Archive for the ‘Grade: A’ Category

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Every Day With Rachael Ray (www.rachaelraymag.com)

Issue reviewed: March 2011

Audience

  • median age: 42.6
  • median HHI: $71,166
  • 91% women
  • spends an average of 53 minutes reading each issue

Editorial

If you’re not hungry when you pick up Every Day With Rachael Ray, you will be by the time you finish. Fluffy eggs, drizzled gravies, plump shrimp and juicy tomatoes are pictured on nearly every page — trust me, you’ll want to eat something afterward. The editor, Liz Vaccariello, said the Rachael Ray brand is about “taste, ease and value” and that her personal tenets are being “fun, easy and real.” The reader can sense these principles: Throughout the magazine are fun photos, bite-size articles, whimsical fonts and colors, and budget-friendly price tags. This is not a stuffy cookbook for culinary students; rather, it is a pocket guide for a busy mom who fancies serving her family real meals.

Design

The design is excellent. The photos are great — but really, what kind of cooking magazine would have crappy photography? Other design elements stand on their own, such as font choices, type colors, icons and sidebar treatments. One consistent design element, though, that is unattractive is the colored bar striped across the top of many of the pages. It’s a section header, made to let the reader know what the conversation on the page is about, but the color on the Talk section (a bright green) is really kind of gross, and the bar takes up too much space (that is, it goes all the way across and detracts too much from the page).

What’s Best

  • Features: In this issue, Every Day went searching for the country’s best hot dog in Go Away: Your Ticket to a Great Escape. The whole feature was so clever: Three hot dog tasters from the blog Serious Eats traveled across America and stopped in hot dog joints of all shapes and sizes. In a basketball bracket style of competition, the doggers pitted 64 hot dog joints against each other, narrowed them down to The Sweet Sixteen, profiled The Final Four with mouth-watering photography, and then named the winner with a story about Gene & Jude’s (the best dog maker) and with a follow-up story about Chicago hot dogs in general. In all, Every Day dedicated a generous nine pages to this feature. That is the type of in-depth coverage readers appreciate about magazines, and I love that Every Day gives that to its fans.
  • Fun ideas: Every Day dedicated four pages to a how-to on Family Movie Night, including creating invitations or “press releases” for the kids, recipes for the family and movie-appropriate menus (such as pizzas for Ratatouille).
  • Photos: Did I mention the photos? All I know is, I’m super-hungry right now.

What’s Worst

  • Font craziness: On a couple of occasions (most notably in the feature “Batter Up”), the headline type is so, er …. creative, that it’s difficult to read. Vertical type is generally a no-no, but especially so when you let the letters float in a non-line and stick another word inside one of the letters. I’m all for having fun with headlines, but they should always be easy to read. Sometimes, though, the designers get it right, as they did with “You’re Gonna Need a Steak Knife,” which was carved into wood with — you guessed it — a steak knife.

Overall Opinion

Every Day With Rachael Ray is very much like the character of Rachael herself — a little all over the place, a fan of easy and fun, and always looking for a party. The magazine does a great job of capturing her tone, as well, with words like “faves” and “delish” and “cool.” It feels like Rachael put together every page, and for fans of her work, that’s amazing. That, along with some of the creative concepts and recipes, earn Every Day an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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New York (www.nymag.com)

Issue reviewed: September 27, 2010, Vol. 43, No. 30

  • Published in New York, N.Y., by New York Media LLC
  • Circulation: 427,000; 7.4 million unique views per month online
  • 110 pages, saddlestitch

Audience

  • median age: 44
  • median HHI: $94,604
  • 36% professional/managerial, 16% top management at their companies
  • 52% women

Editorial

The writing is so good throughout New York. I kept skimming articles so I could get through the magazine a little faster, but they kept drawing me in and I’d end up reading the whole piece. So I didn’t get through it very quickly! New York’s writing is informative, sympathetic, diverse and eclectic. Until you get to the last few pages, which are about what to do and where to do it, New York appeals to readers anywhere in the country who care about politics and entertainment.

