FPO 10 Step DIY Critique

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FPO 10 Step DIY Critique

  1. 1. F O R P U B L I C AT I O N S O N LY THE 10-STEP DO-IT-YOURSELF CRITIQUE W O R K B O O K A fresh approach to your magazine begins with new ways to see what’s working— and what’s not. ©2010 AURAS CUSTOM PUBLISHING WWW.AURAS.COM 8435 GEORGIA AVENUE SILVER SPRING, MD 20910 301-587-4300 1 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  2. 2. An expert evaluation of your magazine? Seems like a great idea. There’s valid reason to have industry professionals apply their judgment to aspects of your publication that fit their expertise; but in the end, the results may seem subjective or superficial. At worst, what if a reviewer just doesn’t “get” your title? The value of a critique rests on the credibility of the reviewer, and on a coherent rationale behind the evaluation. Like the blind wise men and the elephant, the focus may be on only one area—like editorial, design, workflow, budget or marketing—resulting in an unbalanced and out-of-context review. A proper evaluation should be based on specific criteria that address all parts of the magazine creative process and conducted by the best evaluation “experts”—the people who know the title most intimately. No outsider knows a magazine like the staff who produce each issue. That’s why this 10-step critique is designed to guide you through evaluating your own publication. Three Big Ideas BIG IDEA 1 Magazines that have applied meticulously to a template that The basis of the critique rests on three distinct and clear “personali- organizes your magazine’s scope into broad ideas about what makes magazines ties” perform better than those easily definable and navigable sections. successful. Even if you don’t agree with that don’t. Branding, a well-defined these ideas, accepting them as valid editorial scope, unique content and a BIG IDEA 3 Interesting approaches criteria can still supply valuable insights, consistent editorial tone are the major to “selling” content enhance a because they demonstrate one approach components of a magazine’s personality. magazine’s readability. How editorial to applying practical ideals that span the Just as you get to know and admire is presented in your publication is just whole creative thrust of a publication. certain people, readers like to “know” as important as the content itself. Your the magazines they read, and that leads cover, TOC and even the openings to loyal subscribers. of departments and features are all valuable opportunities to engage your BIG IDEA 2 Clear structure, con- readers and help them begin to absorb sistency and tight fit ’n finish are the content before they read the first hallmarks of good publications. A sentence of copy. Moreover, less obvious magazine isn’t just words and pictures considerations, like page navigation, on paper; it requires craftsmanship and visual theme and variation, and story attention to detail. Editing, writing, rhythm, are all part of the magazine typography, image, page layout and experience that engages and encourages prepress production each contribute readers to enjoy the entire issue—and to to a finished product. That product come back for more the next time. should reflect sophisticated skills 2 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  3. 3. Evaluate How Well 3. Consistent visual and typo- Your Pub Performs Ultimately, any critique needs to answer graphic language distinguishes the publication. The visual language A magazine the question, “How are we doing and of your publication is created through what can we do to improve?” The 10-Step DIY Critique uses the three the application of a deliberate palette of typographic, color, art and layout choices. isn’t just words Big Ideas above to create criteria Even the most sophisticated or complex for evaluation. The following five performance criteria are at the heart of design needs an underlying aesthetic sense to pull the publication together and and pictures on the critique. make it memorable to readers. 1. The concept fulfills the mission 4. The magazine meets the needs paper; it requires of the publication. Is the scope of and retains the interest of your craftsmanship your magazine fully covered in the primary audience. Change is the content? Does it match the audience only constant for any creative endeavor, and advertising potential that are part of and magazines are no different. the original intent? Finally, is the content Understanding your readers and their structured to keep readers and advertisers alike excited about the magazine as an priorities is key to keeping the magazine fresh and developing a growth strategy. and attention ongoing periodical? To really understand Creating a direct relationship between how well your magazine performs, you need to evaluate your publication not your readers’ expectations and the way the editorial structure and content to detail. only as an issue, but also as a volume. address them over time is the challenge of every periodical. 