knit gen z and zines

Generation Z(ine):

Gen Z is Reviving ’90s Indie Mags Now, Too

Remember zines? Those mini-mags that the world was so wild about in the ‘90’s that freaking Delia*s used the format for their seasonal catalog for teens and tweens to order inflatable furniture and baby tees from? (And that, my friends, is how you write a sentence that is a complete and utter time capsule.)

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.

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 Platforms like Instagram have seen a huge rise in the launch of e-zines. These zines operate entirely online. They post calls for submissions, share behind-the-scenes photos and videos, launch new issues, host competitions and giveaways, and conduct sales on social media.

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.

There’s no interest too niche for zines 

Most mainstream magazines focus on broader issues. There are health and wellness magazines, technology magazines, travel magazines, and even general life magazines, but these typically cover surface-level topics. 

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.

And if they don’t? You can fix that with a zine of your own. In fact, zines cover so many topics that they require their own taxonomy. A few of the more popular genres and subgenres include fanizines, perzines (personal + zine, get it?), art zines, scene zines, music zines, political zines, network zines, and comix. That’s far from a full list, and these days, zines can be delivered to readers in physical or digital formats, increasingly both. Niche interest zines like these can be a game-changer for both readers and zine makers who want to create and consume content on niche topics – something that isn’t always available through mainstream magazines. 

And of course, zines hold nostalgia appeal for Gen Z

While reduced barriers, diverse representation, and niche interest are the top reasons for the rapid rise in Zine popularity, another key factor playing a crucial role in the growing trend is nostalgia. The bittersweet craving for things of the past! 

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 takeaway for brands: should you make a zine for Gen Z?

If you are a brand or a marketing team interested in marketing to Gen Z, you might be wondering if a ‘zine is a good way to connect with them, or if getting into the ‘zine publishing game will come off as bandwaggoning.
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.

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