Archive for the ‘Grade: B’ Category

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Filmfare (www.filmfare.com)

Issue reviewed: Jan. 5, 2011

  • Published in Mumbai, India, by Worldwide Media Ltd.
  • Circulation: 142,000; Readership: 1.9 million
  • 148 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • mostly students
  • 42% have an annual HHI of more than $120,000 Rupees (equivalent to about $2,700)
  • 50% ages 20 to 34
  • 63% male

Editorial

Heard of Bollywood? It’s as dear to the Indian pop culture as Hollywood is to us (or, as Hollywood thinks it is to us anyway!). The editorial content in Filmfare is much like a gossip mag in America: very casual in tone, no deep reads, short snippets. It’s light on evidence, heavy on gossip. Filmfare also spends many, many pages on fashion and movie reviews. And — given my limited knowledge of Indian culture — I was surprised at how racy the whole magazine is. There’s a whole lot of naked male torsos and revealing dresses. Whoa!

Design

The design is pretty good. Filmfare, of course, relies heavily on the photography captured by its paparazzi, as well as from professional photo shoots of the stars. The point is that the pages are made up of photos of beautiful people, and it’s generally hard to make a page ugly when you have stunningly good-looking people on the page. In a few spots, the design choices were questionable to me — usually in the places that overused green backgrounds. But on the whole, it’s a very attractive magazine, with good use of icons, colors, typography and photography. The features, in particular, were well-designed.

What’s Best

  • Supershort copy: Filmfare is one of those magazines you can read twice; you can flip through it once and read just the short chunks of copy, then you can come back later and spend almost as much time only reading the longer pieces. The reader can get a ton of information about hundreds of celebrities in a short period of time — perfect for students’ short attention spans!
  • Five things you must know about: This department has five short pieces of info about a certain star. In this issue, it was Kulraj Randhawa and Utsav Gandhi. What it is lacking is quotes from said stars. It should be more substantial than it is, but it is still irresistible to read all five items.
  • Dramatics: As with American celebrities, the Bollywood counterparts are surrounded by drama. Who’s leaving who, who’s hooking up, who just got an amazing new role. Filmfare capitalizes on this, of course, but especially so in the headlines. For instance, this is the headline for an article about Hrithik Roshan: “I want my story to be the greatest ever.” (Narcissistic much?) The quote-as-title theme continues for other features, including “The term star kid gives me allergies” and “I am a social outcast.” I don’t know any of these stars, but I sure felt like I had to read these articles to find out about the kid-actor allergy and what makes Ronit Roy an outcast.

What’s Worst

  • Body type: The body copy was legible throughout, but the designers have some serious spacing issues. Sometimes they go rag right, sometimes justified — even in the same article! The breaks are all over the place, spacing is often off, and the magazine flip-flops between two returns separating paragraphs and a return and an indent. Nitpickers like me cannot take this type of inconsistency, especially when it’s such an easy fix.
  • Journalistic merit: It’s pretty common with celeb mags for gossip to rule and facts to be secondary, but I hate it regardless. A real story has a source or a quote or attribution of some sort. I’m not a fan of speculation journalism.

Overall Opinion

Filmfare was a great study in Bollywood culture. One of my favorite things on my trip to India was the fashion, and Filmfare lives and breathes current fashion. Another thing I loved was listening to my brother-in-law’s cousins talking about Bollywood stars — and I didn’t have a clue! So to read about some of the stars was exciting. There is NO crossover (that I can tell) of Hollywood and Bollywood, so Indians don’t know Jennifer Aniston any more than we know Shruti Haasan. Personally, going through a magazine packed with wildly famous people that I’ve never seen before is a really great (and different) experience. For the good photography and short copy, but a few flaws here and there, I give Filmfare a B.

