Posts Tagged ‘Florida Magazine Association’

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

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Healthy Living (

Issue reviewed: August 2010, Vol. 3, Issue 8

  • Published in Leesburg, Fla., by Akers Media Group
  • Circulation: less than 20,000


  • 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.


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

I just attended the Florida Magazine Association Conference in Orlando and came back inspired. I met so many wonderful people, saw tons of great designs and read beautiful articles. Reviewing magazines gives me the opportunity to read about a variety of topics, learn more about publishing and converse with people like me who also love magazines.

I’ll post my first review soon! Please visit often, leave comments and suggest magazines for critique.

–Tyler Reed

Editor, The Sidebar Review