December 26, 2005

Jordanian English “Life Style” Magazines: Elitism manifested, deluded & superimposed!

When I sample through such magazines, I immediately imagine an English single mother dating a Frenchman with a troubled sex life and a financial leverage to drink tea at the Dorchester hotel in London, in contrast with the profile of their potential readers from Jordan’s upper spheres!

First of all, why are they in English? I feel the big “I am Hypocrite” superscript floating on top of me right now since I am blogging in English, yet I still don’t get it, many magazines around the world are specialty magazines with limited readership that targets a limited specifically-interested niche willing to pay a premium for a magazine that wobbles about the bizarre interest they may have, and I know for sure that there’re business that exploits such interests whom are willing to pay a premium to advertise on these specialty magazines…. Nothing wrong with that (in terms of business)

But this is not the case with “life style” magazines; by definition they should be generic, variant and diverse in essence, as the sum of its material and editorials should have the widest circulation and appeal possible! So how could this be the case when the first thing such magazines do is minimizing their readership circle to the English-speaking niche only!

Perhaps they publish in English in order to "reach out" to the assumed-to-exist like-minded mindsets? and I ask; since when does mentalities can be profiled based on language?

They might be profitable for some awkward reason that mostly has to do with the conjured dynamics of the Jordanian marketplace… but definitely they have no clue who are they selling their magazines for and who's reading it.

I still feel mystified whenever I have the opportunity to vigilantly read through these magazines (frankly to avoid obscene imagery) as I am not sure who are they targeting? Just for once, I would like to plot a pattern of potential readers that fit a certain trend in our Jordanian society that can be identified by the publishers as a potential customer?

I feel disgusted every time I quote glimpse of the disgraceful publication “Layalina”, though I applaud the way they have conceptualized the magazine and how it gained steady foot in the market, the people behind it obviously did their homework, they identified a paying niche that would like to see people and be seen with people around town, and envisaged a magazine that fits their level of intelligence and involvement; minimum reading and maximum visual stimulus at a rather small premium with lots of potential advertisers! Later on, the poor "Layalina" punters are now paying to get their pictures floated on it while the magazine itself is being franchised around the region… a fine entrepreneurship example... alas in the wrong direction.

But the case of “Layalina” is solid even in the face of a fundamentalist like myself, I can confront its editors and ask them “Who reads your magazine?” and they’ll have an answer ready for me; I’ll give away my new car for anyone who can concisely outline the profile of the potential, say “Luxury” or “living well” magazines readers without referring to the fact that they have money to fork around on pointless publications!

Then comes the issue of content: The etiquettes of eating deserts? How to dump your boyfriend painlessly? 10 ways to enhance your sex life? 54 ways to know that he was cheating? Things to consider before buying a Yacht? How to get over an affair? Choosing the perfect Cigar to go with your cocktail party?… Oh’please… where do they think we're living at, my stomach is aching!

Thier professoinal look and feel, and the high caliber writing they may sport is not in question here, it just doesn’t make sense, which part of our culture do these magazines represent? What background do they come from? Do they reflect our reality as a whole society or just samples of unique individuals or phenomenas from it, or perhaps a mere imaginary society that is assumed to exist in the superb of Amman?

Why can’t they address serious issues rather than mimicking editorials and superimposing them upon the helpless niche that barely understand proper English yet alone to comprehend what it means to have a genuine “life style” in the first place?

Why can’t they tackle issues that are truly crippling the niche society they are targeting and the society as a whole: issues like the social inequality we live in, the surge in divorce rates, premarital sex, teenage pregnancies, insect sex, and tragic stories of gambling & alcohol poisoning… mind the cant-see-but-pure-evil rhetoric here

This might be too much to ask from a revenue seeking magazine, a publication full of such gibberish won’t sell for sure, but at least, when these magazines decide to get serious with their editorials, then at least they can pick issues and stories from our local environment!

At the end of this indiscriminate bash on a whole industry, I find myself obliged to credit “Jo” Magazine for they truly stand apart from its peers, despite the fact that they suffer from the same confused image they reflect, in general however; they exhibit sincerity, objectiveness and a professional editorial feel throughout the magazine, as they mostly seem focused on whom they’re targeting… I wish they do away with the semi/naked imagery and pointless articles!


onzlo said...

You want more article about 'insect sex'???

I agree with your discussion of Luxury and perhaps Living well, they are trash I mean even in the top 1% of society how many people actually decide to go buy a yacht based on advise (probably copied from somewhere else) found in a local magazine, but they will die out at the end. However i disagree with you on both layalina and Jo as they fill out an obvious gap in our market in they do it very proffessionally, there is demand for such magazines with what you call semi-nude imagery and provocative article and all, i think they deserve to be applauded for pushing the boundries a little in their own way.

jameed said...

well said basem. this magazine reflects a change in the social attitudes that comes with the desire to turning a small poor country into a mutated version of NYC. the "haves" may find 10 or 20 amongst them to buy a yacht and park it in aqaba or better still, lake "madrishoo" somewhere in europe. the rest will buy the magazine and dream of joining their fellow yacht-owners.
foreign magazines with the same theme sell in jordan and have their audience. with good marketing, it may not be hard to sell a local magazine dealing with the same issues; on the contrary, it may have the advantage of increased number of subscribers both individuals and businesses (think salon foofoo and moomoo). it is targeted for those who once deemed you trash for not owning a reebok pump.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you dude,
but there are some good magazines such as jo, the thing is i alsowonder why they're in english , even this blog is in english, have u ever tried to write your things to do list and found your self wirting in english, we 're all communicating in english and ts weird, and its worng!
Layalina is trash,living well is a manifestation of our segragated society,the wanna be's

Bashar said...

