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Circulation: 216,000
Date of Birth: 2004
Frequency: Monthly
Price: $3.99
Natural habitat: In the stack of outdated magazines on the coffee table of a 16-, 17- or 18-year-old “urban” wannabe

By Afton Ginlock

Giant magazine is a pop-culture glossy that attempts to cover the latest trends and happenings under the broad umbrella of “urban.” This has been a successful niche for some other publications—notably Vibe and Urb —but Giant seems to aspire to surpass its predecessors. Its efforts fall far short.

It claims to reach out to mostly black readers between the ages of 21 and 35, with a median household income of $59,000, but its content seems years (and thousands of dollars) off. Bold, catchy covers, like the one on its December/January 2008 issue featuring a close-up of Alicia Keys with her hair in a wavy ponytail blowing a big pink bubble, imply a feeling of fun and spontaneity that are, regrettably, missing in the issue’s content. The boilerplate layout and uneven writing demonstrate a lack of creativity and direction. The magazine bounces around between entertainment, fashion and business features, with no real unifying force.

The bulk of the pages feature overstylized, gaudy urban street wear, amid fashion ads, all replete with digitally enhanced models posed against vibrant, multicolored backgrounds—in very little clothing—or images of monolithic male figures posturing in various street settings. It is often hard to tell the editorial features from the ads.

Predictably, there are the pages of gratuitous “exclusive celebrity event” shots, titled “Giant After Hours,” where unknown Giant staffers mingle with the beautiful people and have their pictures taken to show how cool and connected they are.

There’s also a section that boasts a focus on “media + trends + lifestyle,” full of shiny, sophisticated celebs, with a few “Future Giants” thrown in for edgy measure. The interviews are short, with lame pull-quotes such as one from Tim Roth: “When I was 18, I wrote to Scorsese and Coppola.” Well, Tim, when I was young I wrote to Oprah and Mark-Paul Gosselaar of Saved by the Bell , but who cares?

In “Power Points,” celebrities list 10 things they—or rather, their publicists—feel you should know about them. In “Roid Rage,” self-proclaimed “Polaroid Artist” Jeremy Kost snaps star-studded shots and adds digital marker captions and doodles to doll them up.

The “G Things” section offers staff picks for grooming, dress and accoutrements, while “Elements of Style” captures celebrities in the latest red-carpet couture. Paltry album reviews with arbitrary star ratings are buried in the back of the magazine. They should just be buried, period—they feature obscure and sometimes irrelevant albums, and are written amateurishly.

If this all sounds slightly familiar, that’s because it is—in a kid-sister sort of way, with echoes of Teen Vogue and CosmoGirl! Not only does Giant travel down a well-worn path, it does so without breaking any new ground. It feels disjointed, much like the tastes of the youthful internet-downloading and file-sharing audience it claims not to target. Giant needs to be aware of another attribute of this group: short attention spans. With costs rising and revenues falling in the print world, if Giant can’t find its own voice, it may soon find itself in the publishing graveyard with the likes of Grand Slam and Rap Pages.

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Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism
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