Loyal Readers

A magazine provides a relationship between readers and content providers. This reader relationship is essential for a magazine to remain viable. Readers choose to subscribe to a magazine because it is meeting some need in their life, and once they choose to become readers, they have an expectation of what they will receive from the magazine. The same is true of digital content – websites, e-newsletters and e-zines.

Building the reader relationship and meeting expectations is one reason that magazines have a structure – so that loyal readers know which section to go to for short, interesting grazing material or their favorite columnist. While they expect fresh material in each issue, the delivery of content is in a package that feels familiar, like a trusted friend. The challenge for magazine editors and designers is to respect their relationship with loyal readers enough to continually strive to exceed their expectations – and to balance continuous improvement and creativity with the sense of familiarity and relationship that readers receive from consistency.

Here are a few ways to continue to freshen content within a consistent structure:

  • Include special thematic sections to provide fresh perspective and still leave room for columns and regular departments.
  • Stimulate reader engagement through advisory teams or surveys which can provide a fresh stream of ideas relevant to the audience.
  • Allow for surprises for readers. Every now and then make room for a new type of content, such as a song or artistic visual that fits into the editorial grid but provides a new genre for the reader to experience.
  • Revisit your structure and editorial grid every few years to make sure they still meet the needs of your readers.

Loyal readers who look forward to receiving their magazine or e-zine content will share their enthusiasm with their peers, who can also become loyal readers if the magazine continues to meet and exceed expectations.

Macro Editorial Review

Often editorial energy is focused on each individual piece of content, in an effort to emphasize quality and clarity. But periodically, an editorial team should step back and look at collective communications. Depending on the volume of individual pieces, such a macro editorial review should happen monthly, quarterly or every six months. The macro review looks at the overall tone, topics, voice and style of the whole body of content that an organization has produced over a period. This macro-level review is important, because it is possible to end up straying from the organizational voice and brand in a series of incremental content decisions. By pausing to look at the big picture of all the communications delivered to constituents over a period of time, such subtle drift can be detected and corrected.

Before embarking on a macro editorial review, it is important to establish a culture of quality improvement and acceptance of evaluation and review. Rather than negative repercussions and defensiveness, all the parties in the review need to be open to giving and receiving evaluations, with the goal of making the overall communications more effective.

Questions to address in a macro editorial review:

  • How does each individual piece of content contribute to the organization’s overall vision and mission?
  • How does content fit into the editorial grid?
  • Are there topics that have not been addressed often enough? Are there gaps which need to be filled?
  • Are there topics that are too frequent? Is there a need for more variety in content?
  • How does content on various platforms fit together (web, print, email)?
  • What are the best content pieces over the period of time? How can we produce more winners?
  • Which articles should not have been produced? How can we avoid lower-quality content in the future?

Macro editorial review processes can lead to increasing the overall quality of communication for an organization. Being open to giving and receiving evaluations on content sharpens the skills of the staff team and focuses everyone on communications strategy.

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