Posts Tagged ‘Redbook’

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?

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

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.