2. The design and structure com- municate the tone and scope of the 5. Attention is paid to the design publication. Your publication needs to details of your magazine. The second communicate to loyal and new readers Big Idea demands high craftsmanship in alike what it’s all about. The choices in your publication. Typographic styling, structure for the book (grazing section, the fit of images in your grid, even front matter, features, back-of-book the quality of your illustration and the sections) and clear concepts for each of color correction of your photos make these parts—described through depart- a big difference, because readers notice ment titles, heads and decks, and even details that show up on every page. the way things are grouped—are oppor- Sloppy execution, tolerance for error tunities to explain how your magazine and random inconsistency are just bad is important for readers and why they business. Most important, they cause the should continue to subscribe. credibility of your publication to suffer. 3 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  4. 4. Doing the Critique everyone fill in the statement indi- Since this is a do-it-yourself critique, vidually, then compare and discuss the what’s the most valuable approach to results. Choose a master mission state- using this material? ment to use for the subsequent steps by working as a group to craft a document Choose a small team and review that everyone finds appropriate. this document first. Anyone familiar with your publication, from the pub- Score the rest of the steps individu- lisher to a writer to a loyal reader, can be ally. A group dynamic can sometimes on the critique team. It’s best to go over influence scoring. It’s hard to contradict each of the 10 steps first to make sure a publisher or an editor, and the goal of that everyone understands what they are many internal group interactions is to supposed to do. find agreement. That’s not what we want here—not yet, anyway. (See “Now What” Each step begins with a SHORT ESSAY about at the end of the 10 steps.) Score with the AURAS the subject area that explains the ratio- Exclusive Mag-O-Meter nale for the ACTIVITY that follows. The Review the individual scores as a [FPO] Labs has developed this state-of-the-art activity usually involves examining one group at the end of the critique. “instrument” to score each step. (It must be copy of your magazine, but sometimes On page 17, we’ll discuss the best way to accurate because, as you can see, it’s digital.) “Too Little” or “Too Much” can be rated from -10 you’ll need a few consecutive issues. (For conduct the final review of the critique points to -1 point, while “In The Zone” can be Step Two, you’ll need an entire volume to and draft an active makeover document. rated from 1 to 5 points. This makes it hard to count the pages and ads.) The EVALUA- score positive results if there are mixed scores. TION section that follows explains how to How to Score That’s the way it should be. If the scores are use the information you’ve collected to Subjective evaluations are always mixed, there’s no consensus on what constitutes a better product, and that’s the point. arrive at a score. Each step has a SCORING better understood with objective GUIDE to help you get the most from your quantification—so it’s easier to see how critique. We’ve provided a SHORT MISSION you’re doing with a visual scale. In this Too little and too much are both neg- STATEMENT FORM for you to use in this case, though, there’s a catch. When it atives, so it’s more a “sweet spot” that document, but it’s better to make a copy comes to understanding your publication, needs to be hit than a point on a sliding for each member of the critique team. it’s important to see if you’re doing too scale. Evaluate how well your publica- The same is true for the WORKSHEET, little or too much. For instance, using tion finds that “zone.” Doing too little located at the end of the document, a few interesting type families helps to make the publication distinctive robs which you will use to collect information establish identity, prioritize content and the magazine of character; doing too and compile scoring. build navigation through your book. much makes the publication busy and However, too few font variations and the hard to define. Examine each part of Do the mission statement together. book lacks excitement and looks flat; too your publication and critique it on how Everyone should pitch in and create the many and the book lacks identity and well it meets the Big Ideas as expressed mission statement as a group. First, have becomes unfocused and busy. in the five performance criteria. [ƒ] 4 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  5. 