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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Fortune (http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/)

Issue reviewed: September 27, 2010, Vol. 162, No. 5

  • Published in New York, N.Y., by Time Inc.
  • Circulation: 830,000
  • 142 pages, perfect-bound

Audience

  • median age: 46
  • median HHI: $108,440
  • 57% male
  • top managers and executives

Editorial

Fortune is blessed with good writers and good story concepts. The writing is satisfying and the sidebars are relevant. Fortune dares to take on some of the big companies, even including an article on why you shouldn’t buy Apple stock.

Design

The design of Fortune is a little clunky occasionally. In general, the color palette is simple, masculine and bold. The illustrations are good, and the sidebar/chart treatment is pleasing. The photography throughout is very strong. But the clunkiness of the headlines is distracting. That font wasn’t cool decades ago and it isn’t cool now.

What’s Best

  • Chunky nuggets: Fortune capitalizes on readers’ short amount of time to read by breaking the copy into bite-size morsels that still actually tell you something or mean something. The charts are attractively simple, the stats are interesting, and the information is concise.
  • Content: The storytelling in Fortune is very human. Even though the audience is businesspeople, the stories are relatable to a broader group of readers. The editorial ranges from interviewing skills to stock prices to leadership to answering questions like “Should I accept my employee’s friend request?”
  • Corrections: I love a good correction. We all jack stuff up sometimes, and it’s how we handle it when we do that matters. I enjoyed Allan Sloan’s correction: “In my last column I wrote that President Obama wants to increase taxes on dividends for the ‘rich’ to 39.6% from the current 15%. That’s wrong … Sorry for the mistake. But I stand by my original point that tax rates don’t drive the market.”

What’s Worst

  • Headline font: Many of the headlines are typed in a thick, black Italic font that reminds me of magazines from the ’70s. It’s heavy and hard to read.

Overall Opinion

This magazine is a good read and could hold my attention for a solid hour. Its online component adds even more value, with video and searchable content. But the business magazine market is saturated, and other contenders, like Forbes, BusinessWeek and Inc., are more visually breathtaking and have a better online presence. I give Fortune a B for its good content but lack of a wow factor.

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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Family Circle (www.familycircle.com)

Issue reviewed: Oct. 1, 2010

  • Published in New York, N.Y., by Meredith Corp.
  • Circulation: 3.8 million
  • 132 pages, perfect bound

Audience

  • median HHI: $52,516
  • median age: 50.5
  • 100% female
  • moms, especially of teens and tweens
  • 58.9% married

Editorial

Family Circle hits on multiple levels of interest for moms: health, beauty, parenting, cooking, celebrities and style. The coverage brushes past each issue, touching on it only enough to keep its moms current and then leaving the heavy niche coverage to other magazines. This method makes it a good one-stop magazine for moms who don’t want 12 magazines a month. And it helps moms know who their kids are listening to or watching with interviews with and bite-size stories on teen heart throbs like Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber.

Design

The design ranges from so-so to stellar throughout. On some pages, like 58-61, Let It Shine, I felt thrown right back into the ’80s with the dark colors, dated pose and hairdo, and justified type. But pages 90-91, The Anti-Cancer Diet, is eye-catching, informative and colorful — right where it should be. Also, Family Circle makes good use of black backgrounds, using them in small, powerful doses and set against strong contrasts of pinks, oranges and yellows.

What’s Best

  • Easy how-tos: Where some supermom magazines make readers feel inadequate just by looking at the crafts (“I’ll never be able to do that!”), Family Circle shows easy craft ideas (cakesicles, spray painted wreaths, cut-out letters, etc.) that most moms could do quickly and easily.
  • Food photography: I could eat the cantonese shrimp off the page of the Wok & Roll feature. The background is pleasing, the lighting is good, and all the veggies look so fresh. This photo isn’t out of the norm for the magazine, either; with only one exception (the macaroni and cheese dishes on 115 aren’t very appetizing, and the dark background doesn’t help the photo), the food throughout the magazine looks tasty, fresh and easy to make.
  • Momster: Family Circle has created its own social networking site, Momster, where moms can share stories, advice and support. The magazine promotes it but doesn’t go overboard. It does publish results from polls conducted on the site in the magazine.

