From a cover that grabs your attention to content pages that pack a punch: How do you make a magazine that’s worth the read? Mie, our very own co-founder and former editor-in-chief of some of Belgium’s leading magazines shares her 6 golden rules ( and the 6th is the most important one).
In short, the best magazines are like unique people.
#1 3 seconds WIIFM
Qué ?! WIIFM stands for “What’s in it for me”? It’s the question a reader unconsciously asks himself when viewing a magazine cover. And know that you have to answer that question in 3 seconds.
3 seconds to seduce with an image and a headline that hold a promise. In those 3 seconds, your reader must be triggered to take a closer look at the magazine and preferably to grab it or even better leaf through it. If that happens, you have taken the first hurdle. Well done.
How do you seduce someone in 3 seconds? Through shape, format, colour, image and a clear message. 3 seconds is one glance. There is no time for a double entendre, it has to be a slam dunk.
Know what is going on in the life of your ideal reader and what challenges he or she is facing or the dreams they cherish. Empathize and think about why your reader is making a financial plan, how crazy their personal dreams are, how much or little time they have to realize them.
Provide content that relates to that. What does that reader want to read RIGHT NOW. What is going on in his head RIGHT NOW and what are his future goals? Knowing the answers to that and responding to it, is the only key to success.
Making a magazine requires skill. I myself have a background in magazine making and have been spoiled all my career with the pool of talent with which I was allowed to surround myself with. I have learned that your message stands or falls with the talent that is used. For a great text, you need a brilliant writer.
I like the journalistic approach, also for more commercial magazines. It means a search for new content, new knowledge, new expertise… and translating that content to the reader, in a language that is appreciated by him. That is the tone of voice, in other words, the how of telling a story.
In addition to the tone of voice, there is the look & feel. The visual aspect of the magazine. It’s about the right choice of font, use of colour, the style of photography and so much more. Making magazines is not an exact science. On the contrary. You make a magazine with feeling. With a lot of empathy.
Each page should reflect on what the reader might think of it. Does he like this photo, does it inspire him, does it not distract from the essence of the article, does it add something? Image and text must reinforce and interact with each other. That interaction is the craft behind magazine making. Practice makes perfect.
#4 Rhythm and Variety
The content of a magazine is no accidental mishmash of articles. Anything but! The first page is the first for a reason and the last is the last for a reason. Each page has a function and a specific place in the magazine. And there is no fixed pattern for that either. What suits the nature of the magazine and the nature of the target group determines the rhythm and variety. What is a given, is that there is a lot of variation.
A magazine is like a piece of music. It is built up in passages. Short tastemakers with a lot of energy and slow pieces in which you can slowly disappear. There are viewing moments that stimulate your mind and short bite-sized pages where you gain a lot of impressions. It is that ultimate variety that determines the individuality of a magazine.
You can’t put your finger on that particular structure, unlike the words of your favourite author or the images of a talented photographer. It is the subtle composition that makes it a symphony you want to listen to until the end.
Make it your own. Be original. Those blank pages that you have at your disposal are like very expensive building land. You put a skyscraper on it, not a shabby shack. Create your own original beauty.
Find out what you can do differently from others and make it a “feature”. If it is a certain columnist who perfectly expresses what you want to say, emphasize it. Is there inside information from your target audience that is so typical that you can turn it into a section: do it. Do you have the opportunity to work out an interview in a specific context; don’t hesitate to make it your interview concept.
#6 Be a person, not a brand
The best magazines talk to you like they are a person. Your reader feels it in those first 3 seconds and reads it in that first glance. “This magazine appeals to me. It uses my language, it offers something I can use right now, it stimulates me. ”
The best magazines are not catalogues of products that you want to sell as a brand. The best magazines do not always start from the brand objectives, they start from the target group. They are made for a reader and genuinely want to please that reader.
A magazine builds a relationship. Are you in a long relationship or a one night stand? Very decisive for your content!
As a magazine maker you determine what relationship you want to have with your reader. Are you the like-minded, the coach, the smart teacher or the crazy soul mate? Choose your position and be that person. But be a person and not a brand. As a “human”, engage in a conversation with your reader.
Each magazine has the opportunity to engage in a good, valuable conversation with its target audience. Use this! You now have that important person in front of you, don’t tell him any junk stories.
Arriving at that last page, your reader should feel appreciated. He must feel that this magazine was made for him. And not for the brand.
To be continued…
Why magazines should be part of your content strategy
Written by Mie Van der Auwera