Design

The design is good in parts but lacking in others. On The Approval Matrix, the last page of the Sept. 27 issue, it’s a cute idea — separating people, books, songs, shows, etc., into quadrants of interest (highbrow/lowbrow and brilliant/despicable). The content is very good, but the page lacks a focal point or that one great thing that makes you read the page. Good photos, just not draw-you-in use of the photos.

What’s Best

  • Comments: On page 6, New York includes a summary of reader commentary about articles in a previous issue. The comments are written prose style, so you’re actually reading a story about what people thought of the topics. Very smart, very engaging. And who wouldn’t, after reading this section, want to submit their comments to the New York e-mail address?
  • The Neighborhood News: This graphic representation of a few city news briefs is so readable. The blocks of copy are so short and random (“Lady Gaga ordered a pizza to go at the Grimaldi’s takeout counter.”) that you can’t help but read them.
  • Illustrations: New York uses tons of illustrations — including tons of cartoons/comic strips to illustrate celebrity-isms, like in Gossipmonger, and to highlight political issues, like at the beginning of Intelligencer. Original and fun to read.

What’s Worst

  • Comments: Is it ironic that I have the same section in under “worst” as I do “best”? The reason is, I love the content. I really dislike the design. It’s so plain, so textbook, so uninviting. New York, please don’t let readers skip over this great section because they’re not invited to read it!
  • Gray matter: I’m a big fan of words and of using a lot of them. But some of the pages are so full of gray copy that the reader hesitates to jump in. On the pages where the designers got to design, the graphics generally looked great. But on mostly-words pages, it’s apparent the designers lost the battle against space, time and the almighty editorial department.

Overall Opinion

New York is an interesting read, even for a non-New Yorker like me. I would definitely pick up another copy. In some spots, the design looks a little dated, although I assume that’s because New York’s staff is trying to maintain some sense of old-school, the-standard, newsy-type look. I don’t fault them that, but I would enjoy more color and more white space. But for its value as a resource (along with its complementary website) and as a guide to the politics and entertainment its readers enjoy, I give New York an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Backpacker (www.backpacker.com)

Issue reviewed: November 2010

  • Published in Boulder, Colo., by Active Interest Media
  • Circulation: 340,000
  • 104 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • median HHI: $73,476
  • median age: 39.6
  • 66% male
  • hikers, campers, outdoorsy folks

Editorial

The tone of Backpacker is snarky — and really fun to read! Interspersed with trail information, gear reviews and hiking how-tos are self-mocking quotes like this one: “From 2002 to 2003, we seemed to have sex on the brain. Some high (or low) lights: To promote ‘proper care of the family jewels,’ ‘Healthy Hiking for Men’ (5/02) delves into unsavory topics such as rashes, testicular torsion, and chafing. For the latter, it introduces the (drumroll, please) Bandanna Harness. … Our deepest regrets.”

If you want to read or see more of this magazine, you can look at every issue of Backpacker, from 1973 to 2009, at Google Books. How cool is that? I mean, you can look at every single page of every single issue. I love living in this time!

Design

Backpacker is masterful at integrating its design and editorial — which is not such an easy task. The maps are illustrated with copy interspersed throughout and with each graphic really meaning something, with a related key that’s easy to follow. I’m especially happy to be reviewing this issue because it’s “The Best of Backpacker,” and it has the staff picks of the best photos and articles, a cool contents page, and tons of lists. It’s all-in-all a very well-planned and exciting issue.