5. 1 1.MISSION 2.CALENDAR 3.ISSUE STRUCTURE 4.VISUAL LAYOUT MAKE IT YOUR MISSION The mission statement is the document that puts everybody on the same page. The foundation of every magazine is a clear MISSION STATEMENT. And the ability to critique every magazine is dependent on being able to evaluate how well it meets the criteria of its mission. Using the Short Mission Statement Form The Short Mission Statement is a quick method of describing the purpose and scope of your magazine. As a group exercise, it’s a great way of seeing if everyone involved with your publication is, well, on the same page. 5.COVER The most important elements of any The exercise consists of independently filling out the form, then comparing the results as a 6.CONTENTS magazine are the SCOPE (the range of group and honing a final version that can serve as the bare bones of a longer document. content and the rationale for inclusion), 7.DEPARTMENTS the AUDIENCE (the potential readership It may seem self-explanatory, but here’s what each blank needs: 8.FEATURE TREATMENTS and reason for their interest) and the 9.BRANDING TONE (what defines the unique approach Our magazine, ( MAGAZINE TITLE ) Your magazine name goes here. to the way content is presented). 10.C/P/R is a ( PRINT SCHEDULE ) How often is it published per year? ( MAGAZINE TYPE ) Is it a consumer, business-to-business (B2B), controlled circulation, etc.? ACTIVITY: Completing this Short Mission for ( ADJECTIVE ) ( COMMUNITY ) Describe your audience with an adjective and a simple Statement Form is an exercise in creating demographic. For example, if your magazine were called BusinessWoman your answer a basic set of criteria for your publication might be (adjective) busy (core audience) female executives. Your total potential —just fill in the blanks. The words you audience is your universe; they are a potential part of your community of readers choose—especially the adjectives, which describe the tone of the magazine—are who need ( ADJECTIVE ) Describe the type of content tone in your publication: critical in defining the missing elements. accurate, cutting-edge, secure, safe, out-of-the-box, etc. information on ( ADJECTIVE ) ( PRODUCTS, PROCESSES, ISSUES ). Describe your magazine scope When you’ve filled out the E VA LUAT I O N : with an adjective and a noun. Using the above title again, you might put down (adjective) form to your satisfaction, it’s time to pro- corporate (noun) employment, management strategy, business networking, etc. ceed with the evaluation of your magazine. Compare your Short Mission Statement Unlike ( COMPETITION ), Your closest competitor. If you have none, then list other against the magazine’s content and the sources of similar content that readers might choose instead of your magazine. H O W TO S CO R E: Rate your way that content meets the needs of your our coverage has ( DISTINCT APPROACHES ) How is it different? Be consensus. The easier it is to defined audience. agree on the mission statement, specific: more in-depth, less boring, better researched. the more points you should award. You shouldn’t get any and also has (unique CONTENT AREA[S] ) This is your secondary interest area, which positive score if anyone says, might be a growth direction for your title or an attempt to broaden the scope for more “Oh, so THAT’s what we’re readers. Again, using the above example, you might write fashion, lifestyle, relationship. supposed to be doing.” content that interests ( ADJECTIVE ) ( SECONDARY AUDIENCE[S] ) What kind of secondary audience? Using the above example one final time, you might answer (adjective) ambitious (secondary audience) younger entrepreneurial women. 5 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  6. 6. Short Our magazine, (MAGAZINE TITLE) Mission is a Statement (PRINT SCHEDULE) (MAGAZINE TYPE) Form for (ADJECTIVE) (COMMUNITY) who need information on (ADJECTIVE) (ADJECTIVE) (PRODUCTS,PROCESSES,ISSUES) . Unlike , (COMPETITION) our coverage has ( D I S T I N C T APPROACHES) and also has (UNIQUE CONTENT AREA[S]) content that interests (ADJECTIVE) . (SECONDARY AUDIENCE[S]) 6 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  7. 7. 