Archive for the ‘magazines’ Category

What makes a cover tick? Its artistic merit? Stop-you-in-your-tracks cover blurbs? Incredible colors? Clever photography?

None of the above. What makes a cover tick is its readers’ desire to pick up the issue, open the magazine and plunk down cold, hard cash.

Sucks, huh? We editors and designers think we have it all figured out. We don’t. It reminds me of something Zach Frechette of Good Magazine said when he spoke to a group of us about magazine covers at the 2008 Folio Conference: “Don’t be fooled by the big guys. No one else knows what they’re doing either.”

I was inspired by this post by Folio today. It’s a great article in which the writer asked several editors what their least selling cover was and asked them to analyze the reason for the low sell-through. All of them said some version of the same thing: The readers didn’t connect with the cover. The image here of the Inc. cover is an example. No matter how cute the little girl with the guitar is, readers of this business magazine don’t really connect with her.

We did an experiment at work one time where we had four covers we liked. Our editor thought it would be a great idea to put the four covers on our website and let our readers vote for the winning cover. They did, and, boy, were we way off! The cover we all liked the least won. The colors were awful, the angle of the photo was weird, and it paled in comparison stylistically to the covers that all of us in the office preferred.

The difference was that the winning cover had a big ol’ bass on it. That’s right! That’s what our fisherman readers love most. The thrill of the pursuit, the mastery of the biggest fish in the water, the conquering of bass bigger than what your friends have caught. We know that’s what they like, but we didn’t know they valued that more highly than all the other factors, combined, that make up a cover .

So what makes a good cover? Frechette told us what his art and editorial teams at Good decided on as their rules for each issue:

1. Don’t sell out subscribers. Don’t go for the newsstand look so much that it alienates those readers who have committed to you.

2. Create art. Be proud of what you create. Make it wall-hangable.

3. There’s no secret success formula. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you there is. Everyone’s just guessing.

Frechette added that these are the elements the magazine minds look for when creating covers:

  • clever, provocative, fun
  • simple
  • edgy content
  • compelling cover lines
  • bold visuals

What do you look for on a magazine cover? Have you ever bought a magazine because you specifically liked the cover — or not bought one because you didn’t?

Want more related reading? Try out these articles:

Seven Design Principles of Magazine Covers

20 Magnificent Magazine Covers

The Most Controversial Magazine Covers of All Time

Great Magazine Cover Design

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I’ve mentioned before how enamored I am of social media. It’s something I’ve been pushing at work for ages but haven’t had a lot of buy-in. Recently, someone has come in who is as excited about it as I am, and she let me go to our company’s biggest event of the year and Tweet and Facebook about it the whole time. The result? Hundreds of new followers and serious engagement from our people. That is amazing!

It seems like I’m going off track here, but I’m not really: I work for a publishing company, and because The Sidebar Review critiques magazines, I’m going to explain why it’s important for magazines to jump into the fray. (Most already have, but I still want to share my observations.)

  1. Our community was dying to connect and didn’t really know how. We gave them the “how.”: We had about 20,000 followers on our Facebook page before our big event. They occasionally chimed in when we asked them a question or posted a photo if they felt inspired. But in the last month, we have gained 3,000 followers, and they are posting everything — photos of their fish, their boats, bass pros; comments negative and positive; mistakes they saw on our website; questions about customer service matters; videos of them singing songs they wrote; and praise for their favorite pros. We had no idea how starved our audience was for more interaction with us, with the brand and with fellow fishermen. It was beautiful.
  2. Our brand has a “face” now.: Our brand is strong, but we’ve known for a while that people felt disconnected from us — like if they called or e-mailed us, they may or may not hear back, and if they did hear back, they may or may not hear from a human. Now, our readers have a direct line to us. One asked on our Facebook page if we would allow siamese twins to fish our tournaments as a single person then combine their catch; I replied, “One tournament entry per brain.” This guy thought it was hilarious. (I thought it was mildly amusing, but he really cracked up.) I think that guy will always remember our brand for that. And that’s important because people connect with people, not businesses; we’re finally a “people” again.
  3. Our followers feel special.: One Twitter follower commented that he was getting information faster from me through Twitter than through our auto-update website during the weigh-in. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but he felt like it was. I was recapping for him in an almost-live stream what was happening on stage, and he said he felt like he was there because of me. Another guy told me he and his family were at dinner but they were all crowded around his iPhone watching my Tweets. He felt like I was catering to him and his family when they couldn’t be near a computer. How cool is that?

We are so much more than a magazine. We always have been. But now our readers know that too. And that makes me beam with pride!

Do you connect with any magazines through social media? What has your experience been like?

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

A tag cloud (a typical Web 2.0 phenomenon in i...

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Today, I was fortunate enough to get to attend the Social Media Club Conference in Orlando. I have really developed an obsession over social media over the last few months — I’ve been interested in it since I first started learning about it and experimenting with it five years ago. But now I see the real possibilities it brings to people, to businesses, to causes — and to magazines!

