To keep a reader engaged, the most colorful language pales next to a simple situation that compels the mind to wonder, “What’s next?”
We at New Hampshire Magazine are storytellers. We work in the medium of truth, but with different rules than our colleagues in the world of serious journalism. Rather than frontloading a story with who, what, when and where, we dig into the “why.” When the story calls for it, we might keep the mind guessing and then tie things up at the end.
So, here’s a twisteroo for you to contemplate.
Should you join me here on my Editor’s Note page next month you’ll be holding in your hands the first issue of the newly redesigned New Hampshire Magazine.
Now, the fact is that we redesign all the time, but usually in small ways: playing with fonts, swapping out a regular department, rethinking the flow of a page. Minor adjustments over time can become significant changes over a matter of years, but we haven’t altered the basic structure of the magazine in at least a decade.
Why now? Because we want to be better storytellers.
Forgive me for getting technical, but magazines are essentially just delivery systems for information. They are structured to lure a reader’s eyes to the cover, then provide enough enticements to get the reader to pick the magazine up and open it. Once inside, the “system” continues with some highly evolved techniques for keeping readers interested and flipping pages until they either decide to purchase it (assuming they saw it at a store) or simply relax and read it (if, for example, they found it on a coffee table or in a pile of mail).
If we’ve done our job well, the average reader will not only meander through the entire magazine, read quite a bit (or all) of it and notice the variety of the ads within it, but will then hand it off to a friend, saying, “You should really take a look at this.”
For the past decade or two, we’ve been using a “delivery system” that’s tried and true. In fact, it’s pretty similar to the format of the first magazine that my byline ever appeared in: Atlanta Magazine’s Sept. 1984 issue. My article even appeared in a section titled UpFront (sound familiar?). Magazine design changes slowly, but it does change, and where a certain rote consistency was once desired and expected, today’s media consumers enjoy a bit more randomization and surprise.
I won’t give away too much, but the redesign will continue to provide familiar landmarks like our departments on food, travel and shopping. Meanwhile it will allow for flexibility and spontaneity and offer a chance for us to respond to some long-standing reader requests for more engaging photos of the state they (and we) find so fascinating.
The result will require more work, but it will allow for more creative storytelling.
This major redesign has taken months of planning and will take months more as we refine things, but we can’t wait to unveil it next month, May 2016.
Because, just like you, we really want to know what’s next.