What’s Worst

  • The vertical ads: In the back of the magazine, several 1/2-, 1/3- and 2/3-page vertical ads interrupt what would otherwise be great cooking/recipe features. It comes off as disruptive and annoying rather than appealing to the reader to buy the products in the ads.
  • Design missteps: As I mentioned, some of the pages just don’t hit the high bar set by other parts of the magazine. Maybe some sections got to go to a redesign meeting that other departments didn’t get to go to?  The style and food sections look strong, updated and smart, but the Inner Circle, Family section and that feature, Let It Shine, are outdated and out of place.

Overall Opinion

Family Circle’s design team could come together more and create a more cohesive, beautiful product for its readers.  The talent is obviously there because so many great pages are already being printed. However, Family Circle has great editorial content and hits on a lot of issues that are important to moms. Its Momster site is a great benefit for its readers. For these reasons, I give Family Circle a B.

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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Golf World (www.golfworld.com)

Issue reviewed: Oct. 4, 2010, Vol. 64, No. 11

  • Published in Wilton, Conn., by Golf Digest Publications/Advance Magazine Publishers Inc.
  • Circulation: 225,000
  • 48 pages, saddle-stitch binding
  • printed 38 times per year

Audience

  • average income: $241,860
  • average age: 46
  • mostly male (86%)

Editorial

The editorial staff at Golf World does a great job of making the very vertical topic of golf interesting enough to stretch from front to back of the magazine on an almost weekly basis. Capturing the personalities of the competitors and spending some time talking about where-to for golfers keeps the writers busy from beginning to end. This magazine does not focus much energy on how-to.

Design

The design is good and gives the reader tons of short chunks of information. It never makes the reader feel committed to a page; instead, it lets the reader sample tastes like a buffet and leave at will. Whereas the design is somewhat handicapped by photography — it’s a sport made up of white men and golf clubs, so the photos all look the same after a while — it makes good use of what it has. In some of the features, the designers used as much space as possible with beautiful scenic shots that really stand out. A few strong elements add a nice touch, such as the thick black and gray bars. However, the light yellow screen on some sidebars, like Finding Their Groove, looks dated and weak.

What’s Best

  • Back 9: This department lists nine key tidbits that the writers deem most interesting to golfers. Many of these include stats, either rankings, winnings or historical data. This page is followed by several pages of other statistics, mostly results from recent golf tournaments. The boring-but-necessary information is not the best design I’ve seen for this kind of content, but it is simple, clean and easy to read.
  • Bunker: This is the shorts department at the beginning that tosses in a few 50-word stories with some 200- and 500-word stories, keeping the reader engaged in several stories in only a few pages.
  • Writing: The writers focus on telling stories rather than reporting events; simply reporting is an easy trap to fall into when the assignment is some sort of tournament coverage. Instead, Golf World’s writers bring their stories to life by injecting personality into each article, even the shorties.

What’s Worst

  • No editor’s note: The back page of the magazine is the closest we get to an editor’s note, simply called Opinion and, in this issue, written by features senior editor Bill Fields. The Opinion story, which is a look at a new book about Tiger Woods, is well written and interesting — and reads much more like good commentary than a run-of-the-mill book review. On page 20 is another Opinion page written by Geoff Shackelford, and it is a well-crafted argument against the World Golf Hall of Fame induction of George H.W. Bush.
  • The red type: It makes my eyes feel almost like they’re burning, and I just want to blow through it because it hurts to read. Red type is good for a touch here and there in big fonts, not for small, flowing copy.

Overall Opinion

Golf World could improve by moving Bill Fields or another editor to the beginning of the magazine and letting him set the tone for the current issue. A few design tweaks could help, too, adding a more masculine look to some sidebars with bolder colors and stronger type-color choices. The writing for the magazine, though, is very strong and flavorful and makes for a good read, even for people who don’t love golf. For those reasons, I give Golf World a B.

