Posts Tagged ‘Commentary’

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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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Commentary (www.commentarymagazine.com)

Issue reviewed: October 2010, Vol. 130, Issue 3

  • Published in New York, N.Y., by Commentary Inc.
  • Circulation: 25,000

Audience

  • thinkers/intellectuals
  • highly educated and influential people
  • activists

Overall Editorial

Commentary is made up of multiple long, thoughtful essays on current political and social issues. It is candy for people who really like news, philosophy and debate. It is death for people who live for photos, adore sidebars and have the attention span of a gnat. The editors of this publication focus all their energy on gathering or writing articles relevant to their audience, and they waste no time with endeavors that supplement said articles.

Overall Design

For a magazine that has no photos (and I mean it: NO photos), it’s not that bad. It’s wordy, obviously, but the designers work well with the typography, making it very readable and breaking up each and every page with a pullquote or large cap. The type throughout is justified, which I usually dislike, but this is a stiff book and stiff type seems to fit it well. I imagine rag right copy would look sloppy in this format. Commentary does use color, though: It’s well-placed and adds visual interest without detracting from the stories.

Cover Design and Blurbs

The cover is some strange pencil-type design with — guess what — words all over it. But it probably speaks right to the people who would read this magazine. It highlights five articles and their authors, including The Mosque Provocation, How States Went Broke and The Global Poverty Paradox. No teasing, no gimmicks, just a straightforward list of what’s contained within. I mention the authors because this magazine, more than any other I’ve encountered, bills its authors as experts. It encourages readers to write in about articles, challenging the experts if desired, and the expert answers the challenges. Commentary’s website calls reading this magazine “[taking] part in the great American discussion,” and by soliciting and answering such feedback, it truly is building a conversation, as well as print can do.

Editor’s Note

In keeping with the rest of the magazine, the editor’s note, How To Provoke, is text on a page, unmarred by photography of any type. It’s written by John Podhoretz, and it addressed the New York City mosque problem, which another writer goes into more detail on later. Podhoretz establishes himself in the beginning as one of this group of intellectuals who read and write this publication. He offers his opinion on the matter at hand and helps draw the reader in, if for no other reason than to read what the other writer wrote about the mosque.

Departments and Columns

Commentary’s only departments are the editor’s note, letters to the editor and a monthly joke, called Enter Laughing. The joke is, er, not really funny. It’s kind of funny, but not really, and it’s a long way from the beginning to the end. What’s funnier is that the editors know it isn’t really funny and they instead solicit exegeses from the readers to explain or interpret the joke. Bizarre. But it’s kind of cool because it’s very “insider”: If you don’t get it, you’re not one of us. I was always told that if you have to explain a joke, you didn’t tell it right … but I guess that’s why I’m not one of them.

Features

The features are smart, thoughtful, philosophical, political, questioning. They are not meant for you to read and accept as they are. They are meant for you to read, contemplate, challenge and choose what you want to believe. If you have a valid argument against the rhetoric, write a letter to the editor. It’s why they dedicate four pages to letters. One feature is fiction: It’s seven pages of a short story to break between the multitude of articles. I’m not sure why they inserted a fiction feature (it must resonate with their audience), but it’s nice to see an appreciation for good writing and good storytelling even in a hard-facts political-debate magazine.

Use of Photography

Ahem….they don’t have any.

Use of Illustrations

The folks at Commentary do add a little color to the publication with a few illustrations. The joke from Enter Laughing gets a political-cartoon-like illustration that’s very cute and almost forces you to stop and read that page. And the cover feature, The Other Existential Threat, has that same penciled illustration from the cover, just at the tops of the pages.

Relevance to Intended Audience

Like I said, I think this magazine is candy for people who like politics and social issues and debate. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. It is probably just like its audience likes it: no frills, no glitz, no flash, just commentary.

Integration with Website

Commentary doesn’t push readers to its website at all. It’s a shame because it’s got tons of online-only articles there. A lot of the content is blocked and is for subscribers only. Commentary Inc. is a nonprofit organization, so it has to push more for people’s funds than huge magazine publishing houses do.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

Commentary is broken up into categories once its departments/columns are out of the way. It begins with eight feature articles, each five to eight pages long. Next comes the fiction article, then two sections called Politics & Ideas and Culture & Civilization. The articles after the fiction story are markedly shorter, from one to five pages. In other words, Commentary starts with short appetizers, moves into the steak, then more steak, then … seriously … more steak, before you get the potatoes and veggies. Then the reader finishes with multiple small desserts. It would take someone like me an entire month to get through all 84 pages. It is a lot of words.

Paper Quality

Printed on thick, matte pages with stiff covers, Commentary has the feel of a small, softbound textbook. It’s perfect-bound and 84 pages plus covers. It is easy to hold onto for long reads — it bends back easily and doesn’t crinkle up at all.

Overall Opinion

Commentary was all new to me. I’ve never encountered it, and I’m definitely not a part of its target audience. But I can see why people who do make up the elite group of readers would love it. It offers a real forum for serious readers, it is committed to its content, and it doesn’t dumb itself down in order to capture a larger audience. For that, I give it 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