Sure, the pink plastic wig is cute, but it's far from the most interesting thing about Kylie Jenner's latest magazine cover.
On Monday, PAPER revealed that the youngest member of the Kardashian-Jenner brood will be featured on the cover of its April 2016 issue, titled the "YOUth issue." The cover photo, shot by Erik Madigan Heck and styled by Rushka Bergman, finds a bubblegum-haired Kylie poking her head out of a baby-blue stole with an entranced look in her eyes that says nothing if not: "I didn't even know I was nominated." Speaking of her eyes, Kylie confirmed on Instagram Monday that her facial features have been digitally altered, which explains the visual's overall uncanny valley vibe. I hope.
In short, there's a lot of shit going on in this photo. So much so that it's easy to miss out on what might be the most intriguing element in its composition.
The layout of PAPER's April 2016 cover is intended to mimic that of an official @papermagazine Instagram post, as viewed on your mobile device. There's even a fake caption in the white bar at the bottom of the cover: "Can't get enough of @kyliejenner." The design is fitting, considering Jenner's huge social media following: She has amassed more than 57 million followers on Instagram. But moving beyond PAPER itself, the cover also speaks to the ways in which the industry as a whole is adapting to a shifting media landscape, one in which social media plays a vital role.
"Today, stories should not be built for just magazines, websites or social. We should be creating images that can live comfortably across all media," Drew Elliott, PAPER's chief creative officer, said in an email to Fusion on Tuesday. "When we design our covers, and now any content that we create for that matter, social is always in our mind… Through the issue, you will see nods to Instagram including square images, handles for all of the subjects, talent and photographers. We even used the platform to source questions for Kylie Jenner."
PAPER is only the latest publication to produce magazine covers that evoke, if not straight-up mirror, the imagery you'll find on social media platforms. The September 2015 issue of Interview had eight different hashtag-ridden covers, each one featuring a selfie taken by a different celebrity, including Jennifer Lopez, Zayn Malik, Selena Gomez, and more.
Earlier this year, Playboy released a Snapchat-inspired cover to accompany its first-ever non-nude issue. The erstwhile nudie mag's March 2016 issue featured model Sarah McDaniel on the cover, her arm outstretched and just out of frame as if the photo were a selfie she had taken herself. The aesthetics even match that of a selfie, albeit one taken by an HD camera app in a preposterously light-flooded room.
Near the bottom of the cover lies Snapchat's unmistakable, transparent black text bar containing a simple "heyyy ;)," as if the cover were a snap McDaniel had sent directly to the reader. It's mundane, but that's the point. It evokes the kind of low-key sexiness that Playboy's target reader encounters on their phone every day, not the blown-out, professionally staged fantasy of centerfolds past.
Not to blow your mind or anything, but young people love social media. A 2014 Pew study found that 89% of internet users between the ages of 18 and 29 use such platforms, compared to 49% of people aged 65 and up. If magazines like PAPER, Interview, or Playboy want to counter industry-wide declines in circulation, they'll have to learn how to speak the language of those teens and twentysomethings or else perish in wizened irrelevance.
Admittedly, making a magazine cover look like an Instagram post feels a little on the nose, but it will be fascinating to watch the print industry continue to adapt to the changing media landscape—or at least it will be more fascinating than most of the answers Kylie gave in her PAPER cover's accompanying interview.
Bad at filling out bios seeks same.