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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The Week (www.theweek.com)

Issue reviewed: September 17, 2010, Vol. 10, Issue 481

  • Published in New York, N.Y., by The Week Publications Inc.
  • Circulation: 517,000; 1 million unique views per month online

Audience

  • average age: 51
  • average HHI: $251,800
  • 30% are top management at their companies
  • busy executives and thought leaders

Overall Editorial

The Week is not like any other magazine I’ve encountered. It functions as an aggregator for news content: It sums up what other news outlets or leaders have reported or said and puts them all into one article. This is how The Week describes itself:  “Inspired by the daily briefing created for the U.S. President, The Week distills the best in domestic and international commentary, and the latest developments in business, health, science, technology, the arts, culture, consumer products and travel.” It aims to cut through the media bias and offer multiple outlets’ point of view on various subjects. It has received accolades from the New York Times and BusinessWeek, and its subscriber base has grown quickly. The editorial covers diverse subjects (politics to actresses to book reviews) and has multiple sidebars with short nuggets of information.

Overall Design

This magazine is chock-full of words, and it looks like the designers just have to figure out ways to fit a ton of words on each page, and yet keep the copy at a size easy to read for an 80-year-old. (I don’t think the type size is too large, but with the volume of copy, some pages beg for a smaller point size.) I will say this for the design: It’s consistent throughout. Every page looks like the one before it — black type, pink screens, red boxes, small photos. The design doesn’t differentiate each section, and the photos are only there because it would look too drab without them, rather than because the designers want to play up a page or a feature. This magazine could use a redesign. I found a cover online from 2008 that looked much different, so maybe they’ve had a redesign in the last couple of years. It can remain newsy and content-filled without being drab. “Drab” is a harsh word and I already feel a little guilty saying it. But I feel like this magazine could be incredible instead of just very good if it boosted the look of its pages. Some pages do show innovation with a layout that is full of words, such as the headers on “Best columns” (pages 16 and 52) and “Review of reviews” (page 36).

Cover Design and Blurbs

It appears that the designers put most of their effort into the cover each issue. I’ve looked back at several covers, and they’re beautiful illustrations of news-related concepts. Great ideas, excellent execution. The cover blurbs address the issues on people’s minds: With this issue, that’s the American economy and recent newsmaker Glenn Beck. It helps to have a pretty woman on the cover (Hilary Swank) and an actual action shot of water (yes, action shot of ice cubes dropping into a glass of water). In line with the magazine’s mission to help people save time, it tells you what pages each story is on so you don’t have to go searching. And thank goodness, because this magazine doesn’t have a contents page — absolutely no contents page. Weird.

Editor’s Note

Hidden in a teensy little box on page 7 with no photo or any reason to read the text in this space, the editor’s note lurks like a long footnote. Editor William Falk makes good use of his closet space, tying in a poll about what people want to do with their lives, with what he’d like to do — become a cult leader — which invoked in my mind a picture of the Koran burner, as I assume Falk was trying to do. It’s a short but intriguing commentary, one that had me curious about Mr. Falk. He’s an elusive guy: On the website, his editorials are behind a subscription wall, and once you get there, he has no photo — just a list of his previous editorials. So I googled him and found this interview he did with Mr. Magazine, and it warmed me up to this well-read editor. I wish he had more of a presence in the magazine and online. Adding a face to this brand would really improve it and would likely make people feel more connected to it.

Departments and Columns

The Week is broken into News, Arts, Leisure and Business. Each section is well-chunkified — that is, broken into multiple bite-size pieces. So the copy is easy to read and covers a broad range of topics. The most interesting department to me is Talking Points, in which they have four subjects  — in this case, Religion, Extremism, Glenn Beck and The Mosque — and three differing viewpoints on each. They are quick reads and yet make your brain work through the different perspectives.

