Seventy-one years ago (November 23, 1936) the first issue of Life Magazine was published, featuring a cover photo of the Fort Peck Dam (see photo on left). This dam became one of the US’s greatest public works projects, a vestige of the 1930’s and an icon of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.
For most of its existence Life was successful being a sign-of-the-time. I grew up with Life magazine, just like everyone else, and loved flipping its pages and feeling a sense of being connected to current history or with events happening in far and distant places, like Vietnam or the moon. Ultimately, the mission of Life was to show the news, while Time magazine’s mission was to impart the news in an uncomplicated and undemanding way, like a picture in writing.
From History.com: "At its peak, Life had a circulation of over 8 million and it exerted considerable influence on American life" significantly from the 1930’s through the ‘50’s and early '60's but less so in the late 60’s and early ‘70’s.
Time-Warner, however, "stopped bringing out Life as a weekly publication in 1972, when it began losing audience and advertising dollars to television. In 2004, however, it resumed weekly publication as a supplement to U.S. newspapers. At its re-launch, its combined circulation was once again in the millions."
It is no longer published as a hard copy magazine. The inventory of pictures and issues are being placed on the web.
With Brook Shields adorning it's cover, how could Life remain relevant? With cable TV and the Internet offering an incredible array of content, how does Life function other than being a research resource for pictures and news from the 1950's-70's?