Riveting Reads: What Makes a Magazine a Page-Turner

rivetingread2.jpgYou know it the instant you’ve found it–that magazine you just can’t put down. It compels you to do something you normally wouldn’t in your rushed, hectic day: lose track of time. You open it up, and hours pass until the next time you check your watch. You get so distracted reading it in the grocery store checkout that the cashier must signal for your attention. Even when the timer on your stove buzzes, your iPhone rings or your bedtime passes, you keep reading. 

For a magazine to be a page-turner for me, it must have five things: an intriguing cover, clever headlines, stunning photography, creative design and well-written (preferably tearjerker) stories. But enough about what I think. We asked magazine junkies to share the secret to what makes their favorite magazines page-turners. Here’s what they had to say:

1. Unforgettable stories

Jamie Roberts, Nashville, Tenn.: “I’m addicted to the New Yorker magazine, and not for its photography or design. I read it cover to cover for its consistently intelligent writing–the writers always tell such fascinating stories, even about topics I didn’t think I was interested in (like how the UPS works or a profile on a random musician).”

Bill Hudgins, Hendersonville, Tenn.: My favorite magazine is Garden and Gun because of the quality of writing. Its writers all seem be masterful storytellers, from singer Marshall Chapman to humorist Roy Blount, and I have to believe the editors are expert story ‘listeners’ who help the writers hone each tale to near perfection.”

Nancy Posey, Hickory, N.C.: “If I could take only one magazine, it would be Oxford American (the Southern magazine of good writing) because of–you guessed it–the good writing. I love the fiction, the essays, the poetry, the features–and I can’t wait for the annual music issue. I give copies for gifts.”

2. Cool perspectives

Carol Birth, Little Rock, Ark.: “It has to have cool, artistic photos (like the ones in W magazine that Brad Pitt took of his family using an old camera). Also, polls on interesting topics, such as what people are listening to, reading and watching.”

Amber Owens, Huntsville, Ala.: “Human interest and everyday hero kinds of stories. I don’t care much for high fashion or celebrity gossip, but show me how an average Joe is making a difference in his community, and I’m in.”

Aly West, Nashville, Tenn.: “I like pretty pictures–that’s why Vogue magazine is my favorite. I love the fashion photography, especially when the magazine shows a series of photos that tell a story.”

3. Catchy covers

Dianna Gee, Nashville, Tenn.:  “I’m most likely to pick up a magazine if: a) Matthew McConaughey is on the cover; b) The headline promises that I can lose 50 pounds before the next holiday; c) Some psychoanalysis article about relationships catches my eye. I consider myself a self-learner, so anything that makes me want to create positive change within myself or serves as eye candy, I’m buying it!”

4. Impressive design

Megan Morris, Murfreesboro, Tenn.: “My favorite magazine is Rolling Stone. While it’s mostly because of the content (music news combined with witty writing on current events), the way it’s presented keeps my interest. The features are long enough to make me feel like I’m reading a story, but the photos and pull quotes dispersed throughout break it up so I don’t get lost in a sea of black and white. It also has awesome photography–you can always count on seeing a musician in a unique light.”

5. Relevant content

Cheryl Gangl, Madison, Ala.: “Good photography and topics that relate to where I am in life. I read magazines for practical advice more than entertainment. For me, page-turners are articles with an interesting lead-in and short bits of useful information, so I can scan for what I want to know.”

Roslyn Rosales, San Antonio, Texas: “Along with the cool fashion photo spreads in Vogue magazine, I love looking at all the ways outfits can be put together with accessories, belts, shoes and bags. I love reading Rolling Stone magazine and learning about up-and-coming musicians, band reunions, and what underground artists have finally become mainstream.”

Kathryn George, Washington, D.C.: “Quick reads interspersed with a few in-depth pieces; interesting columns and valuable takeaways; human interest and relate-able content. Favorite magazines are Real Simple and Washingtonian.”

Katy Beth Lewey, Florence, Ala.: “I recently subscribed to Marie Claire magazine after reading two issues cover to cover. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the articles were and how well they relate to the ‘young professional woman.’”

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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).