Is there anything more satisfying than the simple act of a cover girl flipping through a hand-held magazine?
Reading magazines is one of the sedentary pursuits still considered a preference of many. Even though most of the magazines are enjoyed online, the content being more up-to-date and lively, printed magazines have a market of their own. Their look and feel, the authenticity, accuracy and reliability of their information supersedes any other media, even today. Facts and opinions are quoted, believed and retained as records for references. Each one is like a time-capsule, with its articles and advertisements taking one back to a long-lost era and long-lost writers, whose opinions can now be evaluated in the light of what has transpired since then.
Many would argue and debate otherwise, but none can deny the impact of magazines on the advertising industry. One of the interesting aspects of a magazine on which its success is dependent, is the specific genre it represents in capturing a certain target audience. The bond with advertising is probably most evident in magazines for women, since they are the biggest and greatest buyers of consumer goods.
Women being one of the larger target audiences for magazines in Pakistan, we see more of fashion, beauty, food and household magazines surfacing since 1960. Back in the early days, only a handful of magazines existed under different genres. An entertaining and informative magazine for women called She surfaced in 1963, and its counterpart, Women’s Own in 1987. Published by Riaz Ahmed Mansuri, Women’s Own became popular and captured a fair share of advertising. Likewise, food magazines including Masala, Good Food and Dastarkhwan among others, enjoyed a large women readership and continue to do so.
The word ‘Lollywood’ was first coined in the summer of 1989, in the now-defunct magazine Glamour, published from Karachi by gossip columnist Saleem Nasir.
On the fashion front, key publications, such as Fashion Collection (1991), Diva (2002) and Glam (2012) published by Hum Network, and the most recently-launched, international magazine Hello in 2012, have been quite successful.
Some of the well-established magazines also had an impact on social issues. The Mirror of the Month, better known as the Mirror, was a popular, Pakistani, social, monthly magazine which ran from 1951 to 1972. Its founding Editor, Zeb-un-Nissa Hamidullah, became the first woman editor in Pakistan. Her mission statement was to “foster feelings of unity and amity throughout the country.” The magazine was published at Din Muhammadi Press until the 1960s.
In October 1962, Begum Hamidullah wrote an open letter to President Ayub Khan. Titled ‘Please Mr. President!’ it expressed concern about the government’s treatment of student protests. The letter was published in the Mirror. It was an emotional statement, describing the feelings of the people, as they saw “the blood that stained the streets of Pakistan.” She stated that owing to his authoritarian rule, she was losing her faith in him and had placed his picture upside down. In the November edition of the Mirror that year, she published his reply; a breakdown of the statements in her letter, each being justified. He concluded by saying, “I request [you] to ascertain facts before publishing highly emotional editorials.”
In 1969, before he stepped down, she republished ‘Please Mr. President!’, alongside a new editorial, ‘No, thank you, Sir’, in which she said that the problems which she talked about in ‘Please, Mr. President!’ were still very much there and that “Pakistan will continue to erupt as long as you, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, remain its President.” This editorial angered Ayub Khan, but, ironically, he took her advice in the end and abdicated in favour of General Yahya Khan.
Because of these events, the Mirror became highly controversial in the sixties. The tension between Begum Hamidullah and Ayub Khan escalated, resulting in the magazine being banned twice, and government advertisements almost completely revoked from the periodical.
In 1971, Begum Hamidullah moved to Ireland with her husband and the magazine folded the next year. Two other monthlies on current affairs that reign above the rest include The Herald, published by The Dawn Media Group in 1970 and Newsline in 1989. Both magazines are looked upon by readers as authentic, reliable, political and social content.
Nigar, a brainchild of Ilyas Rashidi, also known as the pioneer of film journalism, was launched as a weekly film magazine in 1948. In 1957, the Nigar Awards were instituted as an extension of Nigar.
One of the genres to gain popularity since the beginning were the showbiz magazines. The word ‘Lollywood’ was first coined in the summer of 1989, in the now-defunct magazine Glamour, published from Karachi by gossip columnist Saleem Nasir. The film industry in Lahore started in 1929 with the opening of the United Players’ Studios on Ravi Road. Eastern Films Magazine, a tabloid edited by Saeed Haroon, became the most popular magazine for film buffs in Pakistan. The magazine had a questions-and-answers section called ‘Yours Impishly’ which the sub-editor, Asif Noorani, took inspiration for from I.S. Johar’s page in India’s Filmfare magazine.
Another such magazine, Nigar, a brainchild of Ilyas Rashidi, also known as the pioneer of film journalism, was launched as a weekly film magazine in 1948. In 1957, the Nigar Awards were instituted as an extension of Nigar.
Urdu magazines enjoyed a larger readership than their English language counterparts. Much before the formation of Pakistan, a monthly magazine by the name of Hoor was launched in Lahore in 1938, with Khaula Qureshi as the Editor.
For general reading, Urdu Digest enjoys the privilege of being Pakistan’s first digest published in 1960. Weekly Muslim World was published in 1961 and Akhbar-e-Jahan, a weekly, Urdu language news and entertainment magazine, in 1967. Anchal, a monthly magazine started publication in 1969 with Agaz-uddin Qurashi as its Editor. During the early seventies, the magazine that gained popularity was Subrang Digest, launched in 1970, followed by Pakeeza in 1971 with Mairaj Rasool as Editor. Hassan Nisar started his career as a journalist from Dhanak Magazine in 1972. In 1982, Dosheeza, positioned as a family and fictional digest, emerged from Karachi with Saham Mirza as its Editor. Other popular Urdu language magazines in Pakistan include Khawateen Digest (1971), Kiran Monthly (1988), Hina Monthly (1979) and Mussarat Digest (1982).
For kids, the most notable magazine Hamdard Naunehal, published by Hakim Said, started in 1953 and still holds a large readership. Taleem-o-Tarbiat, established in 1961, published by Ferozsons in Lahore, became another popular magazine for kids.
Magazines and newspapers flourished from the sixties to the nineties. Print advertising was the most important advertising medium, although not the only one. The other choice was posters and billboards. More promising was film advertising, which lagged behind print advertising but remained a strong choice until Radio Pakistan allowed advertising in the sixties. When TV arrived in the mid-sixties, advertising moved towards the new medium.
As we stand at the beginning of 2018, the magazine sector may not appear to be a lucrative business proposition to many, with digital printing reigning high. However, the significance of print media, its steadfastness and accuracy is undeniable. Opinion makers and leaders rely on print media and quote information published in newspapers and magazines. Print will continue to go to bed, to rise and shine every morning.
Tauqeer Muhajir is Editor and Publisher of Nigaah and Money magazines. He is also the co-author of two art books: 20 Pakistani Painters You Should Know and Six Decades Of Art In Pakistan.
First published in THE DAWN OF ADVERTISING IN PAKISTAN (1947-2017), a Special Report published by DAWN on March 31, 2018.