2 1.MISSION 2.CALENDAR 3.ISSUE STRUCTURE 4.VISUAL LAYOUT CHECK YOUR CALENDAR T poles hold up ent your pub—in a good way. A single issue of your magazine should be representative of all issues of your magazine, but not necessarily exactly the same in length, content or structure. In fact, looking at your magazine as a single Gather a year of issues and count AC T I V I T Y: the total pages and the number of ads in each issue. You can also count the number of copies distributed, as that can be signifi- cant in some publications. Input the figures 5.COVER volume of issues opens up approaches to on the chart below to make a volume chart 6.CONTENTS content that you might otherwise miss. for the year. Readers can be lulled into boredom 7.DEPARTMENTS if every issue has the same rhythm and The more placid your chart, E VA LUAT I O N : 8.FEATURE TREATMENTS similar content. Think of a magazine the less your magazine takes advantage of 9.BRANDING with a static issue map, page count and the benefits of “special” issues. If your chart 10.C/P/R feature structure as a steady but uninter- has two or three spikes generated by special esting beat of a drum. issues that have a greater number of pages The periodical structure of the and/or advertisers, or special distribution to magazine and building an interesting larger audiences, it’s easy to see why those annual cycle allows so much more. issues are often called “TENT POLES”—they Making several issues “special” issues hold up the rest of the year. creates a much more dynamic rhythm in the yearly cycle. Instead of a simple _ _ _ _ cadence, a change-up in the content cre- _ _ _ _ ates a more sophisticated beat, one that _ _ generates anticipation in readers and _ _ _ _ keeps them as subscribers. _ _ _ PAGES _ SPECIAL ISSUES can have franchise con- _ _ _ _ tent (material created for and specifically _ ADS _ reflecting the core mission of the publica- _ _ _ _ tion), special seasonal content, or simply a JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV DEC H O W TO S CO R E: The flatter focus on one topic in a typical issue. your chart, or the more _ _ random the dips and peaks, _ _ _ _ the lower the score. Positive if you are trying _ _ _ _ FLAT FALLS FLAT points are achieved by having to hold your readers through _ _ a few regular “peaks,” which the year. Deliberately designing _ _ in _ _ THE TALLEST TENT POLE should correspond to special issues with different page counts, _ PAGES _ the industry is the Sports issues or content. special content and even expanded _ _ Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. The distribution is a smart business _ _ 2004 issue used other franchise tactic. It encourages readers to _ ADS _ concepts too, like an anniversary renew their subscriptions and _ _ advertisers to go into more issues. _JAN FEB MAR APR MAY JUN JUL AUG SEP OCT NOV _ DEC theme, a Hall of Fame premise and even a free CD-ROM. 7 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  8. 8. 3 C1 C2 HOUSEKEEPING 1 HOW DOES YOUR PUB SHAPE UP? 2 3 4 5 GRAZING Your issue map should create interest 6 7 and identity, one section at a time. 8 9 10 11 DEPARTMENTS 12 13 1.MISSION Just as variations from issue to issue Two variations on your issue map AC T I V I T Y: ISSUE STRUCTURE 14 15 2.CALENDAR make your magazine more interesting, will help you understand your magazine. should be easily 16 apparent in the variations in the ISSUE MAP give your First, decide how many coherent sections paginated content 17 3.ISSUE STRUCTURE magazine shape and definition. Your your pub has. Easy choices are features chart on the right. 18 19 4.VISUAL LAYOUT publication might have scintillating (A and B features), advertisements, front-of- This magazine A FEATURE 20 has eight distinct 5.COVER content, but if, for example, its structure book, back-of-book, etc., but you could also sections of editorial 21 22 6.CONTENTS consists entirely of eight-page stories in have things like advertorials, grazing sections, and advertising. 23 the same typographic style and layout— classifieds, columns or service sections. Yours could have 24 7.DEPARTMENTS fewer, but too few 25 like many academic journals—the reader Things like the cover, TOC, Editor’s Page and your magazine 26 8.FEATURE TREATMENTS will soon become bored. and Letters fall under the “Housekeeping” has no rhythm. 