What’s Best

  • Contents: What a fun idea for a different way to organize a contents page for a “best of” issue: Show the covers of the issues referenced throughout with the page numbers directing the reader! What’s especially neat about that is the opportunity to see all the different treatments of the nameplate, the photo and the cover blurbs over the last four decades.
  • Photography: This is too obvious. It’s the best photos in the history of a magazine that has cherishes nature photography, so there’s some really beautiful photos. I imagine most of Backpacker’s readers fantasize about the opportunity to capture one of these masterpieces while out on the trail (or to at least see one of them), and that’s what keeps many going back.
  • Where are they now?: This is a small chunk the editors used throughout this issue that is a great element. It gives readers an update on people Backpacker reported on years ago. Examples are an 8-year-old hiker who accomplished the goals he set in a 1997 issue; a teenager profiled in the first issue of the magazine who’s now retired an worked on a hiker association’s board; and a persona from 1999 who now has his own TV show.
  • Dissenting opinion: This nugget is at the end of some of the hikes in the article covering the 20 best trips ever. Instead of just listing each of the 20 as if they are truly 100% the best hikes, they show you why some people disagree. Here’s one: “The green tunnel is best for hippies and post-grads who want to be able to cell-phone in a pizzy delivery from a trailside hut.”

What’s Worst

  • Editor’s Note: I like reading editor’s picks as much as the next guy, but I wish the Editor’s Note in this special issue had not been reduced to a list of the editor’s favorite articles. Because the rest of the issue is so list-y, it would have been nice here to read why the editor, Jonathan Dorn,  liked ONE article so much or what accounts for Backpacker’s longevity or when the first time he read Backpacker was and what impression it made on him. Insight here would have been better than a Top 10 list.
  • The Master Chef: This section should be awesome, and the information in it is. But it’s not appetizing to look at. It has four great photos, and the rest is really gray copy. It feels like this page should be opened up more to show off how good the content is. (One of the recipes, if you’re interested, is Earthworm Patty Supreme. Nasty!) It’s not really designed differently than sections The Mileage Monster or The Intrepid Explorer (which look good), but it felt to me like The Master Chef needed more space.

Overall Opinion

I’m not an outdoorsy person, but I still really enjoyed going through Backpacker. For the most part, it’s a feast for the eyes and the articles and silly comments beg a smile. I can’t imagine a backpacker enthusiast who doesn’t read this magazine because it really is chock-full of interesting and informative pieces. For these reasons, I give Backpacker Magazine an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website (which is an incredible complement to the magazine) and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Cincinnati (www.cincinnatimagazine.com)

Issue reviewed: October 2010

  • Published in Cincinnati, Ohio, by Cincinnati Magazine/Emmis Publishing LP
  • Circulation: 261,480 cumulative readership
  • 220 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • average HHI: $219,000
  • 32.8% are millionaires
  • 72.5% married
  • average age: 54.7
  • 60% female

Editorial

The editorial content of Cincinnati Magazine is a human-interest-lover’s delight. Starting off with a personal look at the Cincinnati Cyclones and following it up with an appeals attorney’s take on shoe styles and a short feature on a local woodworker. One fun story to read is I Scream For Justin, an article written by a dad who chaperoned his teen daughter to a Justin Bieber concert. Long features on a renowned circuit bender and a family that adopted two Haitian children add depth to the magazine’s human interest angle. Items of local interest include a Cincinnati question-and-answer section by Dr. Know and a thorough dining guide that stretches across 15 pages.

Design

Cincinnati uses great lines — thick black bars for separation, thin horizontal or vertical bars in a series to drop copy off of, and colored bars near the folio to differentiate by section. These lines are cohesive throughout, tying page 4 to page 216, and make each page a pleasure to sift through. The color palette is eye-catching: Bright colors, like greens, oranges and blues, are used in big bursts, but black dominates the design. The overall design tends to be more masculine than feminine but is pleasing enough to be appreciated by both sexes.

