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.


Normally I update this blog every Wednesday. I wrote a blog post for Wednesday, but it was boring and I didn’t want to post something that wasn’t up to my standards. I was short on creative energy – stuck without fresh ideas.

The creative ebb and flow hits all writers and editors; but unfortunately, sometime there is a deadline during a low creativity season and content or editorial vision needs to be squeezed out of the dry places.

My creative low last week was due to a variety of factors. On Tuesday our editorial team had generated lots of good ideas for two magazines in the next quarterly cycle. Those two meetings don’t normally happen on the same day, so it used up a lot of creative energy. In addition, I had been travelling the weekend before and was at a sleep deficit. And my exercise regime was interrupted by a pesky but minor leg injury. Creative energy takes mind, body and soul, so factors affecting any or all of those impact the ability to generate good ideas.

Unfortunately creativity isn’t something that has a good shelf-life. Even though I have a list of at least a dozen good ideas for future blog posts, going to my idea list when I was drained resulted in content that wasn’t fresh – more like freeze-dried, reconstituted content.

So how does a writer or editor rejuvenate to get a fresh edge for shaping content? Some of the answer is unique to the individual. For me, a walk in fresh air is a good way to let my brain wander and put together new ideas. And laps in the pool help me take an initial idea and organize it in a meaningful way.

Our brains are amazing tools, and sometimes we need to give them more space and time to wander, rather than pressuring them into producing. Because as they wander, we may realize new angles on old issues, or fresh connections that make sense.

One of my college professors asserted that true intellectual activity was only possible for about 4 hours a day, and the rest of the time we should garden, since the fresh air and physical nature of the work would refresh our brains. When I was 20 that seemed a bit crazy, but now it makes a lot of sense. However, most of us work in environments that require more than 4 hours a day of productivity. Building in some kind of physical and mental break that includes fresh air helps me stay energized. In addition, even though I am an introvert, time spent engaging with interesting people also sparks fresh ideas. So in the past few days I have puttered in my garden and spent time with idea people, along with regular exercise. These have refreshed my creativity, so I am ready to tackle content work for upcoming projects.

What helps you generate and sustain creative energy? How can you build enough rejuvenating activity into your regular rhythms?

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