Posts Tagged ‘MagaScene’

Excerpt from Jill Herzig’s editor’s note, October 2010 issue of Redbook:

“Have you ever arrived home after making what you think is a major beauty change … only to have your husband look straight at you, open a beer, and notice nothing? In this way, husbands and magazine readers can be similar. … We editors think we’ve rocked our pages with some momentous transformation, but readers often take a look and shrug.”

Dear Mrs. Herzig, I am here for you.

I too have been on the editing end of a redesign and heard very little from our readers. I feel your pain. I am here to save you. I will show you that I paid attention to Redbook’s redesign. Below, you will see that I broke it down, section by section, with highlights and lowlights of the transformation. (I live for this!)

So, here goes! In all photos, the prior issue (September) is on the left, and the redesign issue (October) is on the right. You can click on any photo to make it larger. Each section below is ruled a Fail, Pass or Win.


Fonts, colors and styles are the same from September to October. The only difference I detected was the removal of “Love Your Life” from Redbook’s nameplate. It was actually removed throughout the magazine, from the cover to the spine to the masthead. I wonder … should we stop loving our lives? Or was loving our lives just a phase that we were meant to work through, and now we’re on the other side? Either way, it appears the powers that be added this phrase in its redesign in 2007 and is taking it away now. I’m positive this makes Jezebel happy. (If you don’t mind harsh language and super-tacky commentary, read Jezebel’s diatribe about Redbook adding this phrase in 2007 here.)

If Herzig and staff wanted to get comments from readers on the redesign, they should have done something new with the cover. It’s only an OCD like me who would notice the “Live Your Life” removal; the cover would have been a great opportunity to kick off the big change and guarantee notice by more readers. However, the newsstand is a fragile animal, and if Redbook’s staff members felt that their combination was magical as it was, then I get it.

The cover was good before and it’s good now. But it definitely does not signal a major redesign.

Cover Ruling: Pass


Redbook condensed its contents from 2 2/3 pages to 2 pages. The emphasis is now off the article titles and on the page numbers, which makes it hard to find articles that are of interest to reader — it’s more work to go through the contents. The font is harder to read in the redesign, too, from the section names to the article titles. It’s so much work, in fact, to get through these contents pages, that many readers will just skip it and opt to flip around until they find what they want.

Contents Ruling: Fail

Editor’s Note

The new design brings the poor editor out of a hidden corner of a page to her own page with a few accessories added (in this case, they’re Insider Secrets). The photo is light-years better (I think the original photo was taken in 1982), and the design is open, welcoming and eye-catching.

Editor’s Note Ruling: Win


Lots of magazines say they “re-imagined” their issue in a redesign. Most don’t really. It’s not a safe strategy to re-imagine too much because you might alienate your readers. It remains to be seen if Redbook will alienate its readers because its sections have completely changed. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Old: Style Scoop; Your Love Life; Body & Mind; Making It Work; Living; Downtime
  • New: Beauty & Health; Men, Love & Family; Make It Work; What To Wear; Features; Good To Eat

The Good To Eat section is completely new; the old magazine included a couple of recipes, but not a cooking/dining section. The opening short-item department, Just In Time, was replaced by Spill Vent Gossip Go!, changing the content from quick fixes (cook chicken in 15 minutes, give yourself a makeover) to a more interactive reader polls section.

Departments Ruling: Pass


Before Redesign



After Redesign



My familiarity with Redbook is admittedly low, so it’s not easy to judge the features based on these two issues. I don’t know how similar all the previous issues’ cover stories resembled the Julianna Margulies spread, and how similar the upcoming ones will be to the Lauren Graham spread. But the Margulies spread is clearly more dramatic, with only the deckhead on the opener, whereas the Graham spread introduces the first two paragraphs. The inside of the features is the same, though.

Features Ruling: Pass


The taglines at the top of most pages morphed from feminine and delicate to chunky and edgy. The design overall looks less like it appeals to teenage girls and more like it appeals to women in their late 20 or early 30s. The new food section is appetizing, useful and creative — and now that everyone is a foodie, this section needed to be added. One other great change is the back page: The old version had “I love my ____ life,” where readers filled in the blank. It was a very plain design. The new back page is a spunky, funny chart to help the reader determine, in this case, if she’s “in the mood” enough to go all the way or go to sleep. Here’s the comparison:

There were a lot of good changes throughout, but there wasn’t anything that blew me away. Redbook’s readers will surely be pleased — at least, the ones who notice will!

Overall Ruling: Pass

What do you think? Have you seen the new design? If you’d like to keep reading, check out what two other websites have had to say about it: MediaWeek and MagaScene.

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Sunset (

Issue reviewed: October 2010

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


  • 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.


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