What’s Best

  • Letter from the Editor: The editor’s note by Jay Stowe is just right — it shows personality, tells a little of his personal history, and sets the reader up for thinking about college towns, which is the theme of the issue. Over on the right is a list with page numbers of the stories he mentions in his editorial. He opts for subtly directing the reader to the stories rather than the hard sell that some other editors go for. You can read it here.
  • Tiny doses of information: Cincinnati plays with the line that the editor’s note used to direct readers into the magazine; In Frontlines, the line is called Power Play and four 50- to 100-word items of related information protrude from it. In a profile of DJ Apryl Reign, the line is called Vital Stats, and three short info boxes about her play off the line. In Storefront, the line is called Covet and lists three products with their prices. The line is a cool design element that is incorporated into stories well and often.
  • Photography: The designers benefit from tons of great photos and the space to use them.

What’s Worst

  • Special advertising sections: Although I’m sure it was very profitable for Cincinnati Magazine to add in the special advertising sections Innovations in Healthcare (17 pages), The Kitchen, Bath & Remodeling Show program (29 pages) and the Five Star Wealth Managers (32 pages), these sections add up to 78 pages of advertorial copy. It’s difficult to get past all those pages to get to the stuff you really want to read. Sure, it bulks up the magazine, but it makes the reader work harder to get around it.

Overall Opinion

I have never been to Cincinnati before, but if I ever go, I will be sure to attend a Cincinnati Cyclones game, visit the Holy Cross Church to see the tree art, and dine at Tony’s because the magazine made each of the experiences sound appealing, even to a complete outsider. The design of this magazine is really strong, and the stories within its pages are compelling and interesting. For these reasons, I give Cincinnati Magazine an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Yoga Journal (www.yogajournal.com)

Issue reviewed: November 2010, Issue 233

  • Published in San Francisco, Calif., by Cruz Bay Publishing Inc./Active Interest Media
  • Circulation: 350,000
  • 120 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • average HHI: $84,120
  • yoga practitioners

Editorial

Yoga Journal gives the appearance of being very basic material that anyone who has taken a single yoga class, or who has some appreciation for the practice, could jump right into and “get” immediately. But it is not light reading. Once the reader reaches the features, about halfway through the book, the stories stretch for 6 to 7 pages each, and the content assumes the reader has a thorough enough knowledge to skip defining such concepts as samsara and asana. And the magazine does not focus on how to do the newest, coolest pose — very little of the content focuses on poses. The yogic lifestyle is the overriding force — the thoughts, behaviors, diets, spirituality, medicinal and physical aspects of the lifestyle are discussed in-depth.

Design

Yoga Journal has pleasing colors throughout and makes good use of white space. Some of the elements in the magazine are really fresh — such as the parenthesis around deck heads. Some others, like the thought balloons, dotted lines and double lines, are less original but still appealing. The photography is diverse and interesting: The shots of yoga poses are artistic, and the food photography is very well done (and very appetizing!).

What’s Best

  • Editor’s Note: Although editor Kaitlin Quistgaard doesn’t let the reader learn about Ms. Quistgaard at all, she does do a good job of shaping the theme of the November issue in the editor’s letter, Reality Show. She previews three of the articles in the issue and ties them all together — that yoga helps its practitioners better see and accept the truths at hand.
  • Ayurveda: This section in the shorts department, Om, is made up of two single pages addressing Ayurveda (the science of life) — how to take care of your skin based on what type you are (fire, earth, water, air). It’s a beautiful layout of products, displayed like meals and accented with flora. It’s a unique approach to what amounts to a short product guide.
  • Web integration: Throughout the magazine are references to bonus material on Yoga Journal’s website — and it has tons of extra content in the form of photos, videos, articles and blogs. The website is a great companion to the magazine, and is strong enough to stand completely on its own for someone who doesn’t have a subscription and is just getting started and needs a primer.

What’s Worst

  • Cover: The left-hand side of the cover features a strip that breaks the flow of the nice colors and attractive type to include a monotonous list of subjects covered, such as health, fitness and food. It adds nothing and instead takes up valuable real estate.
  • YogaJournal.com page: This page doesn’t seem to have been designed by the same designers for the rest of the magazine. Whereas white space is tastefully used on the rest of the pages, this single page looks too sparse, like something is missing.