Well Bassem, i really should thank you a lot for this article, actually i printed it and forward it to friends.

I was viewing one of the life style magazines in Amman yesterday and having a discussion with friends about such magazines.

I wanted to communicate the same ideas with them, but I couldn’t, I wanted to write it in my blog but when I read your’s today I thought “that’s it” that’s what I really want to say and deliver.

I dont think these magazine have anything to do with being open minded and culture diversity, i think its just a blind attempt to adopt other's culture without thinking if this might go well with us or not.

kinzi said...

Hi there, it's my first visit to your blog.

I agree about Luxury and Living Well. Too much cynicism as well. we don't need that in Jordan.

I really enjoy reading VIVA, it looks like a fluffy fashion mag but they have great stuff inside: articles on abuse, AIDS in the Arab world, financial and emotional infidelity and Jordanian women who are making a difference. They even wrote about Natasha in the Christmas issue!

I could do without the celeb junk, and my husband doesn't want the temptation of the scantily clad females in his face, so I keep it in a drawer.

There is a market for this, with people living bi or even tri-cultural lives. Even Layalina, despite those who bashuuf halhom, publicise some activities and events people otherwise not know about.

BTW, JO, VIVA Layalina and Ahlan! are published by the same company.

Basem said...


I have no interest in insect sex in particular; mind you... I was merely trying to be dramatic.

I do applaud Jo and find it exceptional, I also entertain the entrepreneurship behind Layalinia, not the publication itself, which at best; hallmarks the shamefully indiscreet shallow culture that strives amongst us!

Anonymous commentator

I think what's wrong is not publishing or communicating in English, the problem is that we're not putting enough effort in the first place to think, communicate and produce in our own mother tongue Arabic, this is what needs to be addressed. Once this is established, I wouldn’t invest a flying thought if a Jordanian magazine was published in Mandarin or Russian.


I do acknowledge the fact that there is more "good" than what meets the eye with the -essentially- English magazines scene in Jordan, yet the overwhelming impression one gets from such a trend is nothing but utterly negative... hence the deliberately cynical approach of this entry!

It is no surprise to know that the people behind Jo and Layalina are the same! however, this does not credit -or discredit- one publication over the other, if anything; it enforces the analogy illustrated above in which both magazines seemed to have some direction of whom they're catering for!

I have a feeling that at this rate, we’ll see someone really pushing it further by publishing a magazine in French to reeeeally hand-pick their niche! Anyone feel commercially enlightened?

kinzi said...

Bassam, surely in Lebanon there is a French mag? :)

Anonymous said...

Magazines publish in English for several reasons, the biggest one being that the people who make and spend money on "lifestyle" and "luxury" goods in places like Jordan are, in very high proportion, English speakers. Look at the ADS in JO, or VIVA or Living Well: expensive clothes, expensive watches, cars, Ipods. Those aren't selling too well in Jebel Hussein or Ashrafiyeh. And the ads are what makes money for magazines.

(also, BTW, JO, Viva, and Layalina and Living Well are NOT published by the same company - they are PRINTED at the same press, and their ad sales are handled by the same people, but they are written by different companies)

Big reason number two: Arabs don't read. Sure it's a generalization, but there it is. Sitting down for an evening with a book or a magazine is perfectly normal in American/English culture, but it's pretty unusual in the ME, unless the book is the bible or the Qur'an.

So, when a country is full of young, educated people who have ideas that they want to express, and want to hear about others' ideas, they create a market, and they create that market in the language that people who are likely to read use. English.

That's why you use English, isn't it?

How typical of life here in Jordan, though, that everyone spends all their time criticizing others for the things they do themselves...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I agree with you on each point, and yes, Bassam you feel little like a hypocrate! First u know which people are targeted, so just quit it! To enlighten u in case you really are lost, it is for Amman's jetsetters (Sorry to dissapoint u but they do exist!)In addition to Filthy rich + upper middle class ppl! Naturally all those in between who would like to know how the upper society is living and spending! I can eVen see some expats reading it and also the clientele of all hair/nail/foot/body&beauty SaloonS in Aman! Second,You live in the Arabic world yourself, so haven't u got it by now, that everywhere in M.E ppl are trying to immitate the west?? Starting w Lebanon and ending in Lybia!! Clothes, magasines, tv.shows, eating habits, lifestyle is just a natural step in that direction (not pretending its the right such!) However, I think you would do well if u mind these silly magasines and focus on the bigger picture.I.e, The Arabic world is actually developing, slowly perhaps, but such (ur words)silly magasines, revealing clothes, night clubs etc, stops some *Hamaj* from being way too rigid and somehow promotes a more free lifestyle, whether you believe it or not!

Kind Regards,

Anonymous said...

i agree with u 100%.