Chapters 6, 9, 10: The Magazine From Cover to Cover, Sammye Johnson and Patricia Prijatel
On page 233, the authors note that many magazines today resemble each other. Although some longstanding titles retain a distinct individuality, some are homogeneous look-alikes. This is particularly noticeable in the frequent “lifestyle” special issues (or SIPs) that are near-ubiquitous and practically indistinguishable from each other in both design and content (242).
When I first began reading Rolling Stone, its design was decidedly different from other magazines at the time. It was larger, thicker, and printed on crummy newsprint-like paper. Now it resembles Time magazine minus the distinctive red border. Perhaps Rolling Stone’s “redesign” was a way of “[b]oosting readership within a certain demographic group or expanding a current base of readers” (282-283). Or perhaps it was the result of “focusing on the lowest common denominator” (245). In any case, Rolling Stone’s glossy, cramped pages no longer shout “counterculture.”
On page 256, it was interesting to note that the design of a magazine being read via an app differs significantly from a print edition and presents unique challenges for designers. This makes sense since a much smaller area is being viewed, and therefore eye movement may be necessarily different from the standard z-shaped path the reader tracks on the printed page or the computer screen (256). Including more interactive text and other clickable links makes sense too, a way to put more content within immediate reach in a small space.
Service as an article “type” had never occurred to me (222). Learning all of the different names for the types of magazine articles made me realize that I had never given much thought to categorizing them. In the book, upwards of 8 pages have a running head of “Article Types,” which run the gamut from expert advice (223) to investigative reporting (232) to the good old essay (234). I especially found the box on page 256 interesting, as it compares the terminology differences between magazines and newspapers.
Chapter 9 discusses the links between magazines and blogs but left out one blog that I read occasionally: HuffPost. Updates are done frequently, sometimes hourly. No account is needed to view content, and the “About” page states that their mission is “to report with empathy and to put people at the heart of every story” (https://www.huffpost.com/static/about-us). Thus, articles often have a human-interest slant when discussing political topics or government actions. A born-digital publication, it nevertheless resembles a magazine with its distinctive, consistent look, mission statement, and service-driven approach (146, 148-49).
One magazine discussed in some depth is Flair. Devoting over three pages to it, the authors use it as a case study of the clash between editorial wants and reader interests, summing it up thus: “Flair is one of the most popular magazine failures in American history and provides an excellent case history of the importance of mission, formula, and audience” (157).
The video above gives the viewer a taste of Flair‘s extraordinary style; it’s a preview for the book The Best of Flair.
On page 160, the authors indicate that the contemporary version of Flair is Flaunt. As I read the box about Flaunt on page 160, I immediately thought of Interview magazine. A quick search led me to the Flaunt website, and another one let me do a side-by-side comparison of the two sites: the similarities were telling. Both feature the magazine’s “logo” at the top center, surrounded by a linear menu of links (256). Interview uses a traditional serif font and organized, clickable images with “cutlines” on the home page that are reminiscent of a well-designed Padlet (256). Flaunt’s site presents a very slightly less traditional approach than that of Interview: its Padlet-like home page arrangement is slightly more edgy and disorganized than Interview’s. The navigation bars on both sites have links for art, fashion, and music. But Flaunt’s has links for “People” and “Parties” and eschews Interview’s “Film” link in favor of “Video.” “Detox” is important enough to Flaunt readers to warrant inclusion, and both sites let readers access a selection of items that are for sale. Ultimately, it’s up to the viewers/readers to decide which site is cool and which one is trying too hard. Regardless of the final judgement, the similarities are too strong to overlook.
Gaining a solid foundation in the lingo of the magazine will be useful for the upcoming assignment. Instead of fumbling around with words like “thingy” or “stuff,” I can use logo, mission statement, pull-quote and cutline without worrying that classmates might take my use of the word “dingbat” personally (256).