Author Archives: Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin

About Emily McMackin

Emily McMackin is an editor, writer and perpetual storyteller with an incurable addiction to coffee, magazines, Neil Diamond and Caribbean travel. She resides in Music City USA (that's Nashville, Tenn., ya'll!), where you'll find her staking out live music, salsa dancing, scouring town for the best latte and working on her first No. 1 (book that is).

Not Your Average Academic Journal: Psychology Today Magazine Makes Mental Science Fun

psychology-today.jpgToday we continue our series “Content Spotlight,”in which we take a closer look at what’s inside of some of our most
popular magazines that may be under your radar. Today’s pick: Psychology Today.

When I first heard of Psychology Today magazine,
my mind was filled with visions of all of the stereotypes you might
expect in your average academic journal: eternal studies illustrated by
an occasional bar graph, number-filled charts with those weird equal
signs, sketches of brain lobes from every angle, and talking heads
spouting scientific jargon. In essence, nothing of any relevance or
interest to me. And though I did almost change my major in college from
English to psychology, exposure to journals such as these while doing
class research was solely responsible for my decision to stick with Shakespeare.

But then I received my first issue of Psychology Today in the mail, and boy was I shocked! It looked the caliber of Time magazine,
only with a psychology spin instead of a national affairs emphasis. The
cover featured a provocative image of a broken heart, stamped with the
phrase “First Love, First Loss,” and the story inside promised to
reveal mysteries about how triumphs and failures in our early lives
shape who we become. Other magazine features, from how to win “American Idol” to the thought patterns behind revenge, promised equally enticing reads.

I
thought, perhaps this was a fluke. Maybe this was an exceptional issue,
I surmised, but others couldn’t possibly be this good. Yet the next
issue I read proved me wrong again. The cover image showed a woman with
different personality traits scrawled in ink across her face, a perfect
introduction to the story inside about the nonverbal signals we send
and how others interpret them.

While the magazine does include
its share of clinical news, it puts psychological, neurological and
pharmaceutical studies and surveys in the larger context of
relationships, health, happiness and self-empowerment. Though educated
and accomplished, sources use “real” language rather than academic
terms to explain concepts, methodologies and breakthroughs. And the
images and headlines throughout the magazine are just as compelling as
the stories, which range from the quirky (why rich men have more sons)
to the universal (how to fight the natural pull of procrastination).
 
If
the covers sound intriguing to you, just wait until you check out the
features inside. Here’s a quick glimpse at a few of my favorites:  
• Insights: News on the people, politics, psyche and phenomena that enrage us, endear us and drive us to distraction
• Personality Q&A: Interviews with activists, authors, philosophers and pop psychologists of all kinds
• Relationships: Memoirs on the ties that bind us to each other
• Food Chain: Our connection with food and how it makes us feel, plus feel-good recipes
• Solutions: Tricks and tactics for solving life’s little problems

Learning
about psychology hasn’t been this fun for me since college. I wish I
had known about this magazine years ago. Maybe if I had, I would be
counseling clients on couches today. Hmm, I think I’ll analyze that!

American Girl Magazine Lets Little Girls Dream

american_girl.jpgSince
I was a little girl, I have loved reading magazines. I’m not sure what
got me hooked on them. It could have been the quirky word puzzles in
Reader’s Digest that entertained me while I waited on my dad at his
office, the decadent recipes I watched my mom re-create from the
dog-eared pages of her Southern Living, or the short stories my
grandmother clipped from her issues of Woman’s World.

Whatever
it was, I’ll never forget the thrill of getting my first magazine. My
mom had brought home a copy of Teen magazine from the supermarket, and
it was all mine! I don’t remember who was on the cover or the stars
featured inside, but I do remember running to my room, shutting the
door and plunking down on my bed with my copy. Inside the glossy pages,
I was introduced to a strange, new world that spanned the universe of
style, fashion, makeup and boys–grown-up stuff that, as a 12-year-old,
intrigued but also intimidated me.

I wish there had been something like American Girl magazine
around back then. I would have devoured it!

Published by Mattel for
girls ages 8-12, the magazine is filled with stories, crafts, quizzes,
advice and games for girls who are big enough to think for themselves
and develop their own sense of self, but aren’t yet ready for the angst
of adolescence. It straddles that middle ground between girlhood and
womanhood, empowering readers without thrusting the dilemmas of body
image, relationships and college upon them too soon. Inside, they can
find the best of both worlds: a place to dream and still be little
girls.

American Girl does a tasteful, restrained job of promoting its brand–dolls, books and accessories based on
preteen characters from different periods in American
history–while still providing relevant, engaging stories for its
audience. Besides a few in-house ads and a “Doll Fun” department, Mattel’s merchandise
is hardly mentioned. Instead, stories focus on celebrating “who girls
are today and who they can become tomorrow”–the American Girl mantra.

