Posts Tagged ‘Time Out Chicago’

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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Time Out Chicago (

Issue reviewed: September 9-15, 2010, Issue 289

  • Published in Chicago, Ill., by Time Out Chicago Partners LLP
  • Circulation: 51,699


  • median age: 33
  • average HHI: $95,400
  • 70% are single
  • 60% are female
  • goes out three or more times per week

Overall Editorial

Time Out Chicago calls itself an “irreverent, intelligent, insightful roadmap” to Chicago, and its editors say that if you can’t find anything to do in Chicago, it’s not their fault! And I believe them. This magazine blew me away when I flipped through it the first time because of the enormous amount of stuff to do that this magazine listed. And it’s weekly! That means they compile this huge list every single week. I’m amazed by this, mostly because each listing isn’t just a place, address and admission price. Each one is written — real insight, real attitude, real stories. One, for instance, is for Raunchy Bingo: “This isn’t your grandmother’s bingo — unless Granny was a bit smutty.” Another for Dollar Drink Night: “You can … get hammered at this night of karaoke … and cheap-ass cocktails.” Doesn’t Chicago sound fun?

Overall Design

Similar to my feelings about Baltimore Magazine, I am wowed by how Time Out Chicago can cram so much information into these pages and still make it look good. It doesn’t look like the classifieds section of a paper like you might expect. Color and illustrations and graphics and ads are spread out through all the listings so no page is too boring. The editors are even kind enough to put a big “FREE” next to every free admission event. The contents page is attractive and to the point, and the page right after it has more copy than maybe any page I’ve ever seen in my life — but it still looks good. Especially if you don’t mind smallish type. Throughout, Time Out Chicago has several simple but nice design elements, such as highlights, speech balloons and tiny sidebars with photos. On the features, the design is overboard. In the features Major Score and Concerto Inferno, the opening photos are weird, busy and distracting. The remaining pages of those features are much more pleasing than the first page.

Cover Design and Blurbs

A smashed violin graces the cover and is definitely intriguing, especially with the huge words Smash Hits. The cover photo is good, but for people like me who get this magazine in the mail (and most people, really, because this magazine is almost entirely subscription), the bottom third of the violin isn’t visible because of the label area. It feels like I’m missing something as the reader, especially because most of the damage to the violin would be in the impact area — at the bottom that is covered. The cover blurbs are good (“Gin Yummy” and “Bear Down”).

Editor’s Note

Aw, no editor’s note! What a shame. I would have loved to hear from Frank Sennett. Instead, he packs the magazine with tons of Chicago voices, from weird comments on the street to reader letters to Chicagoan interviews. That’s all great, but hearing one strong voice from a magazine, even amid dozens of others, sets a tone for the magazine that is invaluable.

Departments and Columns

The best department in this magazine appears on the first few pages: It’s the front section that’s made up of Public Eye (an interview with a random Chicagoan), Speak Up (letters and chats with readers), Heard on the Street (awful little things that people hear on the street, full of irony, humor, perversion and the F word!),The Bean Poll (reader survey, with the Chicago Bean statue as the graphic) and What’s Up With That? (a useful but insane question; in this case, it’s “can I get a DUI for drinking and bicycling?”). It’s all short, snappy, funny and shocking. The rest of the magazine is divided into Eat Out, Shopping & Style and Around Town, with the latter being the bulk of the magazine — 60 pages of stuff to do in Chicago. Everything is a quick read, including numerous reviews of books, movies, clothes and restaurants.


There’s only one feature, made up of two stories and two sidebars about music. The first story, Major Score, is a straight-up Q&A interview with the incoming Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director, and the other, Concerto Inferno, is an article about “new classical” music. Concerto Inferno benefits from good writing, but it is difficult to read because the writing is smushed into two pages so the opening page can be taken up with a really ugly burning white wig. Disappointing, considering the cover — bearing the smashed violin — was directing readers to this story, and they probably passed right by it. The photo is weird, it takes too long to figure out, and it likely sounded much better in the board room than it was executed on paper. Plus, it doesn’t relate to the cover. And the design of Major Score leaves tons of blue chicken-scratch background behind the text, making it difficult to read and almost not worth the effort. It would have been much better on both stories to dedicate more white space to the design and invite the readers in instead of telling them “Never mind, just go on to the next page.”

Use of Photography

Photos are everywhere, all with varying levels of strength and interest. The food photos are generally appetizing throughout. Especially interesting were the plate photographs from the restaurants the writers reviewed. They’re mostly straight-down shots, which is generally not recommended for food photography, but in this case, the photos look more like a series of how-to photos, which let the reader see exactly what an order at these restaurants would look like.

Use of Illustrations

Barring a couple of illustrated treatments to photos, I don’t see any illustrations in this magazine. Photos take care of the business needed.

Relevance to Intended Audience

The snarky tone, super-honest-to-the-point-of-red-face answers to sex questions, and the drinking/dining/shopping focus are perfect for party-hearty 30-somethings in the Chicago area. The magazine offers such a variety of go-and-do possibilities that, seriously, it really isn’t their fault if you can’t find anything to do there.

Integration with Website

The website is just as informative as the magazine. Possibly — just maybe — even more so. The website is arranged by type of entertainment, and then by date. It has several blogs and opinions that don’t appear in the magazine that add value. The magazine sends readers to the website in several sidebars and “for more info” boxes, and plus, it puts the web address at the bottom of every single page.

Flow, Story Hierarchy

The flow is good. Starts small, builds up, then brings the reader back down into a sexual then super-geeky finish. These guys have enough content, though, that I think it would be better to produce a larger feature well. Not being a fan of classical music myself, I was totally bored during the features in the beginning. So I started on a high with the crazy quotes and insane questions, then I had to force myself to read the unattractive features before I got into the interesting stuff again.

Paper Quality

The paper is fine, especially for a weekly. It doesn’t wrinkle much and is easily foldable for if you’re on the go to any of the recommended places. It’s 104 pages plus covers.

Overall Opinion

I teetered on the edge of a B for Time Out Chicago for the lackluster features for the music, but in the end, I decided that Time Out Chicago does enough good to outweigh those few oversights. The tone of the magazine is consistent throughout — irreverent and cool — something that’s hard to achieve with this much content. Time Out Chicago does an excellent job of educating and exciting its audience about what’s going on in the area, and it entertains them while they’re making their plans. For these reasons, I give Time Out Chicago 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