Overall Opinion

Yoga Journal was a nice surprise. The editorial content was full of variety and addressed multiple topics of interest to yogis. The integration of sidebars and short how-tos into feature stories was well-done and keeps the reader’s brain working from cover to sign-off. For its depth and breadth, I give Yoga Journal an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Sailing World (www.sailingworld.com)

Issue reviewed: October 2010

  • Published in Middletown, R.I., by Bonnier Corp.
  • Circulation: 40,000

Audience

  • experienced sailors, with about 25 years under their belt
  • average HHI: $282,000
  • own 3.2 boats, on average
  • 93% male
  • average age: 54

Overall Editorial

Sailing World is an easy read, and although it’s geared toward super-experienced, rich sailors, it doesn’t feel inaccessible to readers well outside its audience, like me. It has multiple short reads with a few long features. It’s a blend of product reviews, how-tos, competition coverage and human interest.

Overall Design

The design of Sailing World is very simple with a few standout elements. The end-of-story dingbats are really cool (two small sails in black and gray), and one little arrow in a burgundy circle keeps showing up that adds consistency throughout. Also, a box with a plus sign appears in several places from front to back offering bonus content to the reader, either on the Sailing World website or in books for further reading. The best design is in the department From The Experts: Technique with a step-by-step how-to that’s very appealing. The worst is on the opener of the feature On Full Boil, where the title gets lost in the extremely busy photo.

Cover Design and Blurbs

The cover is attractive and appealing, but it appears to be very feminine for a magazine that has an audience that’s only 7% women. And I don’t say that because it’s a woman on the cover but because the fonts and color choices seem very delicate. The reader only has three choices for content that interests him or her: one spot about Gold Diggers (Olympic sailors), one about the pro circuit and another about new boats.

Editor’s Note

The Editor’s Letter, Calling In Sick, written by Dave Reed, is lovely. It appeals to avid sailors, working people and procrastinators alike. Reed explains his inspiration for the first Sailing World Sick Day, in which all the employees take off and go sailing. I love that he presented the argument against it, which was submitted by a reader who was angry about the social irresponsibility of the free day. Then he told what a great time he had and how he’d checked back into the office later, with salt and water remnants still on him. It adds personality to the magazine, just like an editor’s note should, and it shows that the staff members love the sport the same way the readers do.

Departments and Columns

It’s clever that the editors break one department, From The Experts, into three sections: Technique, Strategy and Rules. Readers of recreational magazines like this love how-tos, and I think that division is a smart way to include several different types of how-to information. The back department is called Dr. Crash, and it’s strange, but it’s likely that it’s right up the readers’ alley. It’s one short question with one short answer and a humorous slant. Dr. Crash has become quite the personality, apparently, because the powers that be have created the Dr. Crash calendar that readers can order for only $13.95.

Features

The three features benefit from strong writing: excellent use of storytelling, expressive verbs and vivid detail. The writers for Sailing World obviously understand the sport and its players, and are skilled authors to boot.

Use of Photography

The photography throughout is very good, and the designers take care to use the photos large when warranted. There are only a couple of missteps: The photo spread opener on pages 30-31 for On Full Boil is so busy that I can’t even tell what’s going on. This particular photo would have benefitted from no words (headline or body copy) interfering because they complicate the photo. And the other misstep probably annoyed the editors and designers alike: On page 51, the Sailing World staff has to depend on manufacturers to submit quality photos of their products, and one group (The Landing School) didn’t send a photo that measured up. Such is life, but it sticks out like a sore thumb. But all the other photos are beautiful and make me want to head to the ocean.

Use of Illustrations

The folks at Sailing World use illustrations sparingly but well. One is a how-to illustration that’s computer generated, and the other is a a hand-drawn illustration that helps bring the reader into the story. Both are strong and well-placed.

