Magazine-format blog: points to ponder

The “magazine” format has taken blogs by storm this year, and if you’re of the mind to move your blog in that direction, there are a few things to consider.

First, ask yourself: what is a magazine? As a collection of features covering different topics, one can argue that most blogs fall under the term, but online and print magazines share predictable, consistent sections which different readers can flock to. Consider Newsweek’s last-page editorial. Last time I checked, Anna Quindlen has as regular gig on that page. When I have a chance to peruse a printed Newsweek at the local CVS, I go straight to that page. Other readers go straight to other section. A magazine is a consistent, regular publication with content that is expected by the audience. If you’re a free-form blogger who can’t deliver that kind of content consistently and frequently, the magazine format will leave entire swathes of your site with poorly updated material.

The biggest change when moving from a pure blog to that of the magazine format is the structure of the front page. Consider the information architecture. It’s become a huge buzzword this year, too, and its two aspects—front-end and back-end structure—become even more important in switching to magazine form. Plan for the many categories you would link to, and how you would file them. The presentation format for most magazine sites is to include links to individual features on the front page. Consider Surfer Magazine, where they have boxes for videos, photos, and surfing-related news. In a multiple-author blog such as The Atlantic Monthly, the format quickly leads readers to whom they want to read. It can help with issues of attribution. Since my experience in writing has generally been in the political sphere, this helps avoid mass confusion as to who wrote what. This can help bombthrowers aim better.

Some blogs borrow aspects of magazine sites. How you do this will depend on the kind of writing you will be doing. One compromise is through the well-known WordPress mullet loop, where you have the latest entry presented full-length, followed by a list of recent titles and excerpts. The decision to choose this presentation should depend on two things: your own taste, and those of your readers.

The third thing to consider is layout. Call it the front-end information architecture, if you will. How many featured articles would you frontline on your site? How many recent articles, and how many sections? How would you populate the front-page: automatic, or manual? Will you be able to assure your readers that the fresh item for each section is not only interesting, but will lead to them browsing through the rest of the section?

Lastly, consider implementation. Do you have a developer who can do this for you and at the cost you are willing to pay? (A drop-in magazine theme is merely a starting point.) If you sell ads on your site, do you think this will increase impressions and conversions for your advertisers? Will your queries go up or down and will your web host tolerate a potential increase in server load from your site? Will your readers like it? Maybe they would prefer that they just keep scrolling down to keep reading your posts. Maybe you should ask them when you play-test your site. Having paid a few people to help you do this, if it doesn’t work out in a few months, are you willing to walk away from the revamp and start over?

I do not write this to scare the living bejeezus out of anyone who wants to make the change. Just understand that it’s not for everyone, and that there are other ways to clean up a blog.

2 thoughts on “Magazine-format blog: points to ponder”

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