Features

This magazine doesn’t really have features. There are just different lengths of articles in pre-defined sections. At the back, in The Last Word, The Week ran a long portion of an article that originated in the LA Weekly about Mike Penner/Christine Daniels. If you know anything about Penner’s/Daniels’ transgender story, you know it’s captivating. And The Week’s choice to run this excerpt of all other pieces in the media during that week shows it is a magazine that cares about good human interest issues as much as it does hard news. Kudos.

Use of Photography

Most photos are editorial stock images, and most are used small and just as a quick this-is-who-we’re-talking-about addition to the story. The biggest two pictures in the magazine are of Hilary Swank (good choice) and a grainy image of $7.5 million house (not really a good choice). It looks like the photos are stuffed into the places they fit, rather than planning pages around good photography. One photo of food to illustrate a recipe for grilled peach and mozzarella salad shows how important good food photography is, because this photo (and the smallness of it) makes me never want to eat or make said salad.

Use of Illustrations

The cover illustration is really, really good — and the only illustration in the entire magazine. It’s a shame because with cover illustrators like they have at their disposal, it would be great for the editors to utilize them more.

Relevance to Intended Audience

According to a study published on The Week’s website, 53% of its readers read each issue in its entirety, 48% read it the day they get it, and 47% call it one of their favorite magazines. I see that The Week should have very broad appeal, not just to top managers but to anyone who feels time-crunched but still interested in the news. I’m going to spend more time with my copy and see if it’s for me — because I hate to feel dumb about an issue but I also hate to spend a lot of time watching the news or reading papers, and I have a hard time finding “the truth” in the media.

Integration with Website

The website is more appealing visually than the magazine is. It’s clean and well-organized, and — thank goodness — it has no pink screens. Most of its content appears to be free, although some is open to subscribers only. The only push I see in the magazine, though, is on The Puzzle Page, where they direct readers to the website for Sudoku and crossword solutions and to enter a weekly contest that rewards one’s knowledge of a subject and relevant wordplay (like creating headlines or state laws).

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The Week functions as a page-turner only because you’re curious to see what’s next, not because it’s building to something. The Weeks positions its bread-and-butter (U.S. and worldwide news) at the beginning and leads into the lesser parts from there, almost like a newspaper rather than a magazine. It does end nicely, with The Last Word feature and The Puzzle Page, giving the reader a moment to come down before closing the issue. And I was caught off-guard every time I went through the magazine by the Best Properties on the Market page because it doesn’t seem to fit in any part of the magazine. It’s not listed under one of the magazine’s four sections, and it has more and bigger photos on that one spread than almost anywhere else in the book, so it looks out of place. And it has no intro or conclusion editorial, so it almost looks like a page pulled from one of those free real estate guides at the grocery store. Weird.

Paper Quality

The paper is thin and hardy, perfect for traveling. It’s a lot of material packed into only 60 pages, and it doesn’t wrinkle up or show a whole lot of wear, even after repeated use. The magazine is saddle-stitch and very newsy-looking from the outside.

Overall Opinion

If I were to judge only on editorial, I would give The Week an A, but I feel like it lacks so much in the visual department that I have to assign it a B. The great things about it are its diversity of content, its concept of aggregating stories for the reader and its illustrated cover. With a change in its design philosophy, it would be much stronger and more interesting to hold and flip through. Other improvements I would suggest: Create a more visually appealing editor’s note, add a contents page or section, and push the readers to the helpful and attractive website.

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

Update 4/24/11: TheWeek.com won an award for Digital Team of the Year from Min Online. The online magazine wrote the following about The Week: 

One of the most successful weeklies in recent memory, TheWeek brand finally brought to the Web this year the energy and unique editorial perspective that made the magazine such a winner. A host of new digital features have been thoughtfully customized for Web consumption while they embody TheWeek’s brand identity. Round-ups of key videos, the top news of the week, the best that is said on Sunday talk shows, the most poignant editorial cartoons and news videos and an at-a-glance view of what is news now all make the site a vital part of the 24/7 Web information machine. The effort more than quadrupled TheWeek.com’s audience reach in less than a year and almost sold out its available ad inventory.