Here’s a sample of the types of features you’ll find in each issue (specifically the March/April 2010 issue in this case):

  • Girl’s Express: Everything
    from crafts, like making customized friendship bracelets and paper
    bouquets from recycled magazines, to contests and reader-submitted
    polls, photos, riddles, recipes and letters

  • You Said It: Girls answer questions like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and submit questions of their own.
  • Cooking: Tasty twists on everyday food like peanut butter sandwiches, plus games to spark lunchtime laughs

My
favorite feature was “Parties by YOU,” where readers share their ideas
for the best party theme and plan all the details, from invitations and
decorations to food, entertainment and favors. Their creativity was
impressive! The top three themes included a “Pretend Hotel Sleepover,”
“A Backward Birthday Bash” and a “Fancy French Party.” I could just
picture my younger self planning parties like these.

Just
because a preteen experiments with makeup doesn’t mean she’s done
playing make-believe. I salute American Girl magazine for recognizing
and filling that niche!

womansworld

Women’s Magazines Get Fruity

womansworld.jpgI’ve always been a fruit fan (frozen grapes are my favorite cheap dessert), but lately I’ve noticed a cornucopia of stories about fruit in the women’s magazines I’ve been reading. It’s driving me a little bananas, actually, especially when they make statements like, “If you can have only one fruit in your fridge, you need this one….” I never knew fruit had so many benefits and could be used for so many things! From health, hygiene and beauty treatments to fighting stains and odor, here are the most useful slices of info I’ve gleaned from all this fruitiness: 

Oranges:
The next time you peel an orange, Woman’s World magazine recommends saving the rind. It contains compounds that dramatically cut bad cholesterol, while keeping good cholesterol levels steady. How do you make the rind edible? Grate one tablespoon’s worth over stir-fries and sauces, and stir. 

Strawberries: The Hollywood secret to keeping teeth white and shiny? Brush with strawberries. The malic acid lightens teeth and removes discoloration, according to Woman’s World magazine.

Grapefruit:
Just a whiff of grapefruit can curb cravings and trigger a mood-lifting jump in brain activity. It also contains an antioxidant that is more effective at preventing skin damage than vitamin E, First for Women magazine claims. A single serving packs enough vitamin C to build the collagen needed to keep skin nice and supple.

Cherries: Ladies’ Home Journal magazine calls these fruits
“superstars” for their fiber, vitamin C, antioxidants and
phytochemicals, which aid in lowering cholesterol. The more tart they taste, the more vitamin C
and beta-carotene you’re getting.

Limes: For fatigue that won’t give it a rest, limes deliver a swift kick to jump-start your energy. Nutrients from the fruit, which is rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, convert stored carbohydrates into energy and help regulate blood sugar levels, according to First for Women magazine.
 
Lemons: Lemons are quite versatile, according to Woman’s Day magazine. You can squeeze them in your tea to increase your body’s absorption of antioxidants and boost metabolism; cut them up and use them as an all-natural deodorant; squeeze lemon juice on clothes to get rid of ink stains; or mix it with cool water to ease a sunburn.

Acai: These berries, which have been making an appearance in fruit drinks and yogurt lately, top ‘em all in antioxidants, Ladies’ Home Journal magazine says.

Soon, I hope to test these claims, but I’ll save that for another blog. For now, I have to run out and buy some fruit….

Magazine Advertorial Overload

ladies_home_journal.jpgCall me old-fashioned, but I’m still a big believer in the separation of a magazine’s editorial content and its advertising. I’m not adverse to advertorials (advertisements written in an objective tone and designed to look like a regular story or feature)–in fact, I’ve written plenty in my career–but lately they seem to be taking over a few of my favorite titles. It has reached the point where I can’t tell where the editorial ends and the marketing begins.

There is a logical reason for this, and it stems from good intentions. Marketing is becoming more about creating relevant, engaging content and telling stories that matter to audiences rather than cranking out self-congratulatory press releases, puff pieces and promotional PR. I’m all for good storytelling and anything that promotes how a product, service or company can make a difference in people’s lives. But as a reader, I don’t like the confusion–and interruption–advertorials sometimes create when I kick back with a magazine for a leisurely read.

The biggest offender of late comes from one of my new favorites, Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. Overall, the pacing in this magazine is flawless. Flipping through the March issue recently, I moved effortlessly from section to section until I reached it: the “Special Advertising Section” that looked exactly like a previous department.

“But wait,” I said, flipping back a few pages. “Didn’t I already read this part?”

