Blog | Walsworth

Engaging Your Audience: Content Tips for Magazine Publishers

Written by Christoph Sisson | March 31, 2015

When planning content for your publication, look for compelling stories that may be a little different from what you might expect to see in magazine printing and publishing. Consider how the following angles to feature stories might boost audience engagement.

Behind-the-Scenes Profiles
It's easy — and it makes sense — to start at the top when approaching an article for a lifestyle magazine about a business, organization, group, school, governmental agency or other entity that provides valuable services. But in magazine printing, try to get to the heart of the operation, where the real work gets done but often goes uncredited.

  • Interview the president of the gardening group that plants gardens around the city each year, or spend an hour with a master gardener who has been tending these gardens for decades.
  • Profile a foster grandmother, a lunch worker or a playground aide at an elementary school, or focus on several behind-the-scenes workers. How did they get into the job, and why did they stay? What do they see in the kids they serve?
  • Interview a medical technician. What are their biggest challenges? Based on what they deal with daily, do they have health recommendations for readers? How common is the fear of needles, really? How do these technicians calm terrified kids (or their parents)?

Secrets of success
Successful people had to start somewhere, and most didn't get their careers handed to them. Some have had to overcome adversity — perhaps poverty, poor grades, family problems, or simply a long dry spell — to find their way. Their stories on how they persevered and found success could be inspirational to readers who may have struggles of their own. Years of struggle could be behind the success story of an award-winning nature photographer. A serene yoga instructor could have a much less centered path that was changed by yoga. Even J.K. Rowling was turned down by a dozen publishing houses in a year before "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" was finally accepted.

Whether you publish a single in-depth story on one person, a single article with shorter profiles of several people, or a series of articles, you could have real impact through your association magazine. Magazine printing can make a difference in people's lives.

Inside the Restaurant
Restaurant review columns are common and helpful, but how about a regular feature in which a columnist for a regional magazine gets to the heart of the restaurant's operation? Explore the history and scope of restaurants; learn where their food comes from and how it is prepared; talk to chefs about their training and vision. Ask owners what goes into creating the ambiance, and how they approached the challenge of what foods would make it on the menus. You could also connect with some longtime regular customers who could add good color to these stories.

Connect With Companies That Create
If you are located near a local business that produces its own wares, try to get a private tour as research for a heavily illustrated story on how it all happens. You could get fantastic art to go with a story about a chocolate shop; a feature about a woolen mill would be even more colorful. What about a local microbrewery startup? A winery whose wines come from rhubarb rather than grapes? A small-town moccasin maker doing big business nationwide? What's in your backyard?

Embrace Weirdness
There's a reason Chuck Shepherd's syndicated "News of the Weird" column has been running for 21 years. People enjoy finding out about weird things. Learn about and keep tabs on odd creative people, from authors to filmmakers to artists. You could find gems like a zombie film shoot or a werewolf music video, a metal sculptor working on creating a tool shed made out of tools, or the shaping of a new roller derby team looking to establish a following. Unusual topics can be big features or little blurbs in your lifestyle magazine; it's all in how deep you want to delve into the strangeness.

Stick With What Works
We're not suggesting you abandon the story ideas that work for you. Don't mess with success, as they say. As discussed in my Tips to Tailor Your Content to Fit Your Audience article, magazine publishing thrives on working with time-tested material that readers want to read. The idea here is to leave room to try different things — for your lifestyle magazine or association magazine, for your readers, and for the interesting people you don't discover unless you turn over a few rocks.