(formerly the National Geographic Magazine
, sometimes branded as NAT GEO
) is the long-lived official monthly magazine of the National Geographic Society
. It is one of the most widely read magazines of all time.
Topics of features generally concern science, geography, history, and world culture. The magazine is well known for its distinctive appearance: a thick square-bound glossy format with a yellow rectangular border and its use of dramatic photography. The magazine is published monthly. Additional map supplements are also included with subscriptions. It is available in a traditional printed edition and through an interactive online edition.
Current popularity and reach
As of 2015, the magazine was circulated worldwide in nearly 40 local-language editions and had a global circulation of approximately 6.5 million per month according to data published by The Washington Post
(down from about 12 million in the late 1980s) or 6.7 million according to National Geographic. This includes a US
circulation of 3.5 million.
As of 2020, its Instagram page has more followers than any account not belonging to an individual celebrity.
The current Editor-in-Chief
of the magazine is Susan Goldberg
Goldberg is also Editorial Director for National Geographic Partners, overseeing the print and digital expression of National Geographic's editorial content across its media platforms including National Geographic
magazine. She is responsible for the news, National Geographic Traveler
magazine, National Geographic History
magazine, and maps. She is also responsible for all the editorial digital content with the exception of National Geographic Books and Kids
. Goldberg reports to Gary Knell, CEO of National Geographic Partners.
January 1915 cover of The National Geographic Magazine
The first issue of the National Geographic Magazine
was published on September 22, 1888, nine months after the Society was founded. It was initially a scholarly journal sent to 165 charter members and currently it reaches the hands of 40 million people each month.
Starting with its January 1905 publication of several full-page pictures of Tibet in 1900–01, the magazine changed from being a text-oriented publication closer to a scientific journal to featuring extensive pictorial content, and became well known for this style. The June 1985 cover portrait of the presumed to be 12-year-old Afghan girl Sharbat Gula
, shot by photographer Steve McCurry
, became one of the magazine's most recognizable images.
National Geographic Kids
, the children's version of the magazine, was launched in 1975 under the name National Geographic World
In the late 1990s, the magazine began publishing The Complete National Geographic
, a digital collection of every past issue of the magazine. It was then sued over copyright of the magazine as a collective work
in Greenberg v. National Geographic
and other cases, and temporarily withdrew the availability of the compilation. The magazine would prevail in the dispute, and in July 2009, resumed republishing containing all past issues through December 2008. The collection was later updated to make more recent issues available, and the archive and digital edition of the magazine are available online to the magazine's subscribers.
The magazine had a single "editor" from 1888 to 1920. From 1920 to 1967, the chief editorship was held by the president of the National Geographic Society
. Since 1967, the magazine has been overseen by its own "editor" and/or "editor-in-chief". The list of editors-in-chief includes three generations of the Grosvenor family between 1903 and 1980.
- John Hyde: (October 1888 – September 1900; Editor-in-Chief: September 1900 – February 1903)
- Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor (1875–1966): (Editor-in-Chief: February 1903 – January 1920; Managing Editor: September 1900 – February 1903; Assistant Editor: May 1899 – September 1900)
- Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor: (1920–1954) (president of the society and editor-in-chief at the same time)
- John Oliver La Gorce (1879–1959): (May 1954 – January 1957) (president of the society at the same time)
- Melville Bell Grosvenor (1901–1982): (January 1957 – August 1967) (president of the society at the same time) (thereafter editor-in-chief to 1977)
- Frederick Vosburgh (1905–2005): (August 1967 – October 1970)
- Gilbert Melville Grosvenor (1931– ): (October 1970 – July 1980) (then became president of the society)
- Wilbur E. Garrett: (July 1980 – April 1990)
- William Graves: (April 1990 – December 1994)
- William L. Allen: (January 1995 – January 2005)
- Chris Johns: (January 2005 – April 2014) (first "editor-in-chief" since MBG)
- Susan Goldberg: (April 2014 – present)
During the Cold War
, the magazine committed itself to presenting a balanced view of the physical and human geography of nations beyond the Iron Curtain
. The magazine printed articles on Berlin, de-occupied Austria
, the Soviet Union
, and Communist China that deliberately downplayed politics to focus on culture. In its coverage of the Space Race
, National Geographic
focused on the scientific achievement while largely avoiding reference to the race's connection to nuclear arms buildup. There were also many articles in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s about the individual states and their resources, along with supplement maps of each state. Many of these articles were written by longtime staff such as Frederick Simpich
There were also articles about biology and science topics.
In later years[when?]
, articles became outspoken on issues such as environmental issues
, chemical pollution
, global warming
, and endangered species
Series of articles were included focusing on the history and varied uses of specific products such as a single metal, gem, food crop, or agricultural product, or an archaeological discovery. Occasionally an entire month's issue would be devoted to a single country, past civilization, a natural resource whose future is endangered, or other theme. In recent decades, the National Geographic Society has unveiled other magazines
with different focuses. Whereas in the past, the magazine featured lengthy expositions, recent issues have shorter articles.
