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National Geographic will stop selling its regular printed issues on newsstands


Earlier this month, photographer Kiliii Yuyan stood in front of a newsstand.


KILIII YUYAN: Today is a bittersweet day for me.

MARTÍNEZ: He held several copies of the latest issue of National Geographic. On the cover, an image of a sea snake, almost glowing, striped blue and black and streaming toward the ocean's surface.


YUYAN: My photograph is the cover of National Geographic's Pictures of the Year. But unfortunately, it's also the last issue of the magazine to ever be on newsstands. The end of an era and the start of another.


Next month, National Geographic will stop selling its regular printed issues on newsstands in the U.S. It caps a year of layoffs at the publication and its parent company, Disney. For Yuyan, who remembers growing up with stacks of the magazines in his parents' basement, it's a funny feeling.

YUYAN: Not seeing that iconic yellow border, like, in front of you when you're at the airport or whatever will be, certainly, I think, a huge change for people.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, this doesn't mean the monthly magazine is over. It'll still go out to subscribers. And National Geographic says newsstands are only a small part of its circulation.

FADEL: Still, the power of a magazine on a newsstand can be profound. In 1985, National Geographic famously published a cover known as "Afghan Girl." She was one of millions of refugees at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. With a deep red scarf and bright green eyes, she looked out from that cover, and people could not look away.


STEVE MCCURRY: This was the first time in her life she had ever been photographed.

MARTÍNEZ: That's photographer Steve McCurry, who spoke to All Things Considered in 2015 about meeting the girl in a makeshift classroom.


MCCURRY: Her name was Sharbat Gula. She put her hands - kind of covered her face, her mouth. And the teacher said, no, no, you should let him photograph you because it's important for the world to know our story.

MARTÍNEZ: McCurry later reflected that Gula's image became synonymous with Afghan refugees and with Afghanistan itself.

FADEL: Yuyan says, in a downsizing industry, a challenge for photographers is engaging people where they are.

YUYAN: We are learning how to get all that journalism into that social media content and figure out how to help get people directed over to the long-form journalism that we do.

FADEL: The latest National Geographic featuring Kiliii Yuyan's cover photo is available on newsstands. But next month, that yellow-framed cover will be gone.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.