Archive for the ‘Magazine: Regional’ Category

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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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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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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

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Baltimore (www.baltimoremagazine.net)

Issue reviewed: October 2010, Vol. 103, Issue 9

  • Published in Baltimore, Md., by Rosebud Entertainment LLC
  • Circulation: about 51,200

Audience

  • average age: 54
  • average HHI: $165,000
  • 63% female
  • Baltimore residents
  • educated, affluent professionals

Overall Editorial

Baltimore Magazine calls itself America’s first city magazine, established in 1907. An honorable distinction, I must say. Where Baltimore Magazine excels is in its conveyance of information; its value is that Baltimoreans will miss activities or restaurants or events or local insight by not getting this magazine. The writing is strong in this magazine; my favorite opener is the following, written by Evan Serpick (following a Ben Franklin quote that beer is proof that God loves us): “It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, and God’s love is flowing fast and furious.”

Overall Design

The color palette in Baltimore Magazine is black, tan/gray and several scaled-back bright colors. They’re not pastels; they’re bright greens, pinks and oranges toned down to reveal a pleasing color. Because there are several repetitive sections (long swaths of pages dedicated to a single topic, such as things to do or places to eat), Baltimore relies on a few design elements that carry over multiple pages and maintain an effortless, pulled-together look. One of those elements is the opener page for It List, Upfront and Local Flavor: full page photo, short info on the beginning page and contents for the section at the bottom. The designers get to have fun in the features section with textured backgrounds, illustrations, icons, setup photography, and super-colorful sidebars, and they do an exceptional job on those pages. In the things-to-do sections, the words remain readable, even on seriously copy-heavy pages.

Cover Design and Blurbs

I have seen better photos of steaks before, but it’s still eye-catching. And while other magazine focus on the-bigger-the-better cover blurbs, Baltimore experiments with multiple type sizes on its cover. Sizzling Steakhouses is in a point size that rivals the nameplate, but the designers made room for a subhead for the title, as well as a cutline for the cover photo. A red button houses more small type, and the freaky Andy Warhol peeking out from the top right of the cover gets even tinier type. This treatment forces the reader to pick up the magazine from the newsstand to read it, increasing its chances of being opened and of turning into a sale. Plus, it looks good.

Editor’s Note

Steve Geppi obviously has a lot going on, and he spends his entire publisher’s note talking about it. It’s all over the place, and a little self-promoting. I don’t mind self-promotion, especially when it’s deserved, and it does sound like Geppi likes to keep his fingers in lots of pots — a new social network he’s created, his own museum in Baltimore, a special exhibit at said museum, and so forth. He only lets the reader into his head a tiny bit when he talks briefly about his fascination with art and Andy Warhol. I’m disappointed that editor Max Weiss doesn’t have a column in the magazine; she does a video blog here that makes me want to read more from her.

Departments and Columns

The It List spans 25 pages (yes, 25 pages!) and covers everything there is to do, see, touch, experience, play or read in Baltimore. It includes a colorful calendar, multiple photos and tons of information. Upfront and Local Flavor are other multiple-page sections set up like It List. Other departments include Community, Hot Shot (local hero-type story), Lifestyle (which actually also ties into the cover feature), Voices (a local person’s story) and Personal Space (home decorating). The magazine ends with Baltimore Grill, an interview with a local food-lover. I do feel it’s my duty, though, to point out the big spelling blunder in the Baltimore Home section. I mean, the word is big and in color, and somehow the extra “c” in eclectic got missed.

Features

The two main features in this issue are the steakhouses (Let Them Eat Steak) and Andy Warhol (Fifteen Minutes and Counting). Both are well designed, and the writing is informative and interesting. I now hope to one day get to Baltimore to try out the tuna tartare at Morton’s or the lobster corn cake at The Oregon Grille.

Use of Photography

This magazine is packed with photos. (A far cry from my recent review of photo-less Commentary!) Every shape and size, every page (almost), and generally very good. A few photos were lacking, like the opening one on the contents page where the light was too hot on the subjects’ left side. But overall, the photos of food were appetizing, of people were intriguing, and of home interiors were stunning.