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Healthy Living (www.lakehealthyliving.com)

Issue reviewed: August 2010, Vol. 3, Issue 8

  • Published in Leesburg, Fla., by Akers Media Group
  • Circulation: less than 20,000

Audience

  • residents of Lake County, Fla.
  • people interested in overall health or fitness

Overall Editorial

Healthy Living intrigued me because it won best overall magazine (consumer, circ <20K) at the recent Florida Magazine Association conference. So it was almost a challenge to see what’s so great about it. (For reference, Boca Raton Magazine and SOBeFit won in the higher circulation categories. I’m not familiar with Boca Raton Mag yet, but SOBeFit is one rockin’ publication.) The editorial in Healthy Living is fairly diverse, from pet adoption to child health to medical myths to finance to cooking … and the list keeps going. But the quality of writing is not consistent: Whereas some stories in this issue (A Sight For Sore Eyes: My LASIK Adventure) are engaging from the beginning and informative throughout, some others (cover feature Feat of Gold) lacked an interesting lead and never climaxed.

Overall Design

The design is a hit most of the way through. The colors are bold and eye-catching, and the photography is very strong. But the design has two failings: One, the editorial is often hard to discern from advertising, possibly because the taglines at the top of the pages are too small and the design just inconsistent enough to make the department pages not resemble each other; and two, the typography needs serious help. Justified type is dated and should be changed to ragged right as quickly as possible, and the paragraphs in most articles are separated by a line rather than by a tab. It just feels old.

Cover Design and Blurbs

The cover is striking! I didn’t know who Tyson Gay was, but after seeing this cover, I couldn’t wait to find out! Using minimal colors — black, white and aqua — the designers made this cover pop. The nameplate is inviting and works well in other colors (as I’ve seen in other issues of Healthy Living). I couldn’t tell at first that this was a regional magazine. It looks good enough to be on the national newsstand. And some of the cover blurbs were pretty good: My fave was What’s In Your Makeup?, leaving the credit card Vikings from TV commercials screaming this phrase in my head all evening. The cover is slightly wider format than standard magazines, and it has a matte finish that makes you want to touch it.

Editor’s Note

In the Publisher’s Corner, publisher Kendra Akers writes A Fast Start, comparing sprinter Tyson Gay’s journey to that of Healthy Living. It’s short and sweet, and reminds the reader that the magazine he or she is holding is an award winner and is being recognized in publishing circles. It also leaves the reader rooting for the magazine to take home the Best Overall Magazine award, which it did just a few weeks ago.

Departments and Columns

Community Matters is the short section that most magazines have that gives quick info. But the design on this section is so bland that I don’t want to read any of it. I’m forcing myself for the benefit of this review. Nothing jumps out, everything’s boxed off, and all the titles are shrunk to nobody-cares-to-read-me size. It’s a terrible missed opportunity because each tidbit is likely interesting to residents of Lake County; however, the writing is as bland as the design in this section, and the mini-articles read more like short press releases than small, dynamic stories. But thankfully, the other departments in this magazine are much better. Medical Mythbusters takes readers’ health myths and explains whether they’re true or old wives’ tales. Pet Adoption introduces readers to a local shelter critter who needs a home and also offers a pet care tip. Two columns in the back of the book, S’motherhood and Mencouragement (creative titles!), are well written and interesting perspectives from each gender.

Features

The issue seemed to focus its energy on two main features: Feat of Gold and Hide-and-Seek: Hidden Health Issues Facing Children Today. I’ve already stated what I thought about the Feat of Gold/Tyson Gay story. It was almost a chronological timeline of Gay’s accomplishments, rather than a story that offered real insight into his personality. The Hide-and-Seek story similarly lacked heart and storytelling. However, the information was good and relevant to parents or really anyone who has a limited understanding of medicine. For a list, though, it felt really disjointed, and I blame the design more than the content for that.

