Author Archives: Michelle Jones


Update: Tear Out vs. Save

goodhouseekeeping_june.jpgGood Housekeeping magazine ponders the question of tear out favorite articles vs. saving whole magazines in its May 2010 issue. In a story called “5-Minute Clutter Cures,” professional organizer Lorie Marrero, author of The Clutter Diet (Reason Press, $17.95), offers a series of quick tips for keeping one’s home from descending into complete chaos.

One tip: For tackling stacks of unread (gasp) magazines, Marrero recommends removing any articles you might want to read and storing them in a two-pocket folder. Recycle the rest of the magazines and go through your “must read” folder as time permits.

Yes, well, hmm. I have to admit I’ve been overwhelmed by magazines and newspapers. My triage technique involves flagging stories I don’t have time or energy to read and then returning to the magazine
later. However, if you don’t mind facing a folder of suggested reading material, Marrero’s method does offer an instant solution to clutter.

Meanwhile, Marrero may appear on some of the pages readers have filed away at her urging; over the past few months she has offered advice on organizing and de-cluttering in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal magazine, Woman’s Day magazine and Consumer Reports magazine.

Oh, and speaking of saving whole issues, according to O, the Oprah Magazine’s May 2010 issue, one in four readers save all copies of the magazine.

‘Bottom Line’ on Consumer Reports Magazine

consumer-reports.jpgI used to think Consumer Reports magazine was just something to pick up before making a big purchase–you know: car, major appliance, etc. I distinctly remember being thrilled that my neighbor’s copy ended up in my mailbox just when I was shopping for a new VCR. (This was years ago, obviously.)

Now as the economy has deteriorated and my cynicism has increased, I’m beginning to think of Consumer Reports magazine as a hard-to-put-down, cover-to-cover read.

OK, yes, I can skip anything having to do with lawnmowers, pets and convertibles (more’s the pity), but in general, I’m hooked.

For one thing, the magazine accepts no advertising; one doesn’t have to wonder about ulterior motives or even ad placement.

But more than that, the writing is excellent–even entertaining. The tone is very modern (and surprisingly consistent). The pithy “Bottom line” verdicts in the “Up Front” section are particularly useful, and whatever the judgment, it is
delivered without snark. A couple of examples: “The talking babies are cute, but…” (in a story about E*TRADE); “Be glad if you use Hefty” (comparing flex trash bags).

And while the layout leans toward the conservative, the information is presented in a clear, accessible way.

BTW, for information on how Consumer Reports tests products and its strict conflict-of-interest policy, check out this MediaBistro interview with editorial director Kevin McKean. It sounds like the magazine practices old-school journalism at its best, while also moving into newer media platforms.

To that end, McKean has an interesting take on user reviews vs. those in the magazine. Essentially, he suggests taking in information from both sources, depending on what you want to know about a product.


“Second Acts” in More and Forbes Magazines

more_july-august2010.jpgWhether attempting to make lemonade from lemons or find a new direction after a major life event or birthday, reinventing oneself is a hot topic. Magazines of all sorts are including stories about “second acts” for everyone from politicians (see Mark K. Updegrove’s book “Second Acts: Presidential Lives and Legacies After the White House”) to celebrities to baby boomers.

Many of us are contemplating second acts a lot sooner than we expected to, so I find it interesting that two very different magazines regularly include stories about just that.

In More magazine, the “Second Act” features are always about women who fit the magazine’s 40+ demographic. The March 2010 issue profiles a former school librarian from Vermont who founded and now runs a book program in Botswana. This story leans toward the inspirational, but other incarnations of the “Second Act” have a more business story orientation.

This was especially true in the November 2009 issue, which talked about four women’s choices in the face of the economic meltdown. (Three of the four, by the way, embarked on international living or travel
adventures.) Titled “Damn the Recession,” it’s no surprise that numbers and financial information fill the story.

If you know anything about Forbes magazine, you’ll know to expect lots of numbers in its incarnation of “Second Acts.” These stories lean toward the entrepreneurial–two issues in March focus on a man whose business shrink-wraps boats, buildings, etc. (Yeah, I know, you almost have to read the story to believe it.) Another story is about a former John Kerry campaign staffer who moved to Argentina and became a vintner.