Relevance to Intended Audience

This magazine hits avid sailors from multiple angles: competition, gear, how-to and narrative. If I owned 3.2 boats and made $282,000 per year, I imagine I would really enjoy this magazine. Even as a non-sailor, I enjoyed reading it from beginning to end.

Integration with Website

The right-hand folio on each spread lists the Sailing World web address, related content on the website gets a full spread in the magazine, and multiple mentions of bonus material on the website appear throughout. These guys do a good job of driving readers to the website. A lot of the online content is behind a subscriber wall. The website is sparse and clean, like the magazine is. The site has multiple blogs, forums, photos and videos for its visitors.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

Sailing World is well-organized front to back. It begins with the smaller pieces, including reader letters, Q&A and competition rankings. It moves into features, all clumped together toward the center. Then all the products are grouped together, followed by how-to articles. It feels pretty easy to get around.

Paper Quality

This magazine is pretty small, only 72 pages plus covers (saddle-stitch) for such a rich audience. It seems like it should be much thicker; maybe most of its issues are bulkier than this one. It definitely doesn’t seem like this would be an audience advertisers would shy away from because of the readers’ affluence.

Overall Opinion

Sailing World was a nice surprise. I’d never looked at one before, so it was all new to me. The tone was very good, set by the editor’s note in the very beginning. The design was appealing, and the multiple opportunities for bonus content give the reader much more than just what’s between the covers. For these reasons, I give Sailing World an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Time Out Chicago (www.timeoutchicago.com)

Issue reviewed: September 9-15, 2010, Issue 289

  • Published in Chicago, Ill., by Time Out Chicago Partners LLP
  • Circulation: 51,699

Audience

  • median age: 33
  • average HHI: $95,400
  • 70% are single
  • 60% are female
  • goes out three or more times per week

Overall Editorial

Time Out Chicago calls itself an “irreverent, intelligent, insightful roadmap” to Chicago, and its editors say that if you can’t find anything to do in Chicago, it’s not their fault! And I believe them. This magazine blew me away when I flipped through it the first time because of the enormous amount of stuff to do that this magazine listed. And it’s weekly! That means they compile this huge list every single week. I’m amazed by this, mostly because each listing isn’t just a place, address and admission price. Each one is written — real insight, real attitude, real stories. One, for instance, is for Raunchy Bingo: “This isn’t your grandmother’s bingo — unless Granny was a bit smutty.” Another for Dollar Drink Night: “You can … get hammered at this night of karaoke … and cheap-ass cocktails.” Doesn’t Chicago sound fun?

Overall Design

Similar to my feelings about Baltimore Magazine, I am wowed by how Time Out Chicago can cram so much information into these pages and still make it look good. It doesn’t look like the classifieds section of a paper like you might expect. Color and illustrations and graphics and ads are spread out through all the listings so no page is too boring. The editors are even kind enough to put a big “FREE” next to every free admission event. The contents page is attractive and to the point, and the page right after it has more copy than maybe any page I’ve ever seen in my life — but it still looks good. Especially if you don’t mind smallish type. Throughout, Time Out Chicago has several simple but nice design elements, such as highlights, speech balloons and tiny sidebars with photos. On the features, the design is overboard. In the features Major Score and Concerto Inferno, the opening photos are weird, busy and distracting. The remaining pages of those features are much more pleasing than the first page.

Cover Design and Blurbs

A smashed violin graces the cover and is definitely intriguing, especially with the huge words Smash Hits. The cover photo is good, but for people like me who get this magazine in the mail (and most people, really, because this magazine is almost entirely subscription), the bottom third of the violin isn’t visible because of the label area. It feels like I’m missing something as the reader, especially because most of the damage to the violin would be in the impact area — at the bottom that is covered. The cover blurbs are good (“Gin Yummy” and “Bear Down”).