Use of Photography

James Gibson is the chief photographer, and he is blessed with a range of photographic opportunities. He skillfully shot people portraits (not easy), food (definitely not easy), eyeballs (gross) and action shots (really hard). The photos in Healthy Living generally pop off the page, and several made me pause to check them out.

Use of Illustrations

The only illustrations in this issue are in the Hide-and-Seek feature, and they are simple, computer-generated medical illustrations. I’ve seen better, but they get the point across.

Relevance to Intended Audience

This magazine likely appeals to its Lake County residents for highlights such as the community calendar, local updates and features on area talent (like Tyson Gay), as well as ads targeting local customers. Several of its articles could translate just as well to a national magazine because their reach is so broad.

Integration with Website

The website is very attractive, but it doesn’t integrate with the magazine at all. It’s almost a static site that directs the visitor to the online version of the publication (click here to access free copies of several issues of Healthy Living, including the one reviewed here). An integrated website would be an excellent opportunity for Healthy Living to expand its content and its reach, and to demonstrate cross-media engagement to its advertisers. An updated community calendar, a searchable database of articles and bonus information about its feature subjects or contributors would be great assets for the Healthy Living website.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

Studying the contents page helped organize this magazine in my brain. Flipping through, it felt a little all-over-the-place. But it basically has four sections: Beauty & Wellness, Health & Fitness, Food & Nutrition and Balanced Living. It would probably help if the features weren’t mixed in between these sections. I would suggest moving the feature well to the front, after the opening departments but ahead of Beauty & Wellness.

Paper Quality

The paper quality was good — the glare of the pages was sometimes annoying, but the photos looked really strong on the paper. The magazine is perfect-bound, and at 116 pages, it feels really thick and full of content.

Overall Opinion

I give Healthy Living a B for mostly interesting content, very good photography and a compelling cover. I see room for improvement in the typography, the website and the writing.

I invite your comments! Check out the magazine at this link and tell me what you think of it.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

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Giggle (www.gigglemag.com)

Issue reviewed: August/September 2010, Vol. 2, Issue 4

  • Published in Gainesville, Fla., by Irving Publications
  • Circulation and pass-alongs: 30,000

Audience

  • women ages 25 to 45
  • residents of Alachua County, Fla.
  • HHI: $50K
  • parents of children under the age of 12
  • principal shoppers in household

Overall Editorial

The tone of the editorial in Giggle is conversational and informative. The features and departments include several lists, timelines, bullets and chunks of copy, so it’s very readable. It’s a blend of local-related “things to do in the area” stories and how-to articles that aren’t specific to the local area.

Overall Design

The design is appropriate for its audience. With a combination of orange, blue, pink and green throughout the magazine, the color palette is youth-oriented and playful. Because almost all the fractional ads are squished together on pages separate from editorial, the designers have creative freedom with each feature and department to take up as much space as they want. I’m not sure how good that is for the advertisers, but it helps the feature pages.

Cover Design and Blurbs

A young lady named Maryn takes up the cover of this edition, and if you don’t fall in love with her on the cover, you will on page 4 when the editors introduce the month’s “cover cutie.” This magazine jumped out at me because the little girl was so cute but also because the name of the magazine was so clever. In one word, “giggle” says all the ideas it wants to convey to readers: happy, kids, cute, family, fun. I’m surprised some national magazine hadn’t already swept up that name. The cover blurbs are OK and appeal to locals, especially fans of the Florida Gators, with “The Doerings family spotlight,” “It’s football season,” and “Family-friendly tailgating.” “For the love of the arts” doesn’t really say anything or make me want to open it up to see what that means; they could have chosen a more actionable blurb for that one.

Editor’s Note

The Letter From The Publisher is written by publisher Nicole Irving. It includes a photo of Irving with one of her children, and the note is a mix of personal relating to the reader and pushing the reader to the inside of the magazine. Overall, it’s well done, but I prefer to see editors/publishers dig deeper and tell a story that makes the reader want to turn the page regardless of what stories are in there; she wants to read the magazine because the editor connects with her and because the reader knows it’s written for her and others like her. The first two paragraphs and the final paragraph of Irving’s letter do establish the connection, but the five paragraphs in between do more of what the contents page should do.

