Like many of us, Noah Veltman found himself feeling uncomfortably covetous every time he read a glossy magazine.
But rather than forking out $695 for the Tom Ford swim trunks he saw featured in GQ, Veltman, a journalist and developer at the New York City public radio station WNYC, decided to parse the data. He hand-tallied the quantities and prices of products featured on the editorial pages of the June issues of 10 major magazines (plus the May 19 issue of New York magazine). Here are his findings in four charts.
* A note on methodology: Veltman only counted the costs of products where the price was included directly adjacent to the featured item. This painted a slightly misleading picture, because Vogue lists many of its prices in a separate section in the magazine’s final pages. We added those products (about $250,000 worth) to Vogue’s total above and median below, which is why Quartz’s numbers differ from Veltman’s.
While a backpacking expedition in the outdoors might sound like a low-budget vacation, the gear listed in the June issue of Outside totaled more than $80,000. Real Simple kept it to a comparatively modest $15,851. The simple life!
As you can see above and below, the women’s fashion magazine InStyle efficiently packs many products onto a single page, while Vogue keeps it relatively clean, with fewer (far more expensive) items. In a sense, this speaks to Vogue’s positioning as an “aspirational” magazine, as opposed to a relatively practical guide to products that readers can actually buy.
In terms of percentage of ad pages in the magazine and sheer quantity of products featured in editorial layouts, InStyle takes the cake. So if its pages make you feel like shopping, that’s probably because the magazine’s editors and advertisers were on a mission to inspire you to do just that.
After counting up all the items featured in these magazines, Veltman says, he found himself cured of his temptation: He didn’t want to buy a thing.
“I used to read magazines and I would find myself coveting the products they promote in a totally silly and impractical way,” he tells Quartz. “They’re very oriented around stuff, and the strong suggestion that buying a bunch of stuff will make you into a certain sort of person: Waking up early to go running every day is hard. Buying a bunch of running gear is easy.”