Time Out uses sex, not culture, to sell.
A week or so ago, I was sat at my computer desk, when I suddenly received an email from Time Out magazine. (I have subscribed to get updates on their ‘Offers’ – which are, I must say, mostly rather good.)
This email subject read: ‘After-dark fun: open if you dare’.
And in the blink of an eye, a huge vibrator appeared on my screen. (Yeah, you ‘eard.) I’ve put a picture of it below – it looks a bit scary, right? Sort of like an evil robotic cactus sticking two fingers up at you.
Time Out had sent me a Valentine’s email – filled with offers for waxes, vibrators, condoms and couples’ boink boxes. But it wasn’t very romantic. Just tacky.
And it didn’t stop there; because the email also invited me to contribute to a competition – to ‘SEX UP’ Time Out’s ‘Sex Issue’ cover (which came out last week). Sex issues always stink of desperation to me: a cheap carrot on a stick to get people to turn their heads; a form of journo-prostitution. Still, readers were happy to submit their artwork: just check out this gallery of all the beautiful pictures people contributed. Time Out writers revelled in the ‘brilliance’ of the competition entries, writing:
‘(A) tube map was re-purposed so that ‘Holland Park’ became ‘Whoreland Park’, someone drew a woman ‘jerking off the magazine’ and one reader saw fit to submit an entry featuring the words ‘Why does it burn when I pee?’
That’s not my idea of ‘brilliance’: that’s the stuff of sniggering teenage boys. And yet the writers of London’s leading culture magazine not only rewarded such creative inadequacy, but endorsed the submissions as ‘amazing’ on their website. Editor-in-chief Time Arthur went so far as to say about the winning picture (displayed at the top of this article) ‘Cockfosters has never been so arousing.’ Oh please.
This week, Time Out has brought out a ‘Drugs’ issue that includes results from its ‘London Drugs Survey’. It’s simply another crude idea for a publication, that smacks of unoriginality in the drafting room – and writers anxious to sell, not tell. Let’s not forget that this is a magazine that can be picked up anywhere, by anyone in London. In an age where there is ever increasing concerns over children ‘growing up to quickly’, magazines like Time Out are just as much to be blamed as the porn industry for making adult material easy for the taking.
Time Out, like many other media institutions, has made a mistake in assuming that prurience is a trait of any intellectually curious reader. It’s time it learned how to sell culture without using sex, or shock gimics; and remembered that its real target market are not Anne Summers customers.