Editor’s Note

Aw, no editor’s note! What a shame. I would have loved to hear from Frank Sennett. Instead, he packs the magazine with tons of Chicago voices, from weird comments on the street to reader letters to Chicagoan interviews. That’s all great, but hearing one strong voice from a magazine, even amid dozens of others, sets a tone for the magazine that is invaluable.

Departments and Columns

The best department in this magazine appears on the first few pages: It’s the front section that’s made up of Public Eye (an interview with a random Chicagoan), Speak Up (letters and chats with readers), Heard on the Street (awful little things that people hear on the street, full of irony, humor, perversion and the F word!),The Bean Poll (reader survey, with the Chicago Bean statue as the graphic) and What’s Up With That? (a useful but insane question; in this case, it’s “can I get a DUI for drinking and bicycling?”). It’s all short, snappy, funny and shocking. The rest of the magazine is divided into Eat Out, Shopping & Style and Around Town, with the latter being the bulk of the magazine — 60 pages of stuff to do in Chicago. Everything is a quick read, including numerous reviews of books, movies, clothes and restaurants.

Features

There’s only one feature, made up of two stories and two sidebars about music. The first story, Major Score, is a straight-up Q&A interview with the incoming Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director, and the other, Concerto Inferno, is an article about “new classical” music. Concerto Inferno benefits from good writing, but it is difficult to read because the writing is smushed into two pages so the opening page can be taken up with a really ugly burning white wig. Disappointing, considering the cover — bearing the smashed violin — was directing readers to this story, and they probably passed right by it. The photo is weird, it takes too long to figure out, and it likely sounded much better in the board room than it was executed on paper. Plus, it doesn’t relate to the cover. And the design of Major Score leaves tons of blue chicken-scratch background behind the text, making it difficult to read and almost not worth the effort. It would have been much better on both stories to dedicate more white space to the design and invite the readers in instead of telling them “Never mind, just go on to the next page.”

Use of Photography

Photos are everywhere, all with varying levels of strength and interest. The food photos are generally appetizing throughout. Especially interesting were the plate photographs from the restaurants the writers reviewed. They’re mostly straight-down shots, which is generally not recommended for food photography, but in this case, the photos look more like a series of how-to photos, which let the reader see exactly what an order at these restaurants would look like.

Use of Illustrations

Barring a couple of illustrated treatments to photos, I don’t see any illustrations in this magazine. Photos take care of the business needed.

Relevance to Intended Audience

The snarky tone, super-honest-to-the-point-of-red-face answers to sex questions, and the drinking/dining/shopping focus are perfect for party-hearty 30-somethings in the Chicago area. The magazine offers such a variety of go-and-do possibilities that, seriously, it really isn’t their fault if you can’t find anything to do there.

Integration with Website

The website is just as informative as the magazine. Possibly — just maybe — even more so. The website is arranged by type of entertainment, and then by date. It has several blogs and opinions that don’t appear in the magazine that add value. The magazine sends readers to the website in several sidebars and “for more info” boxes, and plus, it puts the web address at the bottom of every single page.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The flow is good. Starts small, builds up, then brings the reader back down into a sexual then super-geeky finish. These guys have enough content, though, that I think it would be better to produce a larger feature well. Not being a fan of classical music myself, I was totally bored during the features in the beginning. So I started on a high with the crazy quotes and insane questions, then I had to force myself to read the unattractive features before I got into the interesting stuff again.

Paper Quality

The paper is fine, especially for a weekly. It doesn’t wrinkle much and is easily foldable for if you’re on the go to any of the recommended places. It’s 104 pages plus covers.

Overall Opinion

I teetered on the edge of a B for Time Out Chicago for the lackluster features for the music, but in the end, I decided that Time Out Chicago does enough good to outweigh those few oversights. The tone of the magazine is consistent throughout — irreverent and cool — something that’s hard to achieve with this much content. Time Out Chicago does an excellent job of educating and exciting its audience about what’s going on in the area, and it entertains them while they’re making their plans. For these reasons, I give Time Out Chicago an A.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine or its website and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review