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Jukka Juutinen 12th January 2018 05:45

Declining quality of British aviation magazines
Yesterday I was at a magazine retailer and I took a look at the latest (January 2018) issue of Aeroplane. I have browsed a few issues from the last year and the feeling I had back was not abated by the latest issue: once a great magazine has become pretty useless trash. The same applies to the other "major" British avmag FlyPast. Aeroplane used to be great until late 1990s. Article series like Per Mare Probare, Probe Probare, On Silver Wings and Limited Editions were excellent examples of high-quality writing based on primary research.

Back then text was the mainstay of articles with illustrations to support the text. Today both above mentioned mags are filled with eye candy of limited informational value and the text seems to be mishmash of secondary quality and originality. Far too much space is wasted on warbirds and museum aircraft.

Yet, one does not need even to cross the Channel to see two examples of how it could be done. After the Battle magazine is one example, Cross and Cockade the other.

Then one may ask that why can't British publishers achieve the quality of French Batailles aeriennes or Avions? Do French readers have longer attention spans than British?

As a final note, I should mention the potentially promising British The Aviation Historian. I say potentially because the editorial policy so far has been so-and-so with totally uninteresting stuff like remembrances of some air stewardess or a piece on Hugh Hefner's aircraft. Sheesh! And even they have succumbed to the cancer of designing layout from the point of colourful eye candy instead informational value.

Jim Oxley 12th January 2018 10:02

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
Gotta agree with the above. Haven't bothered buying either for ages.

Chris Goss 12th January 2018 11:36

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
The problem is getting people to put pen to paper, writing something that is of interesting/well written and more importantly writing something new or unique. I was told by one editor they publish an article on one aircraft type one month and then are inundated with articles on the same type/subject-it will be at least 3 years before that subject is covered again. This annoys and puts off writers who should know this. Yes there are quite a number of magazines fishing in the same pond and it is embarrassing when, for example, two from the same stable have articles about the same aircraft the same month but readership tends to be different for said magazines. As to After the Battle and Cross & Cockade, these are one offs and quite specialist. However, I have forwarded this as a link to the editors of Flypast, The Aviation Historian, Aviation News, Britain at War, After the Battle and the Key Publishing Group Manager........

ClinA-78 12th January 2018 12:54

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines

Then one may ask that why can't British publishers achieve the quality of French Batailles aeriennes or Avions? Do French readers have longer attention spans than British?
Thanks also to Belgian authors (Roba, Mombeek, Taghon, Saintes, etc.)


PS : also this year Clinaz too :D

Jukka Juutinen 12th January 2018 14:41

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
The problem is not solely limited to contents, the problem is also one of design. Both Aeroplane and FlyPast are designed like some pop music rags for teeners with their ragged-right design looking like a mixture of vomit and diarrhoea (I occasionally read two Finnish rock/metal music magazines and even they are far less eye candish than Aeroplane or Flypast or the British classical music magazine Gramophone suggesting that there is perhaps syphilis at work in British publishing industry). A side-by-side comparison of those two to either After the Battle or Batailles Aeriennes (or Air Enthusiast or Aeroplane Monthly in their prime) is shocking. Air Enthusiast articles, on average, devoted 70 - 80 % of space to textual information, the rest to illustrations. Today's Aeroplane (and FlyPast and too often the The Aviation Historian as well) has the proportions reversed suggesting that the English avmag readers have regressed back into to the caveman age.

Another issue is the length of articles. 2 - 4 pages seem to be the norm for FlyPast and Aeroplane. For comparison, Shlomo Aloni's article on Israeli Mossies in AE 83 runs for 22 pages.

Why not simply publish an English edition of Batailles Aeriennes?

AMC 12th January 2018 15:33

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
I agree completely with everything said. I stopped buying aviation magazines after the wonderful "RAF Flying" went to the wall (changed format) in the 60's.
I went on to buy books instead. "Bomber Pilot", "Pathfinder Cranswick", "No Moon Tonight", "Enemy Coast Ahead", "The Dam Busters", "The Ship Busters", "Ploesti", "The 1000 Plan", and more, all available in paperback in old second-hand bookshops..
Happy Days....

Bombphoon 12th January 2018 16:09

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
1) The main reason why books and magazines 'ain't what they used to be' is mainly due to the internet - and forums such as these! In the pre-digital age, forum posts and information would be submitted to magazines as either letters or articles. This has dropped off dramatically.

2) The lack of this revenue means publishers' budgets are far smaller, so they can afford fewer staff, new articles and photos - and they pay the journalists far less, meaning there is less incentive to put pen to paper.

3) Perhaps most concerning - and it's something few people seem to have noticed or mentioned - the public interest in WW2 has dwindled massively in the last 10 years or so.

This, I think, is due to several reasons, from veterans and the post-war generation of readers dying out, to younger generations having no connection to WW2 and so are just not interested in it - or, more worryingly, history itself. The digital age encourages the younger generation to look forward, not back into history.

If you doubt what I say, look at how few WW2 documentaries there are on TV nowadays compared to a decade ago: it even used to be staple diet for the cable history channels - it isn't now. Also, look at the UK's main military history publisher: they used to publish overwhelmingly WW1 and WW2: look at their website now and many of their books are now about buses, murders, trains, politics and local history.

Perhaps our subject has been 'done to death'?

sveahk 12th January 2018 17:10

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
Definitely agree with Jukka, I'm sorry to say - but anyone somewhat fluent in the german language has a couple of useful alternatives - at least compared with Aeroplane and FlyPast (magazines I stopped subscribing to a couple of years back - due to the reasons mentioned...).

Outstanding is the "FliegerRevue X" with long and deep probing articles by good authors about everything aeronautical, and not only german themes. Comes every second month which perhaps is one of the reasons they can serve us such high quality!

"Jet&Prop" also comes every second month, "Flugzeug Classic" and "Klassiker der Luftfart" monthly. All three still very readable with of course lots of Luftwaffe-related articles. Over the last couple of years all three are moving slightly in the glossy direction - but IMV a far cry from being unreadable...

Hans K

Jukka Juutinen 12th January 2018 17:53

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines

1. No doubt over the fact that the internet has affected affairs. However, I think it is wrong to blame the net for the decline of the mags I mention. After all, the decline of especially Aeroplane Monthly began in late 1990s, i.e. at a time when the net was not nearly as "all-encompassing".

2. The question of authorship for the purpose of living. It is my opinion that like many other quite specialist fields aviation history's greatest authors are those whose main income does not come from publishing. For example, the late D. K. Brown was a great naval author who was a naval architect by profession.

3. Is the situation in the U.K. so massively different from Finland? Here great many historians whine that military history rates so high in history book sales compared to e.g. topics like "Lesbian transgenders in the 17th century Finnish society".

Jukka Juutinen 12th January 2018 18:01

Re: Declining quality of British aviation magazines
Bombhoon: As for doing "our subject" to death, when has either FlyPast or Aeroplane published a technically-minded article (vs. combat chronicling) on a major German aircraft based on latest archival research? I mean material not based on rehashing William Green/Alfred Price et al. Or French aircraft? Japanese? Italian? Russian?

Another massive gap is aviation in the 1920s.

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