National Geographic


National Geographic
National Geographic Magazine March 2017 Cover.jpg
March 2017 cover of National Geographic
EditorSusan Goldberg[1]
CategoriesGeography, History, Nature, Science
Total circulation
(June 2016)
6.1 million (global)[2]
First issueSeptember 22, 1888; 133 years ago (1888-09-22)[3]
CountryUnited States
Based inWashington, D.C.[4]
LanguageEnglish and various other languages

National Geographic (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.

Historical overview

National Geographic has been published continuously since 1888, nine months after the foundation of the Society itself. Since 2019, controlling interest in the magazine has been held by The Walt Disney Company.

Current popularity and reach

As of 1995, 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.[6][7] As of 2020, its Instagram page has more followers than any account not belonging to an individual celebrity.[8] As of September 2021, it has one of the most-followed Instagram accounts with 183 million followers.


The current Editor-in-Chief of the magazine is Susan Goldberg.[1] 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.[citation needed]


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.[9] 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.[citation needed]

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, an electronic compendium 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 electronic edition of the magazine are available online to the magazine's subscribers.[citation needed]

In September 2015, the National Geographic Society moved the magazine to a new partnership, National Geographic Partners, in which 21st Century Fox held a 73% controlling interest.[10]

In December 2017, Disney acquired 21st Century Fox, including the latter's interest in National Geographic Partners.[11] NG Media publishing unit was operationally transferred into Disney Publishing Worldwide.[12]


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)[citation needed]
  • 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)[1][13][14]


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 supplementary maps of each state. Many of these articles were written by longtime staff such as Frederick Simpich.[15] There were also articles about biology and science topics.[citation needed]

In later years[when?], articles became outspoken on issues such as environmental issues, deforestation, chemical pollution, global warming, and endangered species.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18] In 2006, National Geographic began an international photography competition, with over eighteen countries participating.[19]

In conservative Muslim countries like Iran and Malaysia, 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.[citation needed]


Map supplements

Supplementing the articles, the magazine sometimes provides maps of the regions visited.[citation needed]

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.[20] 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.[21] President Franklin 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 Europe.[citation needed]

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.[22]

Language editions

First Ukrainian National Geographic magazine presentation
National Geographic English editions collection

In April 1995, National Geographic began publishing in Japanese, its first local language edition.[23] The magazine is currently published in 31 local editions around the world. [24]

Language Website Editor-in-chief First issue
English (United States) Susan Goldberg October 1888
Arabic (United Arab Emirates) Alsaad Omar Almenhaly October 2010
Bulgarian Krassimir Drumev November 2005
Chinese (Chinese mainland) Tianrang Mai July 2007
Chinese (Taiwan) Yungshih Lee January 2001
Croatian Hrvoje Prćić November 2003
Czech (Czech republic/Slovakia) Tomáš Tureček October 2002
Dutch (Netherlands/Belgium) Arno Kantelberg October 2000
English (India) Lakshmi Sankaran
Estonian Erkki Peetsalu October 2011
French Gabriel Joseph-Dezaize October 1999
Georgian Natia Khuluzauri October 2012
German Werner Siefer October 1999
Hungarian Tamás Vitray March 2003
Hebrew Idit Elnatan June 1998
Indonesian Didi Kaspi Kasim April 2005
Italian Marco Cattaneo February 1998
Japanese Shigeo Otsuka April 1995
Kazakh Yerkin Zhakipov February 2016
Korean (South Korea) Junemo Kim January 2000
Lithuanian Frederikas Jansonas October 2009
Polish Agnieszka Franus October 1999
Portuguese (Portugal) Gonçalo Pereira April 2001
Romanian Cătălin Gruia May 2003
Russian Andrei Palamarchuk October 2003
Serbian Igor Rill November 2006
Slovene Marija Javornik April 2006
Spanish (Latin America) Claudia Muzzi Turullols November 1997
Spanish (Spain) Ismael Nafría October 1997
Thai Kowit Phadungruangkij August 2001
Turkish Nesibe Bat May 2001

[citation needed]

The following local-language editions have been discontinued:

Language Website First issue Last issue Number of issues
Mongolian October 2012 June 2014 21
Greek October 1998 December 2014 194
Ukrainian April 2013 January 2015 57
Azerbaijani September 2014 December 2015 16
Latvian October 2012 March 2016 42
Farsi (Iran) October 2012 September 2018 69
Portuguese (Brazil) May 2000 November 2019 235
Danish September 2000 December 2020 263
Norwegian September 2000 December 2020 263
Swedish September 2000 December 2020 263
Finnish January 2001 December 2020 260

[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]In the United States, newsstand sales began in 1998; previously, membership in the National Geographic Society was the only way to receive the magazine.[citation needed]


On May 1, 2008, National Geographic won three National Magazine Awards—an award solely for its written content—in the reporting category for an article by Peter Hessler on the Chinese economy; an award in the photojournalism category for work by John Stanmeyer on malaria in the Third World; and a prestigious award for general excellence.[25]

Between 1980 and 2011 the magazine has won a total of 24 National Magazine Awards.[26]

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.[27]

In February 2017, National Geographic received the National Magazine Award ("Ellie") for best website.[28] National Geographic won the 2020 Webby Award for News & Magazines in the category Apps, Mobile & Voice.[29] National Geographic won the 2020 Webby Award and Webby People's Voice Award for Magazine in the category Web.[29]


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".[30]

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.[31]

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.[citation needed]