27 28 9.BRANDING A magazine is like a fine dining rubric. However you define the structure of B FEATURES 29 10.C/P/R experience. We want an amuse bouche your book, include every page. 30 This time, we are making two vertical 31 to get us started, a nice appetizer to 32 add piquancy so we enjoy our entree grids, with each horizontal bar representing 33 all the more. Then, we want to finish a page of the issue. The examples show a 34 35 with something light, sweet or savory typical layout of a 68-page book, with each CLASSIFIED 36 that rounds out our meal. We enjoy the page divided into 6 equal segments to make 37 38 familiarity of the order of the meal, but positioning ads easier. The left chart shows 39 we want to be pleasantly surprised by the amount of space in an issue devoted to 40 ADVERTORIAL 41 what we find, too. each section, and the right shows page-by- 42 Just as the parts of the meal vary in page how material is distributed in the book. 43 44 SIZE, STRUCTURE and INTENT, so should 45 your publication. And, like a meal, the Your book should have clearly E VA LUAT I O N : 46 defined sections and enough of them 47 structure of your magazine should have 48 natural groupings that are clear in scope, to create an interesting rhythm. If your 49 with theme and variation defining each first chart shows too few variations, your 50 51 part. book will be visually simplistic. If there 52 H O W TO S CO R E: If you have are too many, your book will be busy and 53 54 fewer than three sections, award unfocused. This is more easily shown in 55 negative points; if the sections ADS the second chart, where you’ve laid out 56 don’t appear obviously grouped 57 the book in page order. The sections, even in the pagination chart, also 58 award negative points. Positive interspersed with advertising, should still be 59 discernible. As we’ll see next in the critique, 60 points should be given for an 61 issue map with clearly defined each section should have its own unique 62 and positioned sections and a visual navigation and design. 63 bias for coherent editorial pages. 64 C3 C4 8 W W W. A U R A S .C O M
  9. 9. STRUCTURE IS DESIGN Lead [ InspI re [ e x p Lo re SEP TEM BER -OC TOB ER 200 9 ST. JOHN SCOUTING MAGAZINE MATRIX 64PP SELF COVER troop 5’s ca campgroun ribbean d JANUARY MARCH APRIL JUNE AUGUST OCTOBER DECEMBER FRONT OF BOOK COVER TOC 2-PAPGES CEO LETTER LETTERS 1 PAGE WHEN WE HAVE ENOUGH SCOUTING MAGAZINE ISSUE MAP/64PP PLUS COVER rg zine .o TRAILHEAD (GRAZING) gmaga coutin The Danger NEWS & NOTES (News Briefs) s Of w w w. s What You Obesity New Scou Can Do DID YOU KNOW? Promisest Handbook Adventure SHOUT OUT! (GOOD NEWS, PAT ON THE BACK) LOL ( 1 or 2 humorous anecdotes, replaces Worth Retelling) EDITOR’S COVER AD WELCOME/ AD AD TOC AD TOC AD GOT TO HAVE IT (single product notice) LETTERS THIS OLD PATCH (collector’s item or interesting background) WAY BACK WHEN (historical tidbit) FRONT 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 COVER MARK YOUR CALENDAR COUNTDOWN TO 100 GOOD READ AND/OR WATCH IT NOW (single book or dvd notice) CHIEF’S TRAILHEAD/ TRAILHEAD/ MESSAGE/ AD TRAILHEAD TRAILHEAD AD AD TRAILHEAD AD TRAILHEAD AD MASTHEAD F O B D E PA R T M E N T S ( L E A D E R S ’ R O U N D TA B L E ) Merit Badge Clinic (methods & resources for teaching MBs) 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 What Would You Do? (replaces Front Line Stuff) Cub Scout Corner Advancement Trail or Advancement FAQs ROUND ROUND ROUND Ethics Column (Using Scout Oath & Law in Daily Life) TRAILHEAD TRAILHEAD/ AD TABLE ROUND TABLE AD ROUND TABLE ROUND TABLE TABLE/ ROUND TABLE TABLE/ The Nature of Boys (behaviorist traits, age appropriate) AD AD Q&A Leader Interview (What I’ve Learned) 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 B O B D E PA R T M E N T S “ G R E AT O U T D O O R S ” FIT FOR FUN (health & fitness for outdoor activities GET IN GEAR (specific line for equipment review) ROUND AD ROUND AD ROUND AD ST. JOHN ST. JOHN ST. JOHN ST. JOHN TABLE TABLE TABLE TRAIL TIPS (brief look at hike or river route) SURVIVE THIS DUTCH TREAT (dutch oven recipe) 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 GROUND RULES (best practices camping techniques) FOOD FOR FUEL (camp menu for strenuous outdoor activity) WHERE AM I? (reader contest guesses outdoor location from clues) ST. JOHN ST. JOHN ST. JOHN ST. JOHN ST. JOHN BSA NAT’L BSA NAT’L FAT FAT FAT ESSENTIAL INFORMATION (the planning stage of an outdoor trip) MEETING MEETING CHANCE CHANCE CHANCE MY FAVORITE CAMPSITE (generated by readers) 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 OPCOVER III: COOL CAMPS--SINGLE PHOTO OF BSA CAMP FAT FAT SCOUT SCOUT SCOUT SCOUT SCOUT SCOUT PUMPKIN PUMPKIN CHANCE CHANCE HANDBOOK HANDBOOK HANDBOOK HANDBOOK HANDBOOK HANDBOOK CHUNK CHUNK F E AT U R E S A Feature--New Boy Scout Handbook Debuts 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 B Feature--Scout Leaders Combat Youth Obesity C Feature--Venturing Crew on Chisholm Trail Cattle Roundup D Feature--Boy Scout High Adventure Fishing in Alaska PUMPKIN PUMPKIN OUTDOORS OUTDOORS OUTDOORS OUTDOORS OUTDOORS OUTDOORS/ OUTDOORS OUTDOORS/ CHUNK CHUNK AD AD 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 IN EVERY ISSUE ADS TRAILHEAD FEATURES ROUNDTABLE OUTDOORS 9 W W W. A U R A S .C O M

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