , these , those , my , your, their , one , first , last ,
some , any , no , all .
Technique 3: Sentence Types
Sentences can be divided into two types: minor and major. Minor
sentences are complete in intention but often lack a finite verb. Finite
verbs have a tense, e.g. present or past, giving a clear idea of when
something took place or whether the action has been completed.
They also tell us how many are involved (singular/plural) and who the
My ex spied on me from the attic (Bella)
The following sentence is a minor since it lacks a finite verb:
Hair to send him round the twist (More!)
You would be correct in saying that send is a verb but it is non-finite
because it is unclear when the action will be undertaken or
completed. This is an example of the infinitive, the word to followed
by the verb. Non-finite verb forms do not express contrasts of tense,
number, person or mood.
Turning your flat into a film set
The ing participle in Turning makes the verb non-finite because it is
not clear when the action is to take place.
Sometimes in a minor sentence the subject will be omitted.
STARTS THIS WEEK: ONLY IN BELLA
YOUR CHANCE TO CONSULT
The subject of a sentence is normally the noun, noun phrase or
pronoun which appears before the verb. In order to insert a subject
into this sentence we would have to invent one ‒ It starts this week..
or we could rearrange the sentence ‒ Your chance to consult Princess
Diana s psychic starts this week. Minor sentences appear frequently
on front covers and in headers of magazines.
Divide the following into major/minor sentences;
1. Aliens forced me to have sex
2. LOUD AND PROUD Asian dykes speak out
3. 10 ways to simplify your life
Technique 4 : Sentence Functions
Some producers prefer a particular type of sentence and sometimes
this communicates a message about the text. Sentences can be
divided into four types:
Declaratives: This type of sentence makes a statement or assertion
All Saints get mucky
Imperatives: Give orders or make requests
Get stress off your back
Interrogatives: Asks questions
Exclamatives: These are used to express surprise, alarm or a strong
opinion and are accompanied by an exclamation mark
Categorise the sentences below into the four functions:
1. Do you need a second income?
2. Most couples assume that both partners need to work.
3. It s men v women in the sexually-sussed stakes!
4. WIN a trip to Hollywood!
This is a branch of language study known as pragmatics.
Technique 5: Problems and Solutions
The problem/solution format is a feature of magazines. The producer
anticipates that the reader is in need of advice and can sometimes
simulate a conversation in an attempt to reduce the distance
between themselves and the reader. A question is posed which is
designed to raise a problem in the reader s mind and like a friend, the
text offers advice. Sometimes the advice is given in a more
authorative way, like if it s for a serious health condition i.e. CANCER
BREAKTHROUGHS: THE ADVICE YOU NEED
Technique 6: Tricks of Language
Producers use an array of linguistic tools in order to attract our
Rhyme: Catch him, snatch him, make him yours
Alliteration: Six simple secrets to keep you looking fabulous
Assonance: Fake mates
Vocabulary of excess: There s zillions of styles to suit you
Superlatives: (comparison to the highest degree) Scrap the rest we ve
got the best
Puns: Frisky Fellas. How to spring the little lambs
Polysemous words: Nice Tackle! The sexiest rugby players you ve ever
Intertextuality: CURL POWER!
Idiomatic phrases: Snogs ahoy!
Contractions: The boy spesh!
The Contents Pa g e
The contents page is useful in a magazine because we don t tend to
read them in a linear fashion. We tend to pick them up, look at the
cover, look at the contents and go straight to what we find most
interesting. We go back to the other pages later. The contents page
reflects the agenda of the magazine which stays the same for each
issue. The features will reflect this agenda. The contents page is useful
to be able to see at a glance, the mix of genres which are included in
We found that lifestyle magazines tended to have contents under the
following generic titles:
Sex, Advice, Horoscopes (women s magazines), Fashion, Celebrity,
Health, Beauty and Fiction.
Caldas-Coulthard (1996) also found that magazines often have a fixed
structure made up of major features. She found that Marie Claire had
eight major features:
1. Reportage ‒ an article inspired by women s daily lives in other
2. Profile ‒ a celebrity interview
3. Emotional ‒ a writer is commissioned to interview people about
an emotional situation
4. Society ‒ a slice of the social life
5. First Person ‒ a raw first hand account of something that has
happened to someone
6. Designer Profile ‒ a fashion history
7. Life Stories ‒ a mini biography of a famous dead person
8. Review Section ‒ films, books, music etc.
Can you find a similar structure in another lifestyle magazine?
Many magazine contain a letter from the editor to the readers. This
usually introduces the magazine s contents, but it also gives the
producer an opportunity to address the readers directly. The editor
writes as though the reader shares the same views, attitudes and
beliefs as them. The length of the editorial varies and has its own
particular style which corresponds to the style of the magazine.
You can ask these questions to help you discuss the editorial in an
1. Who is speaking to whom?
2. What assumptions does the text producer make about the reader?
3. Are there common-sense views which the reader is presumed to
4. Who does the producer think the reader is? Are there any claims
about the reader (presuppositions) which the producer couldn t
5. Is the producer being friendly? Is the mode of address
conversational or formal?
KEY CONCEPT 3:
Media images may seem very realistic but they
never simply present the world as it is. They are
always a construction, a re-presentation of reality
The concept suggests
that some media represent over and over
again, certain images,
stories, and situations.
This can make them seem
natural or familiar ‒ and
therefore marginalise or
even exclude other
images, making those
unfamiliar or even
This prompts the question: if some groups or situations
are routinely represented in oppressive or limited ways,
how does this relate to public understandings, and to
how some groups are treated by others ‒ in the street,
at school or at work?
Stereotyping and Scripts
The media give us ways of imagining particular groups,
identities and situations. When these relate to people
they are sometimes called stereotypes or types. When
they offer images of situations or processes, the term
script is sometimes used. This has the implication that
we grow familiar with these and often know how to
perform them in our own lives, often to the exclusion
of other ways of being. These imaginings can have
material effects on how people expect the world to
be, and then experience it.
Stereotypes are widely circulated ideas or assumptions about
particular groups. They are often assumed to be lies that create
Stereotypes have the following characteristics:
1. They involve both categorising and an evaluation of the group
2.They usually emphasise some easily grasped or perceived feature(s)
of the group in question and then suggest that these are the cause of
the group s position
3. The evaluation of the group is often, though not always, negative
4. Stereotypes often try to insist on absolute differences and
boundaries between us and others whereas the idea of a spectrum
of differences, which applies to many of us, is more appropriate.
If you look at characteristic no. 2, these easily grasped features are
often circulated by dominant discourses and relate to powerful
ideological assumptions. Stereotyping puts these features ate the
centre of the imaginary figure ( teenagers , men , women ) and then
imply that all members of the group have always had those features.
Men are physically strong
Men are heterosexual (straight)
MEN LIKE LOOKING AT SLIM, SEMINAKED WOMEN
IT’S MANLY TO BE INTERESTED IN
TECHNOLOGY AND GADGETS
MEN LIKE TO DRINK ALCOHOL
Answer the questions below:
Which social group is being represented here?
What is apparently valued by this social group? (What is important to them?)
Why could some of these values not be integrated into a mainstream magazine like FHM?
Come up with an idea for new lifestyle magazine, which challenges gender and/or racial
stereotypes. What is the ideology of your new magazine? What is the unique mix of contents?
What are the coverlines?
Design a front cover for your new magazine ensuring it clearly challenges gender and/or racial
stereotypes. Print the cover and place in your folder.