Archive for the ‘The Sidebar Review’ Category

Is this the right tree? And how do I know?

Eureka! I had it, definitely. I knew in August 2010 that my purpose was magazines. Writing, reading, designing, critiquing, photographing, circling, buying, reviewing — I just knew this was my thing.

I started this darling blog that I was super proud of. I littered my dining room table with tons of magazines: Jet, Baltimore, Redbook, Playboy, Yoga Journal, Esquire, Bitch. I spent an hour or two every night reading and reviewing these masterpiece periodicals. I was proud as a peacock when I was chosen to be a judge for Folio’s annual competition. I was happy to call myself a blogger, make blogger friends and comment on other people’s blogs.

But my life started changing in a way I had not expected.

A couple of days after my last review (Outlook Magazine in May 2011), the new owners of the company my husband and I work for announced that the company was Alabama-bound, and we were welcome to follow it or find the end of Florida’s long unemployment lines. I spent weeks in denial, then months in preparation for our move. All the while, The Sidebar Review was on my brain, but I dared not spend the last drops of time I had in beautiful Florida tucked away in a dining room, hunched over a computer.

And the longer the time went from my last post, the harder it became to go back to it. How was this blog actually helping my life? Was it enhancing my career? Was I performing better at work? At home? Besides, my job has changed from magazines to social media and digital publishing — it’s still in the same forest but not barking up the right tree.

So I am now at a crossroads: Do I stick with magazines? Do I change over to something else? And if I do, do I change the blog name? And do I keep the old posts?

The answer must be buried inside me somewhere, but it has yet to surface. So by putting the question out there, I’m hoping the answer will feel more compelled to pop out! (It’s like going on a diet — if you don’t tell anyone you’re on a diet, you can eat cupcakes unabated, but if you’re accountable to someone, you have to switch to broccoli.)

Now I am accountable to you, the people who once read my posts, interacted with me and befriended me back when I was a dedicated blogger. How did you decide what to write about? How do you know whether you should stick with something or if it’s time to move on? How do you know that the tree you’re standing under is the right one?

How do you know you’ve “made it”? When someone who calls himself D. Eadward Tree (or, Mr. Tree formally) gives you notice and mentions you in his blog on Publishing Executive Magazine’s website. (OK, maybe SOME of you have your sights set higher, but I’ve always been a practical girl.)

My day has come, and Mr. Tree mentioned me in his oh-so-sexy column where he toyed with magazine names and their slogans. Intrigued? Surely you are. Check it out here. It’s a quick read and quite amusing. Thanks, Mr. Tree!

–Tyler W. Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

So, I have not posted a blog in ages. I come to you ashamed of myself. Let me be clear: I have thought about blogging a lot. But the sitting down and the doing of it have not come easy.

I wrote several blog posts in my head during my recent trip to India. One thing I really wanted to do while I was there for my sister’s wedding was check out the magazines on the other side of the world to see how they are different. I also thought that during the 44-or-so hours of flight time spread over a two-week period that I would read lots of new magazines, form opinions of them, and write down my thoughts to post later. I even loaded the WordPress app on my iPad so that I could actually post if I wanted to during the trip.

As it turns out, I was way too involved in curry, saris, shoe shopping, jet lag, ice cream, earrings, palaces, poverty, traffic, cows and Hindu temples to actually produce anything for or about The Sidebar Review.

I did pick up several magazines while I was there and I did make a few observations. In the meantime, I accumulated several new American magazines at home that I also must review soon before they’re entirely too outdated for anyone to care about. So, I will get on those. Here, for your viewing pleasure (and so you don’t think I’m making this up), are a few of the memories I made with my husband, my sister and my brother-in-law. I will get back to the magazines promptly!

Like many Americans my age, I want to move up but am trapped in a restrictive box with walls built from the current economy and taped together by my experience — too much to be considered an up-and-coming newbie, but too little to be considered management material. While I was feeling crushed, I released pressure in different ways — taking on responsibility for a nonprofit modern dance company, volunteering for a homeless counseling center, finding committees and clubs to be active in, and of course, starting this blog.

I am only now, after several years, beginning to see some of the fruits of my labor. Small acknowledgements, like being selected to serve as a judge for Folio’s national magazine awards and being asked to co-chair a committee for the Florida Magazine Association, give me the fuel I need to push forward, to find significance in a career that’s moving slowly but steadily.

Today, I got another such acknowledgement. I opened the newest issue of Redbook to find a snippet of my review of the magazine’s redesign right on page 22! (See photo below — squint to see me at the bottom center of the page!) It wasn’t a total surprise: Editor Jill Herzig had been kind enough to respond to my review by e-mail and ask permission.

I don’t pretend that this small mention (which is being delivered to 2 million homes as I write this!) is going to send my career skyrocketing or make me so famous that my opinion will be highly sought after. What I will take away from this moment, instead, is that some people do listen. Some people notice. I have had amazing responses from some really cool people, including Herzig, Florida Trend’s Mark Howard, and editors at Baltimore Magazine, Time Out Chicago and The Week.

One thing my snug-fitting box has taught me is that, for many people, careers don’t grow by gallops, but by lots and lots of small steps. It is a small but significant step to me to be noticed by some of the most powerful people in publishing. Thank you for sticking with me as I put one foot in front of the other.

–Tyler W. Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review

Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

Image via Wikipedia

The Sidebar Review is in its infancy, and just like a little baby who can’t survive without its mother’s care, this little blog has the potential to wither away if I don’t make the time to update it.

But I won’t let it die.

Here’s why: The Sidebar Review wasn’t created because the world needs more blogs. Or more opinions. Or because magazine editors need some random person criticizing their work. The Sidebar Review was created because I wanted to learn what other magazines do. I’ve been working in publishing for 11 years, but for the same company the whole time. I’m curious what makes other magazines tick. And I realize there’s a ton of magazines I’ve never even looked in before because I’m not a part of their target audience.

That is ending. I’m rapidly picking up magazines I’ve never opened. Coming up for review are Fortune, Forbes, Playboy, Golf World, Baltimore Magazine, and Sailing World. And a new friend of mine that I met through blogging, FlyingGma, sent me several copies of her favorite magazine, Flight Training, to review. How cool is that?

Already I’ve learned different treatments of sidebars, editor’s notes, photography, illustrations, storytelling and cover blurbs. Some magazines’ web integration is incredible — others have lackluster websites. It makes me more conscious of what I do on my own magazine at work. It makes me more aware of what’s going on in the publishing world.

So I’m going to keep my “baby” nourished and healthy. I’ll teach her diversity. I’ll try to keep her clean and happy.

And I’ll hope she finds a few friends who don’t mind stopping by to visit.

The Basis of Critiques

Posted: August 15, 2010 in Articles, The Sidebar Review
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So, I must set some ground rules for myself for grading each magazine. Here are the ideas I have so far:

  • overall editorial
  • overall design
  • cover design and blurbs
  • editor’s note
  • department pages
  • columns
  • features
  • use of photography
  • use of illustrations
  • relevance to intended audience
  • integration with website
  • flow, story hierarchy
  • paper quality

What would you like to see in addition to those? Also, I will make an effort with each magazine to learn something about it — circulation, mission, time in existence, etc. I hope I can find out most of that stuff pretty easily.

Additionally, I have a rule for each review. After each review is posted, I must make my best effort to contact the magazine’s staff members and let them know the review has been posted. It keeps me honest: I have to be willing to defend whatever I write to people who may be completely unreceptive to my critique and unhappy with what I have to say. For every review on this blog, be assured that I have e-mailed and contacted via Twitter or Facebook the editor or editorial staff at that publication.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review