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How to Use a Magazine to Improve Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 29th of November 2010 Video Posts 0 Comments

View this video at full size here.

Looking for a little inspiration for your blog? Check out this simple exercise that I do from time to time, particularly if I’ve got a little time to spare and a magazine handy.

Note: pick a magazine that relates to your topic—unlike I did in this video!

Transcription of “How to Use a Magazine to Improve Your Blog”

Today I want to do a little exercise with you that I’ve done from time to time over the last few years. Often when I’m sitting in a food court or something like that, I’ll grab a magazine from a newsagent or a newsstand. And then just whip through it, particularly looking at the front page of it and just sort of seeing what I can pick up. We’re in the publishing game, and so it’s worth taking a little bit of time from time to time just to see what others in the publishing game are doing in terms of promoting themselves and the content that they’re writing.

So what I’ve done today is I’ve grabbed a magazine off Mrs ProBlogger’s bedside table, and it’s a magazine that I’ve never really read before, but some of you may be familiar with it: Marie Claire, the Australian edition. And I want to just whip through some of the elements of this front page here, because I think, in terms of content and even the layout, there’s some things that we could learn as bloggers.

So obviously, I guess probably the most eye-catching thing, at least for me, is Jennifer Lopez there. I think one of the things about images on magazines, on blogs, that I’ve heard a number of studies on, is that faces—eyes—are the most eye-catching thing. I know in the photography magazine space, I’ve heard a variety of photography magazine editors who’ve talked about how they see much higher sales of magazines when there is a person on the front cover, rather than a thing or a scene. So that’s one thing.

I think the other thing about having Jennifer Lopez, having a name, on the front page is that people really do like to read about people. I know a lot of the content that I’ve written on my blogs over the years, when I interview someone, when I tell the story of someone, those types of posts tends to go quite well. We have this, I guess, voyeuristic kind of thing inside a lot of us that we like to see.

Let’s look at some of these titles here. “Look younger longer; cosmetic treatment tried and tested.” This looking younger longer, that’s tapping into sort of an aspirational thing, an inspirational kind of article, and it’s obviously something that is a felt need or desire that a lot of people have. And to put that with the “cosmetics treatment tried and tested” sort of article there makes sense. You’ve got the aspirational, but you’ve also got sort of a research-y type article—the results of a test. And again, I find those types of articles can work quite well, particularly if you can put it with an aspirational kind of theme.

“Catwalk cartels; models lured into drug smuggling.” There’s a story that’s a little bit sensational, I guess. Makes you wonder what is behind that story. “Desperate to be a dad; the desire men don’t talk about.” This is a women’s magazine, but obviously a lot of women would have an interest in finding a man that’s desperate to be a dad, and that sort of story can do quite well in that it’s talking about the desires of people, the needs of people.

“‘Fed and wed-off; where women are forced to be fat for marriage.” That’s certainly a story I’m going to have a flick through later to see what that’s about. There’s “438 sexy new styles”—a typical list post that many blogs would be familiar with. It’s a very comprehensive article, by the looks of things. I suspect it’s probably not that comprehensive, but 438 is a massive number there. And the “sexy new styles,” again, taps into this aspirational-type thing.”The work wear made easier; the style guide.” That, again, taps into people. It makes it sound a little bit easy, doesn’t it? This is the style guide. This is just what you have to follow.

This—”winter beauty SOS: ten simple ways to get your Glow Back”—this is an example of a seasonal article. This magazine came out sort of in the middle of the Australian winter, so it’s sort of seasonal. And again, it’s a felt need that people have in the middle of their winter doldrums. Then we have “What to buy now: the nine key pieces you’ll want this season and how to wear them.” Again, it’s sort of a seasonal thing. It’s a how-to article, and it’s very much about: this is just what you need to do. It’s instructional in some ways.

Now, this topic, this magazine’s probably not going to relate to many ProBlogger readers and the type of blogs that you have, but it’s just an example. If I was in fashion or beauty or that type of a niche, I’d be looking at these sort of titles to see what’s working for other people. And you can of course extend this further by opening it up and going through and looking at the way they lay out their articles, the headlines that they own, I think this type of thing can give you all kinds of ideas for your own blog.

So go out, find a magazine on your topic—or at least that relates to you—and see what they’re doing. You may reject some of it. It may not be your style, but you may also get some great ideas.

Hope that this has been helpful for you.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Hi Darren,
    This is a fantastic technique. I have also tried it many times and for me, it has worked best with totally unrelated magazines(reading tech magazines for a post about technology does not give much ideas!)

    I guess probably the most eye-catching thing, at least for me, is Jennifer Lopez there

    No need to guess, she is most eye-catching for me(and a lot of others) too! ;)

    • Hi Ishan,

      Looks like being wrong something, its actually beneficial too.
      It makes more sense especially for loyal blog follower to read/watch something different from the ordinary Theme.

      Its a good idea !

  2. From magazines we surely can get tips on writing Catchy post titles :P

  3. I subscribe to Psychology Today and The Economist. I also like to breeze through other magazines I find whenever I have the free-time. I don’t pay so much attention to the covers, because I don’t find them relevant to my blog, but I do pay attention to the headlines and how articles are formatted. It does help put the whole “publishing world” into perspective.

  4. I do this all the time with travel magazines. Not only the cover, but inside pages as well.

  5. I actually do that ones in a while, thanks!

    @Steven I really like psychology today, I pick it up once in a while. Good pick!

  6. Hi Darren,
    Our blogs are like a magazine cover, you only get one chance to captivate your reader. Catchy titles, good images are a great help. Looking at other forms of media is a great idea, and one that I don’t do very often. Need to change my media habits. I do love reading blogs though. Nowhere do you get such diverse content.
    Especially here.