Departments and Columns

Giggle is made up of tons of departments (11, to be exact) and three columns. The first department, Charity of the Month, means well but misses the mark. It looks very much like an advertorial and many readers probably skip right past it. It reads too much like a press release; the only point of view offered is that of the director of the local chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. It doesn’t tell a story about a person who has Cystic Fibrosis or who has been helped by the foundation. It may serve the purpose that the Giggle editors have of highlighting different charities, but it could be far better. Another department that could use work is Why I Love Raising My Family in Gainesville. Unfortunately, it too looks like an advertorial or a paid ad by a family. It has a color background, takes up a half vertical spot, and shares the rest of the spread with ads. The story is OK, but the design of it (and the family’s itty-bitty photo) makes it easily passable by the reader. Other departments are as good as they should be: Giggle Stamp chooses a collection of a certain type of product (this edition featured lunch boxes) and shows photos, provides links and gives a quick review of each product. It is definitely an eye-stopper. And in this issue, For Dads. By Dads. is about dads making football a family affair and teaching kids the rules of the game. This piece is well-designed and smart. The column The Legal Side of Things is informative, but “of Things” is an excessively boring part of the title. I would take it out quickly and without a second thought.

Features

The biggest feature in this issue is For the Love of the Arts. It’s a fun design and has an engaging beginning to the story (“It’s the swipe of a brush .. the sweep of a hand and the swell of a deep-bellied drum.”) The feature has two sidebars, one that’s a schedule of local arts children can participate in and the other that gives parents ideas to create art at home. Another feature, Backpack Safety, is a spread. The story on the left-hand page is from The Nemours Foundation and is intended to help parents pick out backpacks for their kids. Facing it is a cute set-up shot of four kids with backpacks, and the backpacks are used as callouts for descriptions of each. Like the lunch boxes, it’s a clever design that will stop most readers for long enough to read that page. The rest of the features are single-page stories that are how-tos and lists, and they are easy reads.

Use of Photography

The photography on the whole is very good. The designers rely on a lot of stock photography, which many small magazines need to do, understandably. But the original photography is well-planned and well-executed, most notably in the For the Love of the Arts feature, in the uniform policy story and in the products stories (lunch boxes and backpacks). On some other pages, there is either too little photography or the photos are used too small. I would have loved to have seen a photo of Chris Doering from his Gators days, and I would like to have seen a better photo or at least a better-placed photo in the All Kidding Aside column.

Use of Illustrations

Giggle doesn’t have any illustrations in this issue, and I don’t see any story where illustrations would have been better than photography.

Relevance to Intended Audience

I imagine young moms in Alachua County enjoy this magazine thoroughly. It’s a good way to stay connected to their community and also learn good parenting tips and tricks. Features that address specific local issues, like the public school uniform policy, make the content superb for the magazine’s audience.

Integration with Website

The Giggle website is very good. All the articles are archived online, and anyone can download any issue free (including the one that’s the subject of this review). The magazine itself doesn’t direct the reader online much, and that seems like a missed opportunity. The website is a great resource for the calendar of events, recipes, specific article searches and community networking (like a Facebook link to the group page).

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The flow of Giggle is OK, but the feature well is not defined. In fact, departments and columns begin weaving in and out of the feature well by the end of it, and some of the departments and columns are difficult to discern from the single-page features. However, the school-related features were all together, almost like a special section, so it flowed really well there.

Paper Quality

The paper quality was good. The paper is strong with a semigloss finish. The magazine is saddle-stitch, and it feels thick even though it’s only 62 pages.

Overall Opinion

I give Giggle a B for relevant content, good photography and informative features. I see room for improvement in the ad placement, the copy flow on pages (a few spacing issues), and a couple of weak departments.

Did you agree or disagree with anything I said? Please comment. I’d love to hear from you!

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review