Use of Illustrations

These guys use a few illustrations, especially in the steakhouse story. They’re good and they fit the look of the magazine. But Baltimore Magazine is much more into photos than it is illustrations.

Relevance to Intended Audience

Baltimoreans probably love this magazine. It has something for everyone who lives there. I imagine a lot of arts events and restaurants get attended because of this magazine.

Integration with Website

The website houses tons of information, just like the magazine. It has features, blogs, videos, a dining section, an arts page, movie reviews and more. And Baltimore is one of those smart magazines that lists its website address as its folio, so page after page after page directs readers to the web.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The magazine starts off with things to do and ends with even more things to do. On the whole, it’s organized well and topics are pretty easy to find. I don’t like Baltimore Home Magazine being tucked away inside these pages, though. I don’t know the history there — was it a standalone that got folded in? Or is it a section they’re trying to launch into its own magazine? Either way, it feels hidden and strange.

Paper Quality

At 208 pages, plus covers, this is one thick little magazine. It’s heavy with ads, so Baltimore Magazine must have a reputation for building a good following that advertisers see the value in. The paper is rather hardy, but my copy was wrinkled throughout, especially in spots with heavy ink.

Overall Opinion

With 103 years of practice, Baltimore Magazine should be strong, and it is! It celebrates the city and encourages its people to get out and do things, to be involved with their community. That’s how local/regional magazines should be. For the warehouse full of information, for the interesting writing and for the boatload of photos, I give Baltimore 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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Sunset (www.sunset.com)

Issue reviewed: October 2010

  • Published in Menlo Park, Calif., by Sunset Publishing Corp.
  • Circulation: 1,138,913

Audience

  • average HHI: $91,829
  • Western U.S. residents
  • outdoorsy, healthy and wealthy

Overall Editorial

I had never looked inside Sunset before, so everything about its innards was new to me. It has a really interesting history, worth checking out here. Sunset started in 1898 and has been through many iterations, including after being dealt a huge blow during the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco. Editorially, it focuses on food, gardening, travel and Western style. It has tons of short copy throughout, packing lots of information into small numbers of words.

Overall Design

The design of Sunset is really enticing. Excellent photos and appealing sidebars are staples throughout this publication, and the fonts and colors are pleasing. It is obvious this magazine’s staff does a lot of planning. The Spices feature is designed around the photography, so the editorial and art folks must have collaborated nicely to put this story together. That’s not always easy, so I appreciate it when I can see that it was achieved.

Cover Design and Blurbs

This issue says fall without “saying” fall. An orange nameplate with a purple background and a hot meal, plated and waiting for you to devour. Chicken and carrots and peppers … it really is beautiful food photography. Blurbs are minimal but sufficient: One dares the reader to open the magazine (Are you drinking a fake pinot?), another gives the reader immediacy (Instant color! For pots, borders, and beds), and still another sends the reader traveling before even getting to the pages (22 quick fall getaways from Sonoma to Sedona).

Editor’s Note

Editor-in-Chief Katie Tamony achieved several things in her editorial, He’ll Be Missed. Mourning the death of former Sunset owner, Bill Lane, Tamony described her friendship with him, gave a brief history of the magazine and added in details about him sure to make some Westerners swoon: horse riding. Tamony also accomplished the “look what’s inside” trick that many editors aim for in their editor’s note, but this one is smart: Below the editor’s note is Katie’s Picks for October, with three pointers to articles inside and online, each with a photo. It truly is a brilliant way to pull readers in without sacrificing valuable editor space and without making the editor’s note sound like a commercial for the magazine.