After confirming that I had, in fact, read all of the stories in the Life department, I realized that this was simply an advertorial designed to look like a department. In keeping with advertorial ground rules, the section was printed on a shorter stock of paper with a glossier finish, but the fonts were the same, and the stories included bylines and content similar to other departments. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the magazine was trying to promote, until I flipped to an ad on a previous page and realized that this supplement had been sponsored by a local television affiliate and its midday lifestyle show. Other than getting me to notice the station’s website address, printed in small type across each page of the “department,” I’m not sure what this advertorial accomplished.

Frankly, I was too annoyed by the blip it caused in my smooth reading experience to care.

Again, I’m not against advertorials. Really I’m not. And I appreciate how vital advertising is to magazines, especially in this economy. However, to editors and publishers everywhere, I plead: If you must use advertorials, make those logos a little bigger to set them apart from the rest of the magazine, and for heaven’s sake, please don’t put them where they don’t belong.

southernliving

Southern Living Magazine Puts Home Right In Your Hands

southernliving.jpgI grew up with Southern Living magazine on the coffee table, so I’ve always been a fan of it. When I picked up an issue recently for the first time in years, I found something new to love about my old favorite: an insider’s guide to exploring my state. I was surprised but pleased. What a bonus!

One of the things I’ve always loved about Southern Living magazine is its personal feel. Maybe it’s because I’m from the South, but the way the stories are written and showcased make me feel like I’m stepping into the kitchen, home or garden of a grandparent, relative or family friend. The sentiment I get when flipping through the magazine is comfortable and feels like home. What a better way for the magazine to expound upon this nostalgic feeling than to add personalized, state-specific guides for readers.   

Since I live in Nashville, my version was called “Tennessee Living,” and it opened with a lovely vista of a horse farm that runs along a scenic route, not that far from my house. I’ve noticed this farm before while driving down this road, but I was moving too fast to see it like this. On the next page, I found details on five great day trips for spring, most of which were just a two-hour drive away. Turning the page to an article titled “My Secret to Perfect Ribs,” I read about a Memphis restaurant I remember well from my college days, Rendezvous Charcoal Ribs, and got co-owner Nick Vergos’ secrets on how to cook the tastiest barbecue around. When I got to the end of the guide, I had to laugh when I saw the “Worth the Trip” headline above an article about a  vineyard on the outskirts of Nashville that I’ve been meaning to visit since last summer. “This is a sign,” I said to myself. The 75-acre vineyard offers picnic dinners, free wine tastings and jazz concerts on the weekends–a perfect outing for a spring or summer evening.
  
We read so many stories in magazines about posh beaches and exotic getaways that it’s easy to forget about the treasures in our own backyard. Thank you Southern Living magazine for reminding me of what I’ve got right here at home!

Explore the West From Home With Sunset Magazine

sunset.jpgI’ve always dreamed of traveling out West, but as a busy Tennessean I never seem to find the time or money to hop a cross-country flight. So when I sat down recently with an issue of Sunset magazine–a how-to guide to the best things about living in the West–I felt like I got to take a little trip without ever leaving home.

From dazzling desert destinations to majestic mountain retreats to tranquil ocean escapes, the magazine traverses the Western landscape, visiting legendary locations like the Yosemite Valley and Big Sur while also exposing you to the hidden treasures along the way. You’ll vicariously take sunset hikes, soak in natural springs and sit at the table of a Western kitchen, sampling the organic ingredients and eclectic tastes that make cooking in this region so distinctive. You’ll visit gardens and homes, both of which tend to rely on natural elements and green practices to function and enhance the beauty of their surroundings. 

Westerners have a way of communing with nature that people living in other parts of the country could and should take lessons from–as you’ll discover from the trove of first-person stories and snapshots. The more you listen their perspective, the more you’ll long to join their quest for a healthy, balanced lifestyle. I took one look at the March 2010 cover, which showcased a rust red tree house overlooking lush vegetation and the sunset along the rocky coast, and nearly ripped open the magazine to read the “10 Amazing Getaways” feature inside. It did not disappoint! (Did you know it was possible to sleep like royalty in a tree house, igloo and a cave?) Here’s a peek at a few of my other favorite features inside: 

• The West at Its Best: A quick guide to the latest and greatest in regional cooking, planting, travel, trends, art and culture
• Northern California Weekend: Day trips you don’t want to miss–and how to make the most of your visit to these quaint coastal towns
• Bargain Escape: Shoestring tips for planning dream trips to ski, mountain and beach resorts

Sunset magazine has been through many incarnations since it launched in 1898. It began as a promotional magazine designed by the Southern Pacific Transportation Company to combat negative “Wild West” stereotypes that discouraged tourism. But today, it no longer has to beg would-be explorers to visit; it beckons.