Dwell as economic indicator

While walking back from the mailbox today, I was reminded of the old “number of pages in WIRED closely matches the NASDAQ” thing as I heaved the latest Dwell magazine back to my house. I have about three or four years of back issues in my new bookshelf and just looking at the spines, it appears that the magazine has gone from ~75 pages to about 300 in each issue. That kind of bloat can’t go on forever and I know they’re becoming a popular brand but I have a feeling there’s a direct relationship between how well people are doing financially and how much they care about how modern their house looks.

10 Comments

  • I’m surprised you didn’t take the trend a little further back to include Computer Shopper back in the early ’90s. Amusingly enough my sister was a sales manager for CS then and does sales for Dwell now, though she never worked at Wired.

  • Or you could take the cynical view, and look at the Dwell bloat as an indicator of the coming (in progress?) housing bubble collapse, just as the Wired bloat foretold the internet bubble collapse…

  • Yeah, I originally wrote this post with Dwell as a real estate bubble indicator, but really, the bubble’s already 10-15% down across the country and Dwell continues to grow bigger each month, so I think at this point Dwell is reflecting the general financial health of wealthy 30-50 year olds that like designy things.

  • I love this idea and have often considered the various aspects of magazines I like as eco0nomic indicators. Another angle from Dwell might be how fast the prefab houses are covered and then actually built – to see the impact of magazines like Dwell on consumer choices. No idea how to gauge those numbers (the annual reports of the manufacturer’s?). I work for a site called Swivel where people can upload numbers of any kind. Would be fun to figure out how to get these types of numbers submitted via the API on a regular basis so people could play around with them.
    Love your blog by the way.
    -Sara

  • I’m not sure if this carries across to Vogue bloat, given the apparent happy times at the top end of the economy. It’d be interesting to see where the inflexion point lies between magazines that continue to swell on luxury wealth and ones that feel the mass-market pinch.

  • I know my copies of Today’s Poverty just keep on shrinking…

  • Most of Vogue is filled with advertising which equals money for Vogue…Dwell has lots more ads too, but to lovers of modernism, thats a sign of growth in interest in modernism. I find it very exciting because i am surrounded by friends, people, that can’t grasp a style outside of Pottery Barn, which may feel the mass-market pinch much more due to modernists being loyal to the style.

  • To what extent is magazine ad pages a trailing indicator? I’m not sure how far out companies buy/magazines sell ad space, but could the pages running in current issues be ones that were contracted for before the extent of the housing bubble was known?

  • I wouldn’t necessarily correlate increased spending with increased wealth. I think that more of what we are seeing is increased spending coupled with increased debt.

  • dwell has more ads, yes.
    but it also has less articles than during its early days, which aren’t all that long ago.
    it got pretty bad actually. I had a tough time finding articles worth reading in it after a while
    which is why I cancelled my subscription six months ago.

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