Departments and Columns

The opening department is called The West At Its Best, and it is four pages of bite-size information about gardening, food, wine and human interest. The rest of this magazine is categorized into features, then Travel, Home & Garden and Food & Wine, each with multiple departments inside these categories. Information throughout is presented in short, readable chunks with enticing design. One example is in Travel: Instead of just listing 10 ways to tour wine country, the editors turned it into a quiz filled with photos and guide information. Another example, called Color In Your Garden, follows with two pages of pot gardening, two of border gardens (with expert commentary) and one colorful page of veggies. The final department of the magazine, View Masters, is a large photo submitted by a reader. Each reader whose photo is chosen for publication wins $100! Nice incentive, and a great way to engage readers.

Features

The feature well is short, and if you’re looking for long, deep articles, you’re looking in the wrong place. Instead, what you’ll find in Sunset is beautiful features that encourage readers to try new things. In the October issue is a feature called Spice. The word count for this eight-page feature is probably around 1,200 words — in other words, photos dominate. But even with so few words, it’s informative and interesting, and I’m sure many readers will study these spices and their accompanying recipes during the upcoming cool months. Three more features follow, done in much the same way: big photos, short information and a call to try something new. I love that the editors took the story Once Upon A Home about a family’s home decor and dedicated an entire spread at the end to teaching the reader how to do a portion of what the featured family did. Sunset makes style, good cooking and smart gardening achievable.

Use of Photography

I want to just put OMG! here. The photography is truly wonderful. There are so many photos in this magazine that you can just get lost in it. The colors throughout are relevant and timely (it’s definitely a fall issue!). No page is untouched by a glamorous shot — even the photos of apples are beyond reproach. In Sunset, the photography is so diverse — from food to destinations to gardens to people to homes … it’s stunning throughout.

Use of Illustrations

The only illustrations are maps and icons. They serve their purpose. The editors know their strength is in photography, which is where they choose instead to focus their energy.

Relevance to Intended Audience

I bet Sunset is to the West what Southern Living is to the South. Iconic, historic, relevant. A must-have. It definitely serves its reader base with things to do/eat/grow in the West, and it focuses on Western ideals of healthy living and outdoor exploring. I found a comment recently on MagaScene where the writer, Emily McMackin, said she would want to have Sunset magazine with her if she was trapped on a deserted island because of “its emphasis on the mind, body and soul. It will teach me everything I need to know to survive on my island–from tips on organic eating and using vegetation to build a shelter to how to truly appreciate and commune with nature.” I see where she’s coming from, and I think those organic leanings resonate with Sunset’s Western audience.

Integration with Website

Splendid. Sunset takes multiple opportunities to direct readers online. Several departments and features tell the reader to go online for more recipes, gardening ideas and travel advice. And the website itself is very much like the magazine: Lots of info, well-designed and diverse in content. Sunset is also active in social media, with blogs, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, and readers can also set up their own recipe files, saving the recipes they like the best in their own online portfolio.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

Sunset begins with small bites, leads up to features in the middle, then teases the reader with more little chunks through to the end. Sunset doesn’t really define its departments, just its categories. So the flow is all travel, then all gardening, then features (which are a mix of the other categories), then food and wine. Another way the good folks at Sunset could consider working it is keeping all its travel, including features, together; same with gardening and food/wine. Certainly, they have their own reasons for setting it up the way they do, but it seems more common sense to keep all the stories on each topic together.

Paper Quality

Sunset uses thin, glossy pages that show off the photos well. It is perfect-bound, and this particular issue is 120 pages plus covers. I don’t know if it’s always been perfect-bound; at this size, it might be good to go saddle-stitch.

Overall Opinion

Like I said in the beginning, I wasn’t familiar with Sunset before I got this issue. It swept me off my feet and made me wish I was a Westerner! For that, I give it an A. I don’t mean to gush, but for me, it was a very nice surprise. The colors and photos were appetizing, and the editorial content was intriguing. And it makes me realize how much of the U.S. (the West, specifically) I haven’t seen and therefore haven’t fully appreciated. To anyone who hasn’t read Sunset, I encourage you to pick it up next time you’re at the magazine stand and flip through it. I think you’ll agree that it’s worth a look.

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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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