With the rise of blogging and the spread of free content online, the magazine industry is struggling. The magazines that haven't folded are evolving, with many going digital for the majority of their content and releasing limited runs of print material.
However, there are plenty of things bloggers can learn from magazines. After all, many magazines have been in print for several decades – some for over a hundred years. Magazines understand a lot about enticing and keeping readers – and bloggers who've adopted magazine techniques are finding themselves leaders in the digital content era.
Here are four things bloggers can learn from magazines:
#1: Use "Columns"
Have you ever looked at a magazine and notice it divided into sections? There might be a "features" section with the long cover stories, followed by sections dealing with different topics (such as boys, fashion, friends, beauty in a teen girl's magazine). These sections, or columns, are usually on the same topics every month, and are often created by one editor (the "columnist") who follows a similar format every month.
Columns allow the magazine to have a structured format so that readers can quickly lay their hands on what they're looking for. The columns also create cohesion between the different issues of a magazine, and provide a recognizable touchstone to entice readers to come back again and again.
Many bloggers use columns to great success. For example, graphic designer Nubby Twiglet has a range of columns on her blog – a link roundup, a "what I wore" column, an advice column for up-and-coming designers, a column looking at, and a "week in pictures" column featuring shots from her studio and around her local area. Nubby posts a particular column on a certain day – so link roundups always go up on Fridays. Some of her columns involve a lot of content creation, others involve only a few links and/or images.
Columns create a structure around your blog that helps your readers understand and navigate your content. Readers enjoy particular columns and like to know when they'll see the next one go live. Columns allow you to focus on a variety of topics but bring them together in a cohesive way.
Nubby even talks about how she creates columns and features.
- Think of 3-5 different columns you could create for your blog.
- Create a variety of different column types and sizes - some might involve more in-depth articles, while others should be short n' sweet. Also, vary to structure – interviews,
#2: Have an Editorial Calendar
A magazine's editorial calendar sets out a content plan for the entire year. Magazines need to plan several months in advance, so the editor decides which topics each magazine will cover, and draws up an editorial plan. This ensures that each month's magazine has a mixture of different articles – a range of interviews, profiles, op ed, columns, feature pieces, "front-of-book" items, and puzzles, quizzes or other filler items.
The editorial calendar also ensures the magazine can plan in advance for special issues and can assign articles for the Christmas edition in April, when they're actually needed.
Although you don't need to think months in advance, an editorial calendar for your blog can help you plan what you want to write in a given month. It can help you spread out your different types of content (so you don't publish three interviews in a week and then none for six months).
- Use a wall, desk or online calendar to plan out the articles you'll be creating this month. Write the names of the articles in the calendar.
- Colour code each article according to its type – cornerstone content, how-to, interview, link-round up. This shows you at a glance the variety on your blog.
- Share your calendar with advertisers and other contributors. They can then plan their own schedules and submissions.
#3: Choose Advertisers Carefully
Magazines are usually chock-full of advertisements. However, these advertisements are carefully chosen – the magazine doesn't just take on any advertiser to throw money their way. They have a carefully thought-out advertisement policy that they apply to every advertising submission. Magazines ensure that:
- Advertising content is clearly marked as such.
- Any advertisements chosen fit the tone, vibe and layout of the magazine.
As a blogger, you could think about creating advertising policies, and decide what you are willing to accept and not accept on your site. It's all about integrity – only including advertisers who would offer something of value to your readers.
- Create a blog media kit that demonstrates what you will and will not accept in terms of advertising.
#4: Write Snappy Headlines
Have you ever purchased a magazine based solely off a headline on the front cover. Magazines excel at creating engaging, snappy headlines that make you want to turn the page. You'll often find headlines extolling sensational claims, such as "The ONE thing you need to do to loose weight this summer" or "10 Secrets of Hollywood Superstars".
Magazines know about using strong emotions in headlines, tapping into fear, anger, worry, and sadness to encourage readers to want to read the articles. They'll also often include numbers in the titles – these numbers appeal to many readers who like difficult concepts broken down into simple, bite-sized chunks.
You can use catchy phrases, numbers, and sensational claims in your headlines to make them really stand out. Check out our Attention-Grabbing Titles free PDF for lots of tips and advice.
- Take a look at the headlines on magazines on the stands. What types of headlines do you see? What makes you want to open the magazine and read more?
- Is your blog using headlines as well as it could? Have a go at writing your headlines as if they were for a magazine cover.
Magazines may be less common then they once were, but they're still a beautiful and effective form of communication. The magazine industry has many systems and tricks that bloggers can adopt to create effective and appealing content.
What else do you think bloggers can learn from magazines?