  7. Hi Darren!

    Thanks for the awesome content! I never really thought about using
    a magazine for ideas but it just makes sense. That is just great!

  8. Rison Simon says: 11/29/2010 at 2:56 am

    Hi Darren, this is a day on 31DBBB, right? Cool to see that you have made a video from it. Which is another tip on 31DBBB – breathing life to an old post. Keep it up.

  9. What a wonderful idea to grow my blog. Thank Darren for sharing

  10. Hi Darren,
    Excellent reminder of the value of looking at other types of media. Also, I recall you or another person once mentioned to me to consider how TV ads catch our attention and when they fail to catch our attention. TV ads are another great media to study.

    In my case, I have learned that as a professional speaker you can either win or lose the audience in the first few minutes. So not matter what we are sharing we have seconds to get attention and then we have to work to keep it.

    Your prior posts about always including photographs is brought to my mind again in this posting.

    As always thanks for sharing Darren,


  11. Nice video, thanks :-) I like to use this technique while I’m waiting for the train at the subway station. There’s usually a newsstand somewhere at every big subway station, and it’s an effective way to spend the waiting time :-)

  12. I enjoy the video posts you do with you talking on them. You do a fantastic job holding the camera straight. Is there a device you use or is the camera in your hand?

  13. Hi Darren,

    Like you said, see whats working for other people. Get Inspired! From blogging to affiliate marketing the resources are all around us. Just add our own spice to it and there you go, you have your own product or article.

    Great post mate.

  14. Thank you for the great informative video. This technique is very useful if you follow you steps. it is also a perfect way to learn what catches the eyes of viewers that read magazines. even if it has nothing to do with your blog, you are always learning which is something I love to do!

  15. Andrea says: 11/29/2010 at 11:50 am

    Love this tip! I’m from a creative advertising background and have always used free association to produce ideas. I often go to magazine racks and have a good flip through. Though, I do find that our inter yews don’t do the best on our blog, people tend to gomfor the tips articles. I’m quite new to blogging though so perhaps we just need to build more traffic. Thanks, as always, for your great tips. I heard you speak in Melbourne at Marketing Now about a year ago and your presentation was so helpful to me!

  16. Magazines are great sources for ideas. The colors used and the layout can give ideas on the look of the site. Articles and the words used can also be helpful in building what we need to convey. But of course the magazine you browse must have some relation to the blog site, right? For example if the blog is about business, then the magazine must also tackle business?

  17. Good stuff Darren. I have been using this technique for years. I started back when I knew nothing about publishing, and you can learn a lot from the pros in the field.

  18. I get lots of inspirations and ideas from magazines and it helps when I am stuck with mental block situation. Furthermore, there is less risk of being hit with plagiarism even you if quote some excerpts on your website or blog without citing or giving due credit to the source of the information.
    Well, I am not advocating stealing of ideas or plagiarism, but it is just that you have more flexibility when it comes to using magazines as reference for ideas and etc.

  19. OMG Darren! Im so glad that this post directly relates to beauty and fashion bloggers. As one myself, a lot of times I read problogger and try to fit a lot of the tips to beauty blogging, since I have not seen much on problogger that is specific to beauty and fashion blogging even though there are alot of blogs pertaining to those things. Thanks!

  20. Darren! I love this post. It’s so YOU. Not only does it ‘say something important’ to your readers, but it shows them how a creative mind can get a blog post anywhere — including Mrs. Probloggers bedside table. You rock.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm.com

  21. fatai animashaun says: 11/30/2010 at 4:34 am

    Great information. obviously, it is about time to make decision. Nothing else needed to proceed than just take action and proceed. The post obviousy detailed all needed information on starting or reactivating one’s blog or website.

    I am a novice in this endeavor. I have been a faithful follower of your site to learn before I leap into the unknown world of blogging. This illustration has sort of sealed my procastination. I feel it is about time to act now.

    Thanks for your illuminating and educative info.

    Fatai Animashaun.

  22. Darren, these are very helpful tips. My husband is a graphic designer and anytime we travel or are in the grocery line, he’ll grab a magazine or brochure and flip through, looking for new ideas and trends in type, layout and design. Never thought about how we could be doing this similarly for our blog.

  23. Great topic and post Darren, thanks! It’s always good to study others who are successful at what you’re trying to do. This idea of studying what kinds of titles are attracting readers is the same thing. Study and emulate what works well.

  24. Information provided in this post is really great and very useful,

    Thanks for it.

  25. I love your post, Darren.
    Although it makes so much sense, many people wouldn’t easily realize how mimicking relevant magazines can improve the quality of their blogs. In fact, this idea never occured to me. So, thanks for sharing :).

    I would add that it is important to dig for the best possible magazine for blog replication as this would eliminate all the guess work and bloggers will set themselves free from the “blog writers block”!

    It is like finding a untapped treasure and where your magazine becomes your “content success model”. Brilliant!

  26. this is a good tip and im definatly using magazines now

  27. It always amazes me how amazingly organized you must have to be in order to accomplish as much as you do.
    Do you have any secrets you can share about your system of organization. Do you use any software to help w/ your organization?

  28. Magazines topic, i think pick a topics in newspaper to put in blog even wide range to expand in your blog article to share with. Newspaper is everyday up to date. Therefore, the story you tell will be never end unless to topic not available in newspaper anymore. But at least one topic would bring lot of traffic to you. No doubt that news, magazines and tv is a place for u to get an idea.

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