Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore’

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?

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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