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.[32]

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.[33]

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.[34]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Masthead: National Geographic Magazine". National Geographic. July 1, 2014. Archived from the original on July 1, 2014. Retrieved July 1, 2014.
  2. ^ "AAM: Total Circ for Consumer Magazines". Alliance for Audited Media. December 31, 2013. Archived from the original on April 18, 2014. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  3. ^ Celebrating 125 years
  4. ^ "Contact Us". National Geographic. Retrieved November 29, 2015.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ Farhi, Paul (September 9, 2014). "National Geographic gives Fox control of media assets in $725 million deal". The Washington Post. Washington, DC. Retrieved July 8, 2016.
  7. ^ "National Geographic Boilerplates". National Geographic Press Room. National Geographic Society. April 2015. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved July 8, 2016. Published in English and nearly 40 local-language editions, National Geographic magazine has a global circulation of around 6.7 million.
  8. ^ "Top 100 Instagrammers". Retrieved May 26, 2021.
  9. ^ amyatwired (January 27, 2010). "Jan. 27, 1888: National Geographic Society Gets Going". Wired. Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  10. ^ Parker, Laura (September 9, 2015). "National Geographic and 21st Century Fox Expand Media Partnership". Retrieved September 9, 2015.
  11. ^ Goldman, David (December 14, 2017). "Disney buys 21st Century Fox: Who gets what". CNNMoney. Retrieved December 14, 2017.
  12. ^ Steinberg, Brian (August 29, 2019). "Disney Layoffs Affect National Geographic". Variety. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  13. ^ Bryan, C.D.B, "The National Geographic Society, 100 Years of Adventure and Discovery," Abrams Inc., New York, 1997
  14. ^ "Evolution of National Geographic Magazine" (PDF). Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  15. ^ The Complete National Geographic. ISBN 978-1-4262-9635-2.
  16. ^ Wentzel, Volmar K (1998). "GILBERT HOVEY GROSVENOR, FATHER OF PHOTOJOURNALISM". Cosmos Club. Cosmos Club. Archived from the original on February 24, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015. Photographs had unquestionably become the Magazine’s trademark. They confirmed GHG’s conviction, “If the National Geographic Magazine is to progress, it must constantly improve the quality of its illustrations...” At first he borrowed, then bought and probably would have stolen “dynamical” photographs, if in 1915 he had not engaged Franklin L. Fisher as his Chief of Illustrations.
  17. ^ Wentzel, Volmar K (1998). "GILBERT HOVEY GROSVENOR, FATHER OF PHOTOJOURNALISM". Cosmos Club. Cosmos Club. Archived from the original on February 24, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  18. ^ "Milestone Photos". Photo Galleries - Celebrating 125 Years. National Geographic Society. 2013. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  19. ^ "Named The Best Travel Photos Of The Year, And They Are Stunning". Retrieved June 29, 2018.
  20. ^ "Maps of the News – December 2009 Edition", Contours, The Official National Geographic Maps Blog, posted December 17, 2009,
  21. ^ Grosvenor, Gilbert (1950). Map Services of the National Geographic Society. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. A Map Cabinet containing over eighteen National Geographic maps has been presented to every U.S. president since President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
  22. ^ National Geographic
  23. ^ David Walker (April 1995). "Geographic names new editor; launches Japanese edition". Photo District News. 15 (4). Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Pérez-Peña, Richard. "National Geographic Wins 3 Awards, Honored Beyond Photography". The New York Times, May 2, 2008. Accessed January 8, 2010.
  26. ^ "American Society of Magazine Editors database". Archived from the original on May 26, 2011. Retrieved July 13, 2014.
  27. ^ Howard, Brian Clark (May 1, 2014). "National Geographic Wins National Magazine Awards". NGS. National Geographic Society. Retrieved January 18, 2016. The annual National Magazine Awards are considered the premier awards for magazine journalism and are administered by the American Society of Magazine Editors in association with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Winners were announced at a dinner in New York.
  28. ^ "ELLIE AWARDS 2017 WINNERS ANNOUNCED | ASME". Archived from the original on March 8, 2017. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  29. ^ a b Kastrenakes, Jacob (May 20, 2020). "Here are all the winners of the 2020 Webby Awards". The Verge. Retrieved May 22, 2020.
  30. ^ "Faking it: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop", Mia Fineman. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Retrieved 28 jan 2017
  31. ^ Paul G. Bahn (1998). The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art. Cambridge University Press. p. 154. ISBN 978-0521454735.
  32. ^ "National Geographic Admits Photo Fraud (Plus: 10 Major Photoshopping Scandals)", Antonina Jedrzejczak. Business Insider. June 11, 2010. Retrieved 28 jan 2017
  33. ^ "National Geographic admits 'racist' past". BBC News. March 13, 2018. Retrieved March 13, 2018.
  34. ^ Cox, Kate. "SpaceX launch footage was taken down thanks to bogus copyright claim". ArsTechnica. ArsTechnica. Retrieved June 1, 2020.

Further reading

  • Robert M. Poole, Explorers House: National Geographic and the World it Made, 2004; reprint, Penguin Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0-14-303593-0
  • Stephanie L. Hawkins, American Iconographic: "National Geographic," Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination, University of Virginia Press, 2010, ISBN 978-0-8139-2966-8, 264 pages. A scholarly study of the magazine's rise as a cultural institution that uses the letters of its founders and its readers; argues that National Geographic encouraged readers to question Western values and identify with others.
  • 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.

External links