The Best Of The Best Of

In an earlier post, I talked a little about regional magazines, their covers and food (Food On The Cover) . My obsession with regional titles continues in part because so often they feature a part of the country I’d like to experience close up for more than the time it takes to complete a business meeting or a quick weekend holiday. If you follow regional publishers closely, you do sometimes wonder if they had all attended the same CRMA or IRMA workshops. But because each editor and art director is different, and each region is different, you’re always going to find that \”One of These Things is Not Like The Other\”

Not every city and regional magazine does a “Best of” issue. They will often skip a year, only do “Best Restaurants” or “Top Docs” or even “Best Lawyers”. Pittsburgh Magazine, and a few other publishers do a “Forty under Forty” which even though I’m no longer under forty, is a pretty neat idea.

While checking the racks and feeds, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite “Best of” the “Best of” covers in recent months:

San Diego Magazine - August 2010
Orlando Magazine August 2010
Pittsburgh Magazine September 2009
Austin Magazine May 2010
New Jersey Monthly March 2010. Yes, there are some great places to live in the Garden State
D Magazine's August 2010. I absolutely love this image.

The old saying, you can’t judge a book by its cover is eternally true. But it does help, doesn’t it. The same holds true of magazines.

Food on the Cover

I am a huge fan of all magazines, but I really like city and regional magazines. From a single copy sales perspective, you’d think that working with these titles would be pretty easy. One note stuff. But in today’s marketplace, it’s often not as if there is only one wholesaler and one level of delivery service in the market to work with. In fact, for one of my city books, I actually have nine (No, I am not kidding!) distributors to work with. In another, three. And in one, well, one.

On the editorial and design side, a glib observer could look and say, “Well, it’s all the same. Best Of, Best Restaurant, Weddings, Homes. Same old, same old.” And it is true: There are certain topics that a city magazine will cover no matter where they are. Because if you’re a reader, those are the things you want to know about. But what I like about a really good city magazine is how deep their knowledge of those topics are. I like how they can make every article about a favorite restaurant or chef new and interesting. From where I sit, the writing in a good city magazine is equal to or sometimes better than the writing in a major national magazine.

In our little end of the circulation pool, there’s been a lot of talk about the success of the “Food Network Magazine”. It’s buzz is well deserved. Despite all of the things the “brand” had going for it coming out of the gate, the publisher took a huge risk and their success is hard earned. But city magazines have been talking about food, restaurants and local chefs for a long, long time.

With that in mind, I present to you, some of my favorite covers from recent history:

Pittsburgh Magazine’s June 2010 Best Restaurants
San Antonio Magazine’s April 2010 Best New Restaurants
Chicago Magazine September 2009 Burgers
Florida Table Spring 2010
Madison Magazine June 2010 Restaurant Issue
Los Angeles Magazine June 2010

So are you hungry now? Tell me what your favorite city magazines and covers are.

Some of My Favorite Covers – Clients (and former clients) Part 1

So in case you ever wondered what some of my personal all time favorite covers were.

Here are some from the list of clients (and former) clients and magazines I have known and loved:

The Knot Fall/Winter 2004. Love the dog! All time best wedding mag cover ever!
Pittsburgh Magazine's August 2009. How can you not love Troy?
Madison Magazine February 2007. Food always sells well in regional magazines and this one hit the spot.
Juxtapoz Magazine's July 2008 "Miss Van" cover. Everything you need to know about this magazine on the cover in a perfect illustration.

Kewl Magazine August 2007. During the brief boom in "tween" magazines, this cover captured the essence and spirit of the time.
Fur Fish Game January 2008. This soon to be 85 year old magazine uses beautiful illustrations on it's cover.
Slap Magazine April 2007. Slap redesigned and relaunched itself in 2007. The concept was fascinating and while we grew the newsstand, the numbers weren't there and the magazine is now internet based only.
Athlon Baseball 2005 Detroit Tigers Cover. This was a year or two before the venerable sports publisher redesigned their cover and logos so the design may look dated. But I love the positioning of Rodriguez against the backdrop of Tigers Stadium.

There are more articles published all over the internet and in industry rags about what makes a good magazine cover than you could shake a stick at. So what’s my wisdom worth? After a lot of thought and consideration, it seems to me that cover design is mostly inspiration and art than any actual science. But there are some rules of thumb about what works and most people who understand single copy sales understand what makes a good newsstand cover. You’ll note that I said newsstand. There’s a big difference between a cover that is designed to sell on the newsstand and one that is simply designed to appeal to a subscriber who’s already paid for their copy (in order to get their hands on that mini mp3 player).

My number one piece of advice to all of my clients has always been to not be too cute,  too stuck on yourself, or too inside. You’re offering a reader a service. You’re knowledge and expertise. Unless you’re Spy Magazine (which hasn’t published in years), don’t be too cute, or snarky.

All of these covers are:

>Very clear about who they are.

>Have very clear images that are almost immediately identifiable (who wouldn’t recognize Troy Polamalu?)

>Made some use of their skyline.

More on covers coming up. Plus, some more of my favorite covers from other national and local titles.