26 April 2007

Great Covers

While print magazines stll are with us, let's remember to take care of basics. As editor of Magazine Retailer, I had the good fortune to interview ASME (American Society of Magazine Editors) Hall of Famer John Mack Carter. He has developed a set of cover design principles to grab the consumer during the 60-second first impression sniff test. Most of the wisdom he shared pertains to the cover lines - a/k/a blurbs or sell lines. I offer his insights here for you to measure against your own experience.
"We put the blurbs where they're most likely to be exposed," says Carter. "We run the logo large at the top -- often with a banner behind it. We run it as clean as we can so it can be seen from as far away as possible and seen before other logos. We don't believe in covering up the name with the head of a model, which you can do once you're well known.
"We also have a number of guidelines that say you ought to have interesting blurbs about things people want to know about or are likely to want to know about. I'm a great believer that the sum of your cover lines ought to represent a value the magazine has that is greater than the price of the magazine. You can almost take a little calculator out and say what that value is worth. Dollar signs should be in there indicting that dollar is not money to be spent but money to be saved and the magazine is going to tell you how to do that. The magazine should do something for you or you're not going to buy it. Make your thighs slimmer, make you handsomer, make your abdominal muscles ripple, make you richer make you appear to be more intelligent and make you to come back for the next issue and buy another one of these magazines."
Another Carterism is to make a boastful promise.
"If you don't have something good to say about yourself," he says, "nobody else is going to, which means there are some superlatives which are useful [such as "best" or "most"]. As a matter of fact, the well-edited magazine can have superlatives on the cover. because it is the best accumulation of information about that subject."
Carter reports that when the first issue of Country Living came out, it immediately made money.
"You're not supposed to do that," we told him.
"It," he responded with a straight face," was awkward explaining it."

25 April 2007

Harper's Bazaar vs Vogue

It’s battle of the bands time as Phyllis Fine of Mediapost.com compares Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar with each other. I was pleased to learn that a Vogue article “tests out the theory that shoulder pads are coming back.”

24 April 2007

Tell people the print magazine is dead and you’ll get one of two responses.

1. Nonsense!
This Chicago Tribune article (registration required), for example, cites the tactile, portable virtues of paper.

2. Tell me something new.

Reluctantly, I’m in the second camp. The structures that have served magazines so well for so long are, shall we say, challenged. Cheap subscriptions, advertising support, retail distribution just don’t have the magic.

Certainly some magazines (in-flights, for example) have more reliable structures than others, than most. And it’s not like a comet will strike the Earth and eliminate all magazines at once.

But still, when was the last time you said, “send me a Xerox;” and when was the last time you said, “send me a link?”