The Forbes magazine stories offer feature-ish backstory and financial information to inspire would-be entrepreneurs and also to interest potential investors.


Dilemma: Tear Out or Save Whole Issue?

real.jpgOK, here’s a question: How many of you have faced the dilemma of whether to tear out interesting pages of your favorite magazine or to save the whole issue? Well, I suspect we all have because even with the advent of online material, for many of us there is nothing like having our own, always-accessible hard copy.

But there comes a point when enough is too much, even for the obsessive archivists among us. That would be me.

I come from a family of whole-issue savers, but I’m moving toward a new direction. I’m taking steps toward tearing out–and when I say “tearing” out, I mean carefully using an X-Acto knife to remove–and filing pages rather saving entire issues.

Exceptions will probably be interiors magazines, but even there I’ve begun to take out things that fit my files, “travel” and “inspiration” for example.

It’s a necessary step in de-cluttering. Also, I’ve found that my once precise memory (that story is on pg. 46 of the Dec. 1999 issue…) is no longer so perfect. Who wants to dig around through so many magazines anyway?

The new approach is already paying off: Last year I fell in love with an outfit in a Lands’ In ad in the December 2009 Real Simple magazine. The page ended up on my bulletin board until I had all the pieces to recreate it. Now the outfit is in my closet, the page is in my files and–confession time–the magazine is still in my collection. What can I say, I never get rid of December issues.

Now, about those ancient copies of Rolling Stone magazine…

So, what do you do: Tear out and file or save whole issue?

Dear Reader/Contributor

this_old_house.jpgUser-generated content. You either love it or think it’s the scourge of the earth (depending, perhaps, on whether you’re trying to make a living as a writer, photographer, etc.).

Already a staple of the Web and TV (“Send us your news tips/video/weather photos!”), user-generated content is also making headway into print. Sigh.

Sometimes it’s simply a collection of tips from readers, and of course there are letters to the editor. But some magazines are taking things a step further with whole issues created entirely by readers.

I suppose it makes sense in some instances: Avid travelers might as well share tips learned from their experiences and DIYers can show that ordinary people can tackle remodeling projects (though I’d be over my head at the first sign of a hammer and nail).

This Old House magazine launched its first completely user-generated issue in 2008. Last year’s edition won a Folio magazine Eddie Award for best full issue.

So, we’ll have to see what the readers come up with this year. Look out for the July/August issue.

Contents on the Table

martha_stewart_living.jpgI’ve been looking at lots of magazines lately and it occurred to me: I don’t really pay attention to tables of contents (TOC). That seems odd since the TOC is obviously meant to be important. It’s located right there at the front of each issue, after all.

But I think for me, part of the pleasure of reading a magazine is just diving in. I just want to turn the pages and find myself reading something fantastic. (On the other hand, if I’ve encountered a magazine I don’t usually read, I find myself at least skimming the TOC before “entering” the issue, so to speak.)

Now that I’ve acknowledged my TOC issue, I’ve started taking a closer look–and I’ve found some personal favorites.

  • Martha Stewart Living magazine. Yeah, well, of course Martha’s going to get it right, right? Big, beautiful photographs (displaying large page numbers) have an irresistible pull. The text part of the TOC is kept simple: only a hint of color, brief descriptions of the stories and large page numbers. Perfect.
  • Real Simple magazine keeps it–what else?–simple. Streamlined, clean. Just a few photos–which actually seem to compete with the text rather than playing together nicely. But the text design is sheer brilliance. Clever, colorful icons identify each section of the book (and also appear at the top of each page of editorial content); the icon’s color is also used for the department headings. Honestly, the editors could go with a text-only TOC, and it would be gorgeous and just as enticing.
  • House Beautiful magazine knows what we’re there for and the TOC is packed with photos of lovely spaces. Sigh. Yeah, there’s text–including bylines!–but who gets past the pics?
  • This Old House magazine has built a very nice TOC. Here the photos don’t overwhelm and the text is easy to read with a splash of color used for the page numbers and department headings. (The use of a stencil-like typeface for department headings is also a nice touch.)

So, what do you think? Do you read/skim the table of contents or just dive right in? And which magazine gets it right?