One of the recurring discussions today was how social media builds communities around a topic of interest, whether it’s travel or culture or movies or local government. This ability to gather people based on a niche interest has always belonged to magazines — not exclusively, mind you, but it was our badge of honor, our trumpet to advertisers, our flag to hoist. When Web 2.0 came along, some publishing executives embraced it while others quaked in their boots or minimized it as a passing fad those “teenagers” cooked up. Social media is such a natural extension of magazines, and I’m glad to see many media outlets finally getting their arms around it. (Many magazines didn’t adapt and ended up losing their reader base to the magazines that went to where the readers were.)

Some good examples of magazine-created social networks/platforms are Family Circle’s Momster, How Design’s blogs and forums, Martha Stewart’s Community, O Magazine Community and National Geographic’s Blog Central. Of course, several magazines have also ventured into the creation of apps for iPhone/iPad/Android/Blackberry, including Men’s Health, ESPN the Magazine and Cook’s Illustrated.

Publishing executives don’t have to wait for their once-a-month trip-to-the-mailbox impression; they can touch their readers every week, every day, every moment the reader wants to be touched. It’s really an amazing time, an era where a publisher can create content that lands not only on the printed page, but also on a website, in a blog comment, on a forum, in a status update, inside an app, as part of a tweet, and onto the pages of an e-book. Isn’t that amazing?

What other examples do you have of a magazine that has created a successful social media campaign or platform? Does the availability of niche content online make you read printed magazines more or less?

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

[33/365] The Daily

Image by Ben Dodson via Flickr

As someone who has been watching the publishing world try to figure out how to take advantage of the digital revolution, I couldn’t wait to see the much anticipated The Daily for iPad. I wondered if I would care more about it than I do the magazines on Zinio. Because here’s my deal with the magazines on Zinio: They’re beautiful, and I love flipping through them. In fact, I get so swipe-happy that I look at all the pictures in a brain-dead “I’m thinking about something else” type of way, make it all the way to the end of the magazine and realize that I haven’t read a word.

A little ADD? Yes. But I don’t do that with “real” print magazines. I read them so thoroughly that it takes me a month and a half to get through them. Because when I want to read an article in a print magazine, I don’t have to do the weird two-finger stretch to read more, making the design of the page irrelevant and losing the context of the designed page. I really just don’t like reading that way.

So…to The Daily. The Daily is far from perfect. (Read this blog if you don’t believe me.) It does have issues with loading, sharing, commenting, keeping score (the timer did not stop when I finished my game of Sudoku, which sucks because I made great time!) and content. But here’s what makes The Daily better than the Zinio magazines to me:

  • The “just swiping through won’t do” approach: If you swipe to the left repeatedly, you will get to the end of the issue. But you will have missed the functionality that is built in. Each issue has tons of “tap here,” “swipe this,” “turn iPad for full article,” “scroll down,” “hit play” icons that if you don’t do, you’ve missed the point. I like that. Most of the pages keep me busy or engaged. It reminds me of the books for kids where you lift the flap or turn the wheel or pull the tab — you can’t turn the page until you open every one.
  • All of a sudden, I’m looking at ads: I’m a tough customer to reach. I DVR everything (seriously, everything), so I don’t see ads on TV. (Except for during the Super Bowl, when not watching the ads is a sin.) In magazines, I do tend to look at ads that speak to me in some way, but I can pretty easily tune them out, especially on the swipe-so-fast digital magazines. But in The Daily, I have watched every ad that’s been put in so far. They move, they play, they tease, they make you scroll, they change, they swipe, they make me not turn the page until I have done all the things they will let me do. Brilliant! Especially movie trailers: I’m watching movie trailers of movies I would have never watched an ad for or read a review of.
  • Page layouts that are beautiful from every angle: Graphic design is an amazing thing, but sometimes the web strips out the beauty to give the reader a formula approach — headline goes here, deckhead sits here, photo on the right, comments at bottom, white background. That’s fine, and the reader feeders like Flipboard (which I love) put the content in the same formula all the time. And digital magazines tend to have a graphic design that has been adapted from a print version to the digital, which is not always a perfect transition. But on The Daily, every page works horizontally or vertically. The magazine/newspaper/thing (I mean, really, what do we call it?) is obviously blessed with a good design staff that designs for the actual medium. It’s refreshing.
  • Share/comment/save: I love being able to post links on Twitter, share photos on Facebook, save an article for later, e-mail an article to myself, leave a comment on a story, or even post an audio comment. That’s just cool! But these things only seem to work about half the time. It failed to post the links on Twitter and Facebook that I instructed it to. I assume this is one of those things that will get fixed.
  • Customization: My own local weather pops up, as do scores, videos and headlines about Florida pro teams (football, basketball, baseball, etc.) or other teams I choose.

The Daily is not perfect, but to me, it’s an awesome step in the right direction. It will cost me less than a paper subscription. I don’t have a stack of newspapers on my living room floor. And it gives me information organized in a way that flows and that is generated by human writers, editors and designers (not bots or feeds).

Is The Daily the future of publishing? I don’t know, but it’s at least opening the door for other publishers to figure it out. What has your experience been with The Daily, Zinio or other digital magazines? Do you swipe through digital magazines too fast, or is that just me?

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review