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When Joe Pulizzi asked me to join him to launch Chief Content Officer magazine, I leapt at the chance in part because I love the glossy, rich feel of a print magazine. You could even say I’m a bit of an addict, subscribing to ten magazines at home—from the uber-hip Fast Company to straight-laced Foreign Affairs (and more than a few low-brow mags in between that I hide under the couch when company comes over).
During the darkest days of the recession, lots of people were predicting that print magazines were in a death spiral—suffering from the combined forces of fewer advertisers, competition from free content online, and a lack of innovation in integrating digital and print. I’m not convinced. Flipboard may be the coolest new iPad app on the market, but many of us still love the rich look and feel of a print magazine.
What does it take to build a great print custom magazine? Joe Pulizzi wrote the definitive post about the planning, execution and measurement of custom magazines. Joe got his start in custom media so he’s like the Miyagi to my Karate Kid. Instead of trying to re-hash his smart advice, below is my list of magazine must-have intangibles.
Design on equal footing with editorial
Even more so than content online, the design of your magazine is crucial – and just as important as the editorial. Your magazine’s chief editor and chief creative should have great chemistry and a shared sense of how content and design inspire one another.
An appreciation for the quirky and new
When someone sits down with a print magazine, they are in browsing mode, ready to be entertained and inspired. You’re catching them at a very different moment than when they may receive your e-newsletter or blog post—which is more likely to happen during work hours. Meet your reader’s browsing, relaxed mood with content that is more entertaining than purely educational. Profile a person whom your audience aspires to become. Showcase a company that is not just successful, but daring and even quirky. Mix in short-format content and lots of visuals for skimmers.
The success of a magazine depends on sniffing out interesting stories and gaining access to interesting people. Ensure your team has the necessary sales skills to pull in contributors and snag interviews with influential people. You need at least one (if not more) extroverts on your team.
Writers who speak Smart and Snappy
There are many different kinds of skilled writers, but only a small cohort make great magazine writers. The very best are natural storytellers, willing to say something silly or controversial for the sake of capturing their readers’ attention, and don’t wander around on intellectual detours.
A deep knowledge of (and affinity for) your target audience
This one seems nearly too basic to preach to a roomful of marketers. If you are going to write aspirational stories, you need to know what your readers aspire to–what challenges they face and what fuels their passion. Ideally, your editorial and design team shares that passion.
Our goal is to deliver all of these intangible qualities in every tangible edition of Chief Content Officer, and hopefully convince the world that print is alive and well.