Niche Magazines Show Passion - Illustration by Marina LindermanShow them more love with better design

As I return home from Tempe, AZ after speaking at the 2010 Niche Magazine Conference, I was inspired to write about the energy I felt at the conference. It was clear that many small publishers have weathered the economic storm over the last two years and were there to find new solutions to take their B-to-B, trade or consumer magazines to the next level. While most have met with challenges in the recent past, they are more optimistic than ever to grow using the new opportunities in front of them in media publishing. Attendees shared ideas and stories of successful use of social media, creating more powerful and useful web sites and how they planned to increase revenue over the next several years.

One thing that rose to the top of many conversations, which came as a bit of a surprise to me, was their commitment to good design for their small magazines. I think the tough times they have faced in the industry made them take a closer look at the design and quality of their magazines and other products. With so many magazines closing their doors, it became apparent that only the best would survive in these changing times.

Though a greater segment of the attendees have embraced the need for good design as a key element of creating a quality product, I did hear several conversations about not wanting to spend money on design. This wasn’t shocking at all, since when the budget ax comes down it’s always easiest to cut the creative budget, but I think the tide is shifting! If it is not valid and engaging content, it will not grow or even continue to limp by. Most of us concurred that design and overall structure are critical to the distribution of content, and making that content it’s most engaging and informative. Design is what sells it and holds it all together. If a magazine is “really ugly” with no branding or structure, it can easily get passed by or dismissed by readers as unimportant. Worse yet, if poor design cripples the content even devoted readership can fall off.

I will continue to write more for Align about the wonderful opportunities we have today for our niche magazines.

A few additional articles that may be useful if you are a publisher who needs to focus more on the design strategy for your magazine are:
Design? Who Cares?
Great Magazine Cover Design
or my series on posts on “Design Strategy for your Magazine

Debbie is President of Bates Creative Group and has more that 18 years working in the publishing industry.