Archive for the ‘Magazine: Recreation’ Category

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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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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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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