Digital publishing is transforming your aunt’s favorite glossy editorial just as much as your niece’s gritty underground zines. Let’s delve into this transformation and explore definitions, history, and modern-day manifestations of this grassroots publishing phenomenon.
Most simply, the word "magazine" comes from a root meaning “storage container. ” Therefore, the traditional magazine is a collection of many topics under one brand. On the other hand, zines usually span fewer subjects and carve a specific niche. These are self-published, short-run, and passion-driven publications . Zinesters are punks, fans, and activists with a do-it-yourself ethic. The pages themselves look homemade, and gracing these pages are how-tos on topics ranging from “bring down the state” to “patch your own clothes.”
Historically, people have been distributing pamphlets since the 1700s. Then, in the 30s fandoms independently distributed zines for their sci-fi obsessions. The next big “boom” in this subcultural print production was with the rise of punk in the 70s. The cut-and-paste zine aesthetic is readily seen in Tumblr posts and Instagram photo grids. Zines champion decontextualization, or taking an image and giving it new meaning with a new context. Collaging powerful symbols and bold copy for a pamphlet is much like creating the Internet’s beloved gif.
Zines and the Internet Today
Zines are well equipped for transfer into digital media because of their inherent decentralization. One of the founders of Grrl Zine Fair, Lu Williams, claims that zines are for “creating without authority” . Similarly, the average social network user does not have an editor or brand authority telling them how to relate with their audience. Digital publishing only further empowers the independence that zine-makers crave. Zinesters originally flocked online because it promised the first truly democratic creator space. Nowadays, we know that the Internet is not so cozy. Online zines reach global audiences– which small local publications only dreamed of in the past. Features like Issuu’s embeddable pdf reader propel subcultural work all across the Internet. Check out this zine collaboration between Paint Pens Collective and Issuu
Unfortunately, sometimes this exposure comes at a cost. Online content producers receive intense vitriol for putting themselves out there. Some believe that the reason zines have persisted is that it creates a small protective boundary between the spiteful media consumer and the content producer . Fortunately, online communities spring up in the protection of alternative media. One of the ways digital zines protect themselves is in the resurgence of Riot Grrl, the primary aesthetic of 90s third-wave feminism . Look at the grassroots-organized Women’s March that started in 2017, for example. The marches produced miles of homemade signs, punky slogans, and a focus on body-positive politics. Femme, queer, trans, non-binary, person of color, disabled– digital zines these days champion our intersections and our diversity.  Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Zines
Issuu and Alt Media
Issuu supports our radical creators and promotes a safe space for new ideas. The communities formed around alternative media, whether on Issuu or elsewhere, protect freedom of the press. We are proud to push zines alongside largescale magazines to our over 870k social reach and 100+ million monthly unique site visits. Your honesty in speaking truth to power is just as important (if not more than) this season’s upcoming trends.