The earliest example of magazines was Erbauliche Monaths Unterredungen, a literary and philosophy magazine, which was launched in 1663 in Germany. The Gentleman’s Magazine, first published in 1731, in London was the first general-interest magazine. Edward Cave, who edited The Gentleman’s Magazine under the pen name “Sylvanus Urban”, was the first to use the term “magazine,” on the analogy of a military storehouse.

In the mid-1800s monthly magazines gained popularity. They were general interest to begin, containing some news, vignettes, poems, history, political events, and social discussion. Unlike newspapers, they were more of a monthly record of current events along with entertaining stories, poems, and pictures. The first periodicals to branch out from news were Harper’s and The Atlantic, which focused on fostering the arts. Both Harper’s and the Atlantic persist to this day, with Harper’s being a cultural magazine and The Atlantic focusing mainly on world events. Early publications of Harper’s even held famous works such as early publications of Moby Dick or famous events such as the laying of the world’s first trans-Atlantic cable however the majority of early content was trickle down from British events. The oldest consumer magazine still in print is The Scots Magazine, which was first published in 1739, though multiple changes in ownership and gaps in publication totalling over 90 years weaken that claim. Lloyd’s List was founded in Edward Lloyd’s England coffee shop in 1734; it is still published as a daily business newspaper. Despite being among the first mass media outlets to venture from the bible, periodicals still remained rooted in the naturalized class and gender system held by European and American society. Manufacturing of the early magazines were done via an archaic form of the printing press, using large hand engraved wood blocks for printing. When production of magazines increased, entire production lines were created to manufacture these wooden blocks.

The development of the magazines showed an increase in literary criticism and political debate, moving towards more opinionated pieces from the objective newspapers. The increased time between prints and the greater amount of space to write provided a forum for public arguments by scholars and critical observers.

The early periodical predecessors to magazines started to evolve to modern definition in the late 1800s. Works slowly became more specialized and the general discussion or cultural periodicals were forced to adapt to a consumer market which yearned for more localization of issues and events.

In 2011, 152 magazines ceased operations and in 2012, 82 magazines were closed down.

Cover for Harper’s Monthly, a prominent force in early periodicals.

Magazine stand, Sweden 1941

According to statistics from the end of 2013, subscription levels for 22 of the top 25 magazines declined from 2012 to 2013, with just Time, Glamour and ESPN The Magazine gaining numbers.