Gen Z is Reviving ’90s Indie Mags Now, Too
Delia*s catalogue is now a mere memory (RIP), inflatable furniture is no longer en vogue, and baby tees have been rebranded as crop tops. But zines? They’re making a comeback among Gen Z, and we can see why: they’re indie, DIY, niche-interest, and super nostalgic.
Zines are pure content
Many people want to publish their own books and magazines, but the cost of publishing combined with the unpredictable media landscape can be a huge hurdle for populations living without a strong financial foundation to invest in art.
Fortunately, access to the internet and social media have significantly reduced the economic barriers to publication. Reaching new audiences has become almost free with free and low-cost blogging platforms, social media tools, and digital distribution channels. For a generation that places such a high value on the creation of original content, zines offer one more way to showcase the group’s latent talent.
Zines were inclusive before it was cool
These reduced barriers to publication are giving rise to more indie zines, particularly those produced for and by marginalized communities. Such zines offer representation and a medium of expression for diverse populations, shedding light on populations, social issues and artforms (plus a whole lot more) that are often overlooked or even marginalized by traditional glossies.
For instance, in a case study of The People of Color Zines Project (POCZP), a University of London researcher found that 76% of the zines created by members of the project discussed racism or race, 68% discussed feminism or sexism, and 56% discussed sexuality or gender identity. This is familiar territory for the medium, too: the riot grrrl feminist movement of the ‘90s launched an estimated 40,000 zines that took a deep dive into everything from Bikini Kill to bisexual pride.
Smash cut to today, and zines focused on diversity have grown so popular, there are special events dedicated to celebrating them. The L.A. Zine Fest which has been hosted since 2012 has seen a rise in the number of queer artists, women artists, and artists of color. First-time and longtime zine makers from marginalized communities are welcomed into these events, creating space for art, expression, and lived-experience narratives that are crowded out elsewhere.
However, for a generation whose playground was the internet, there’s been plenty of space for keen interests in niche topics to develop. They want to dive deeper, follow their curiosities, and engage with themes more directly related to their lives. Love synthpop? There’s a zine for you. Karaoke? Good news. Want more? You got it, boss. Zines can be about anything, so they cover just about everything.
Zines are a way for Gen Z to time travel. From creating vintage-style zines to writing about reviving old trends, zines are giving both creators and readers a sweet nostalgic touch. In fact, some zines are combining it all: diverse representation, niche interest, and a focus on nostalgic topics to offer something so unique and needed that Gen Z feels seen and heard through these little self-published booklets.
The answer, as always, is yes.
But it can be done! (Remember Delia*s?) The best solution might be in the question itself. That’s right, we’re talking user generated content (UGC) Work with Gen Z-ers to launch a niche ‘zine, focus on diverse topics and organically promote your brand so you’re reaching your target audience while building a loyal readership. It’s a win-win.
However, a word of caution. There’s a right and wrong way to participate, and the wrong way will often come in the form of schlocky, performative allyship and anything that screams “sponsored content”. Look, you don’t have to go far to see brands and topics that have inspired their own fandoms. (Sneakerheads, anyone?) If you’ve got a base of fans, the potential is there for UGC. You just have to nurture it.
Video: what zines does Gen Z want to flip through?
We wanted some straight-from-the-source insights on just how big of a deal this whole zine thing is, anyway, so we asked our panel. What we found is that even when they have yet to actually crack open a zine, not only is awareness of the medium high, they even have a few ideas of their own.
If you liked that, we’re thrilled to tell you that you ain’t seen nothing yet. Our Gen Z panel is over 60,000 Zoomers strong, and we can get you connected with them to get answers and insights to your own questions — fast. Ready to get started? Click that button below to start connecting with the next generation of consumers today.
Subscribe for Gen Z insights delivered weekly.
Get access to our free newsletter to stay a step ahead on Gen Z's latest trends driving the industries of tomorrow.