Color photograph of the Taj Mahal
. Source: The National Geographic Magazine
, March 1921
In addition to being well known for articles about scenery, history, and the most distant corners of the world, the magazine has been recognized for its book-like quality and its standard of photography. It was during the tenure of Society President Alexander Graham Bell
and editor Gilbert H. Grosvenor (GHG) that the significance of illustration was first emphasized, in spite of criticism from some of the Board of Managers who considered the many illustrations an indicator of an “unscientific” conception of geography. By 1910, photographs had become the magazine's trademark and Grosvenor was constantly on the search for "dynamical pictures" as Graham Bell called them, particularly those that provided a sense of motion in a still image. In 1915, GHG began building the group of staff photographers and providing them with advanced tools including the latest darkroom.
The magazine began to feature some pages of color photography
in the early 1930s, when this technology was still in its early development. During the mid-1930s, Luis Marden
(1913–2003), a writer and photographer for National Geographic
, convinced the magazine to allow its photographers to use the so-called "miniature" 35 mm Leica cameras loaded with Kodachrome
film over bulkier cameras with heavy glass plates
that required the use of tripods
In 1959, the magazine started publishing small photographs on its covers, later becoming larger photographs. National Geographic photography quickly shifted to digital photography for both its printed magazine and its website. In subsequent years, the cover, while keeping its yellow border, shed its oak leaf trim and bare table of contents, to allow for a full page photograph taken for one of the month's articles. Issues of National Geographic
are often kept by subscribers for years and re-sold at thrift stores as collectibles. The standard for photography has remained high over the subsequent decades and the magazine is still illustrated with some of the highest-quality photojournalism
in the world.
In 2006, National Geographic
began an international photography competition, with over eighteen countries participating.
In conservative Muslim countries like Iran
, photographs featuring topless or scantily clad members of primitive tribal societies are often blacked out
; buyers and subscribers often complain that this practice decreases the artistic value of the photographs for which National Geographic is world-renowned.
Supplementing the articles, the magazine sometimes provides maps of the regions visited. National Geographic Maps
(originally the Cartographic Division) became a division of the National Geographic Society in 1915. The first supplement map, which appeared in the May 1918 issue of the magazine, titled The Western Theatre of War
, served as a reference for overseas military personnel and soldiers' families alike.
On some occasions, the Society's map archives have been used by the United States government in instances where its own cartographic
resources were limited.PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
's White House
map room was filled with National Geographic maps. A National Geographic map of Europe is featured in the displays of the Winston Churchill museum
in London showing Churchill's markings at the Yalta Conference
where the Allied
leaders divided post-war
In 2001, National Geographic
released an eight-CD-ROM
set containing all its maps from 1888 to December 2000. Printed versions are also available from the National Geographic website.
National Geographic magazine presentation
National Geographic English editions collection
In April 1995, National Geographic
began publishing in Japanese, its first local language edition.
The magazine is currently published in 33 local editions around the world. 
The following local-language editions have been discontinued:
In association with Trends Publications in Beijing
and IDG Asia, National Geographic
has been authorized for "copyright cooperation" in China to publish the yellow border magazine, which launched with the July 2007 issue of the magazine with an event in Beijing on July 10, 2007 and another event on December 6, 2007 in Beijing also celebrating the 29th anniversary of normalization of U.S.–China relations featuring former President Jimmy Carter
. The mainland China version is one of the two local-language editions that bump the National Geographic
logo off its header in favor of a local-language logo; the other one is the Persian
version published under the name Gita Nama
Worldwide editions are sold on newsstands in addition to regular subscriptions. In several countries, such as Hungary, Slovenia, Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine National Geographic
paved the way for a subscription model in addition to traditional newsstand sales.
In the United States, newsstand sales began in 1998; previously, membership in the National Geographic Society was the only way to receive the magazine.
Between 1980 and 2011 the magazine has won a total of 24 National Magazine Awards.
In May 2006, 2007, and 2011 National Geographic
magazine won the American Society of Magazine Editors
' General Excellence Award in the over two million circulation category. In 2010, National Geographic Magazine received the top ASME awards for photojournalism and essay. In 2011, National Geographic Magazine received the top-award from ASME—the Magazine of the Year Award.
In April 2014, National Geographic
received the National Magazine Award ("Ellie") for best tablet edition for its multimedia presentation of Robert Draper's story "The Last Chase," about the final days of a tornado researcher who was killed in the line of duty.
On the magazine's February 1982 cover, the pyramids of Giza were altered, resulting in the first major scandal of the digital photography age and contributing to photography's "waning credibility".
The cover of the October 1988 issue featured a photo of a large ivory male portrait whose authenticity, particularly the alleged Ice Age
provenance, has been questioned.
In 1999, the magazine was embroiled in the Archaeoraptor
scandal, in which it purported to have a fossil linking birds to dinosaurs. The fossil was a forgery.
In 2010, the magazine's Your Shot competition was awarded to William Lascelles for a photograph presented as a portrait of a dog with fighter jets flying over its shoulder. Lascelles had, in reality, created the image using photo editing software.
In March 2018, the editor of National Geographic, Susan Goldberg
said that historically the magazine's coverage of people around the world had been racist
. Goldberg stated that the magazine ignored non-white Americans and showed different groups as exotic, thereby promoting racial clichés.
On May 31, 2020, a Content ID
bot filed a false copyright claim on YouTube on behalf of National Geographic against a public domain NASA video of the launch of SpaceX's Crew Dragon Demo-2
mission which was also distributed by National Geographic on YouTube. The video was restored the following day on June 1.
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- Moseley, W.G. 2005. “Reflecting on National Geographic Magazine and Academic Geography: The September 2005 Special Issue on Africa” African Geographical Review. 24: 93–100.
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