Lifestyle Journalism Dictates Consumption

January 11, 2013 • Specialist Journalism • by

Despite increased popularity over the past two decades, lifestyle journalism is still somewhat neglected by academic researchers. A new study, presented at the “Matters of Journalism: Understanding Professional Challenges and Dilemmas” conference in Gdańsk, Poland, uses in-depth interviews to explore the professional views of 89 Australian and German lifestyle journalists, in order to examine the ways in which they influence their audiences’ self-expression, identities, and consumption behaviors. Lifestyle journalism is usually defined as the journalistic coverage of the expressive values and practices that help create and signify a specific identity within the realm of consumption and everyday life.  In a journalistic field faced with unprecedented technological and financial challenges, lifestyle journalism has increasing social relevance.

As audiences for mainstream news appear to be dwindling, lifestyle content has attracted new audiences, a development some see as beneficial, having the potential to popularize knowledge. Yet, while lifestyle television shows have been studied in some detail, there have been precious few analyses of the specific field of lifestyle journalism. In response to the lack of research, particularly regarding the production of lifestyle journalism, a comparative study on Germany and Australia provides in-depth analysis of how lifestyle journalists make sense of their work, specifically in terms of their professional views and the ways in which they differentiate themselves from mainstream news journalists.

By administering in-depth interviews with 89 lifestyle journalists from Australia and Germany, the study found a variety of specific role perceptions, which include providing entertainment and relaxation services, advice and “news-you-can-use” in daily life, inspiration, suggestions for achieving positive attitudes toward life, and exemplars of desired lifestyle. As the results indicate, these role perceptions can be traced back to the ongoing transformations of modern society. Lifestyle journalists address their audiences as consumers, offering them practice and specific advice. In doing so, they offer exemplars of lifestyles. By providing new ideas and inspiration about various consumer items that help consumers live a certain type of life, all areas of lifestyle journalism effectively engage consumers and influence the formation of their identities.

While lifestyle journalists see their product as being distinctly different from their mainstream news counterparts, they also see themselves firmly as journalists, who are committed to some of the basic tenets of journalism. This is what distinguishes lifestyle journalism from broader lifestyle programming. Its practitioners are typically journalistically trained, having a background in news journalism, even though there appears to be a small trend toward specialized training. Thus, while there is a similar core foundation which they have in common with news journalism, lifestyle journalists distinguish themselves through their focus on consumption, self-expression, and the signification of identity.

Hanitzsch, Thomas; Hanusch, Folker: Reporting on leisure: Exploring lifestyle journalists’ professional views, International conference Matters of Journalism: Understanding Professional Challenges and Dilemmas. Gdansk, 14-15 September 2012.

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