The National Geographic Society published its first magazine in 1888 and printed its first stunning color photographs of far-flung locations, wild animals and exotic cultures in 1914 [source: Motavalli]. The yellow-bound magazine became a coffee-table staple for generations of American families, but started to hemorrhage subscribers in the 1990s as younger readers dismissed it as their grandparent's mag.
National Geographic Society CEO John Fahey didn't wait around for his publication to suffer the same fate as iconic photo magazines like Life. Instead, he spearheaded an effort to reinvent the National Geographic brand across all media platforms, especially the National Geographic Channel, launched in 2001 [source: Motavalli].
In its TV programming, National Geographic shifted from sober nature documentaries toward an eclectic mix of reality series like "Ultimate Survival Alaska," "Border Wars" and "Polygamy USA." Some of the credit for National Geographic's transformation belongs to Rupert Murdoch, a majority shareholder who is no stranger to sensationalistic success [source: Motavalli]. Meanwhile, social networking and photo-sharing sites have given National Geographic a whole new way to showcase its gorgeous, award-winning photography.