Monday, 12 August 2013

The New Magazine Approach

The job of a magazine writer used to be fairly straightforward: Find an interesting topic, find out what are new, interview people about it, and then put them into a compelling feature that will keep readers turning the magazine's pages. The work required a solid foundation in journalism, which can be summed up as the ability to report and write.

Indeed, if you are like most would-be magazine writers, you simply enjoy the job of writing. You probably have a few favorite magazines that you like to read more than any others, and you believe that you can contribute to the ongoing conversation that those magazines have, in print, with their readers.

But today, in the West, most magazines are no longer standalone entities that have readers. They are becoming components in multimedia packages that have users — users who want to receive the content in new and different ways, be it online, in a cellular phone text message, or in an iPod download.

Those reporting and writing skills are still a huge part of the magazine writer's role, but they have become more of a foundation than a total job description. Increasingly, magazine publishers are referring to writers as “content providers.” They see the magazine writer as more of an information collector, someone whose work they can use in multiple ways.

Consider the role of a writer for a lifestyle magazine, which covers celebrity news and fashion. Say the writer gets a scoop about a hot celebrity. The writer may land an assignment to write an article and may also be asked to create a “teaser article” that will run on the magazine's web site as a promotion before the article appears in print. And, since we're talking about a celebrity, the writer may also be asked to discuss her article for one of their television shows that feature movie-star news.
Because, huge media corporations now own and control magazines than ever. 

Many successful magazines have their own multiple brands. The same corporation may own a television channel, internet companies, multiple companies and they want writers to put their stories to work not for just one magazine, but for the corporation’s entire media outlet.

At this point, the magazine writer is not only tasked with crafting a full-length feature article, but also with writing an advertorial-style, web-friendly snippet; with being able to speak articulately and look fashionable on camera; and with being able to socialize as a human advertisement for the upcoming feature.

The journalists should possess this skill and have this in mind when they set out to write for magazines, nor are they the kinds of things you're likely to learn in a typical journalism school.

Not every magazine writer, after all, becomes a darling of the publisher and is asked to speak on camera and attend glitzy events. And not all magazines have gone this path of pushing writers into ever-expanding roles. In some cases, you can be a writer and nothing else.

The day is coming, though, when you may no longer have that choice — and as you enter the magazine-writing business, you need to understand that probability. Many, many magazines in the West have found financial success by following the business model that turns writers into content providers, which means that ever more magazines are likely to follow the same path.

All of these things make the job of being a magazine writer more demanding than ever — and they require you to know not only what you are writing, but also how you are selling it.

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