Every magazine needs content that keeps readers glued to the page and coming back for more. If you’re failing to deliver that, it’s time to develop a magazine content strategy. Engaging magazine content will make you a reliable source for readers who know they can trust you to deliver the news and information they want.
What Is Engaging Magazine Content?
Have you ever wondered why your eye skips over one article and zooms in on another? The subject matter is a big reason, but it could also be the headline, the logo, or the fact that you trust the source of that article to be engaging and relevant.
Engaging magazine content means anything that sparks an emotional reaction in your readers. It often combines text with photos or illustrations that enhance the text. Magazines with plenty of white space and appealing layouts are engaging because they’re easy to read. Online writing might include infographics, bullet points, and other visual aids. In this article, we’ll give you tips and ideas for creating that kind of magazine content in your magazine.
4 Tips to Improve Your Magazine Content Strategy
When developing a magazine content strategy, start with what you know works. Which of your writers and articles consistently draw the most reactions? Measure this by the type and quality of comments people make, letters to the editor, forum posts, and social media mentions. You don’t have to start from scratch, but it may be time to incorporate some new ideas.
1. Start with the Contents Page
Readers want to know what’s in the magazine and where to find it. A well-designed contents page is the perfect guide to what they can expect. If you’re lucky, you’ll have so much enticing magazine content in there that they won’t know which one to start with.
Your contents page can take up more than one page. In that case, try a full-page spread so a reader can see all the magazine content without flipping back and forth. Use bold lines and varied fonts to separate the issue’s articles from sections or columns that appear in every issue. Some readers want to jump right to those regular sections, so let them know where to find their favorites.
If you used a particularly tantalizing cover line to draw readers in, make sure they know where to find that cover story immediately. Many nationally known magazines post a large, can’t-miss-it ON THE COVER pull-out at the top of the contents page. If you’ve enticed someone to buy your magazine because of a promise on the cover, live up to the promise by telling them exactly where that hot magazine content is.
Don’t forget pictures on the contents page. You can reproduce images used in the articles themselves as thumbnails in the table of contents. Keep it lively, and remember to highlight everything that’s on the cover.
2. Be Authentic with Magazine Content
If you want emotional engagement with your readers, your magazine content strategy should include a push for authenticity and honesty. Readers want to know that there are real people behind the magazine. They want to feel like they’re in a place where they can have smart, fun, or serious discussions with people who care about the same things they do.
It’s not always possible—or advisable—to be your “authentic” self if your magazine covers serious, often controversial issues like politics or social issues. In that case, you may not want to express your feelings on the subject too openly for fear of putting some people off.
All magazines, however, have a “From the Editor” page, and here’s where you can put that authentic voice to work. You don’t have to delve into any sticky subjects. The “From the Editor” page is simply a way to make any magazine seem approachable. Use it to talk about staff news, happenings behind the scenes, local events you’ve attended, or seasonal changes. Keep it light, and keep it honest.
3. Tell Stories
Journalists often refer to their articles as “stories,” as in, “I’m working on a story about…” That’s because they know that every great news or analytical article is actually a story about real people.
What are the elements of a good story? They are:
- Relatable characters
- Resolution of the conflict
- Acceptance of the outcome
Everyone loves a story. We all want to feel we’ve met interesting people who dealt with difficult or interesting situations, had amazing adventures, or accomplished something. We want villains and heroes, and we want a happy ending, justice, or just hope for a better future. We want to be moved to tears and laughter.
A good magazine article can do all that. It can deliver those feelings whether it’s an article about a serious topic like homelessness or a humorous piece on the latest celebrity gossip. A good writer can find a way to move readers, no matter what the topic is.
Write articles that are great stories. Find writers who can do the same thing. Your readers will turn to you when they want to feel moved.
3. Make the Layout Look Great
A beautifully designed layout is key to your magazine content strategy. Even the best articles can get swept aside if your magazine is unappealing and hard to read. Every article should have at least one illustration, and the layout should include plenty of white space to make reading easy. Don’t be afraid of full-color photo spreads. They add a powerful impact to your design and grab the reader’s attention.
You can find many guides to good magazine design. You can also find inspiration by looking at magazines you enjoy reading. However, don’t just copy somebody else’s ideas. Your design should be based on what will appeal to your readers.
Let’s look at two popular, well-regarded magazines that are very different in readership and topics. First for Women is aimed at women who want quick tips for daily living and don’t have time to read extended articles. Many pages are crammed with colorful squares, and each is filled with a quick, one-paragraph recipe or a quick health-related tip. It looks busy and hectic, but it delivers what readers want, and it uses bright colors and cute graphics to pull them in.
Vanity Fair, by contrast, is a high-end magazine with in-depth reporting that frequently covers celebrities and people in the art world. The magazine uses extensive, multi-page photo spreads, elegant fonts in plain black, and lots of white space. It’s perfect for readers who expect long, information-packed articles and beautiful pictures to look at.
Both designs are great because both do what works for their readers. They have used the same formats for years, and readers know what to expect when they pick these magazines up.
What styles and colors will work for your readers? Start there when you develop a magazine content strategy.
4. Break Up the Magazine Content
Most magazines are content-heavy, so it’s important to break up the text with pictures. Photographs are the best way to illustrate a story, but you can also use drawings or text-and-image blocks. Don’t fall into the pattern of using bullets, super-short paragraphs, infographics, or bold fonts everywhere. Those are ideal for online articles, but a printed magazine should have a more traditional design.
The magazine industry has regular conventions that can break up and enhance long pages of text. Try some of these.
- Captions: Write captions that illuminate another side of the story. Your caption can offer information or ask a pointed question.
- Hierarchy: Most magazine content has one article that’s the “star” of the issue. You can set this off with an extra-large headline or a stand-alone photograph that calls attention to it.
- Pull quotes: Grab the most interesting or controversial statements in the article, and put them in pull quotes. Readers will be drawn to the pull quote and want to know more. Pull quotes can be edited for clarity as long as you don’t change the meaning.
5. Talk to Your Readers
Your magazine content strategy should always include your audience. Stay in touch with your readers by posting with them on social media, publishing letters to the editor, and pursuing other types of reader engagement. Your readers might enjoy monthly contests, drawings, or social media challenges. Set up an online forum where they can discuss articles with other readers. Listen to your readers to learn what they like, what they don’t like, and what moves them the most.
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