3 Common Custom Magazine Mistakes

You can spend a lot of money to produce a beautiful publication – choosing a good paper stock and using high quality photos from experienced photographers. Yet, even with solid writing, many custom magazines fail to entice readers.

Why? Presentation. If you’ve ever watched a competitive cooking show, you’ll hear judges talk about the importance of “plating.” The food may be delicious, but if its appearance is unappetizing, even the hungriest customer will turn away.

The 3 most common “plating” mistakes in custom magazines:

1. Disorganization – Placing articles in the magazine haphazardly. Take a look at the structure of any consumer magazine. You’ll see that it has a beginning, middle and end. Short articles or news bits draw the reader in. Next a few regular columns establish the personality and tone of the magazine. Longer features follow, providing in-depth coverage. Then the reader is eased out of the issue with some more short items, and an end page serves as a clear finale. The reader is subtly guided through the editorial content, so they can get “caught up in” the issue.

Many companies’ custom magazines just print one story after another without thought. It’s a jarring experience for the reader, something like being in a car with someone who keeps switching the radio from classical to hip hop to country to sports talk.

2. Kitchen Sink Syndrome – Throwing every story that comes through the pipeline straight into the issue. I recently received a gorgeous magazine from a national company that had a very savvy marketing/pr department. As an editor, I always read the company’s press releases, because they offered solid information and were well-written. The magazine, however, was a mess. Some stories were geared to employees, some to investors and some to customers. Some were folksy and personal, others technical and numbers-driven. I had no idea what message this company was trying to deliver, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t aimed at me.

Be selective about what appears in the magazine, even if you have a broad readership, and make sure that each story reinforces the message you want to deliver.

3. Discounting Design – Slapping the story and pictures on a page and figuring that’s what layout is all about. Laying out a magazine is an art but also a bit of a science. The combination of headline, photos, illustrations and text should invite the reader in. Once there, each element guides the eye over the piece. Fonts and colors make an impact too.

Often when looking for ways to economize a company will turn to an employee who has an artistic bent or knows how to use InDesign and gives them the job of laying out the company magazine. But this is an area where experience and specialization count. A designer with experience in publications will elevate the look and the impact of any magazine.