Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Magazine Academy has come and gone, and what have we learned?

Sheffield University won the Student Magazine category with Poppy, produced by Jess Coyne, Jess Ballinger and Jenny Carrington-Elson. Many congratulations to them and to their tutors Jonathan Foster and Yvonne Illsley. Their mag had an extremely good concept (a cheerful weekly for lonely service wives) and some well sourced real life content.

I would love to direct you to the magazine but unfortunately it does not have a working website.

Cardiff achieved a Highly Commended with Wonder Girl, a result that is no less than the hard working team deserved. The judges specifically mentioned the many "little touches" that made it stand out, so perhaps those late, late nights in MagLab were worth it.

The New Digital Product category was won by Festival Business, another well pitched concept, from PMA Media Training. (@Festival_Biz on Twitter)

The take-away
I have been to most, if not all, the Magazine Academy events and I'm beginning to see a pattern – which is that there is no clearly discernible pattern. But here are some instant tips:

1) A "kiss-me-quick" concept.
The judges, like readers, don't have time for a background briefing on what the magazine is about. The concept must be simple, clear and capable of being depicted on ...

2) An iconic front cover
We all know the front cover is the hardest working page in a magazine: for MagAcad entries it has to capture genre and content immediately.

3) Production values aren't necessarily important
If points 1) and 2) are not in place, it won't matter that the type is well set, widows and orphans have been eliminated or that your copyright-cleared pictures are crisp and undistorted.

4) Judges seem to like adverts
Perhaps including scans of display advertising gives the magazine an air of commercial reality? Personally I am never convinced by the inclusion of ads in course magazine, but that's just me.

5) If you are rich and a sponsor you can get away with a great deal
Including, if you are Felix Dennis, reciting your own poetry and keeping hungry people from mouth-watering food for an inordinate length of time.

Felix's big take-away was that media companies exist to make money and he bet students their tutors had not told them that. Sorry Felix, that's a bet you would lose. I'll accept your house on Mustique.

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