How to Use a Magazine to Improve Your Blog

Today’s episode is about how to use a magazine to help you improve your blog – using ‘old media’ to help you improve your approach to ‘new media’. As well as being simple – and potentially a bit of fun – looking through a magazine has the potential to help you improve your blog in any number of ways.


Photograph Magazines for all domains by Artur Brites on 500px

In this Episode

You can listen to today’s episode above or in iTunes or Stitcher (where we’d also LOVE to get your reviews on those platforms if you have a moment). Today we talk about:

  • 8 different ways looking through a magazine could give you ideas to improve your blog
  • A step-by-step process for how to analyse a magazine to get fresh ideas

Further Reading

How did you go with today’s challenge?

What fresh ideas did you get today from analysing a magazine? What will you do differently on your blog?

I’d love to see what changes you make to your blog from this exercise. Share a link to your post in the comments below. Let me know what you’ve done differently.

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Full Transcript Expand to view full transcript Compress to smaller transcript view
Welcome to the ProBlogger Podcast episode 24 and day 24 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog where today, my challenge to you is to get a magazine and to read it. It sounds like a strange task for today, but you’re going to get a whole heap of ideas from this magazine that will hopefully help you improve your blog and perhaps you’ll have a good time, too. You might want to grab a cup of coffee, tea, smoothie, settle back with your magazine and learn about blogging.

You can find today’s show notes at where you also have the opportunity to let us know what you think about today’s episode.

Hi, this is Darren Rowse from ProBlogger and welcome to day 24 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. Today’s challenge is a really simple one. In fact, many of you probably find it quite fun. It has the potential to help your blog in many ways as well. Today, you’re going to read a magazine. Yup, you heard me. Today, old media is going to help you improve your new media blog.

Today, by looking through a magazine, you could find that it helps in any number of ways. You might get marketing ideas while looking at how the magazine pitches to get itself to get readers and paying particular attention to the front cover, which is what convinces people to buy the magazine or not.

You might learn all kinds of things about calling people for action, headlines, and all types of things to get people to pay attention to you. You might learn about design ideas while online and offline are quite different, how the magazines laid out, the colors they used, the fonts they use could help you to understand current trends in design.

You might get post ideas, particularly if you choose a magazine that relates to your niche, but even if you don’t, I often find as I’m reading magazines that don’t relate to my niche, I get ideas for how to tackle my topics by looking at how they do it.

You might also learn about your niche, particularly if you choose a magazine that is from yours, might help you to keep up with the latest trends and developments in your area. I know in the photography space, I used to read photography magazines really regularly, and it was how I caught up with some of the latest trends, particularly before blogs came out and became popular. These days, blogs tend to break the news.

You might get some writing tips. A good article on almost any topic can teach you a heap about effective communication. You might also get some ideas on monetization. Mainstream media have been monetizing content for a long time and while the web is different, some of the principles still do apply today. For example, I found photography products in photography magazines to become an affiliate for.

You might also learn a little bit about reader engagement. Even though a magazine isn’t a two-way conversation in many regards, it’s a very different medium. They’re increasingly trying to become more interactive by running competitions, setting up online forums, and using reader contributions. Again, this might spark ideas for you and your blog.

Increasingly, magazines are also using freelance writers and even bloggers to write for them. This presents a couple of opportunities for you. One, it may actually show your magazine that you could submit to get a piece in. This sometimes is something that they would pay you for even as well. It might even be an extra income stream.

Also, pay attention to the other people who are writing for the magazine. They may become guest posters for your blog. They may have blogs of their own. I find many times they do. Sometimes, I’ve even interviewed them for my own blogs. So, you might get other opportunities coming out of this exercise today.

The exercise is pretty simple. All you really need is a magazine, a paper one, not an online one (if possible), or even a newspaper could work. You probably want to buy it because you might actually end up scribbling on it today or even cutting up. I know a number of people have done this exercise and cut up the magazine and laid it out in different ways.

Having said that, if you can’t afford a magazine, that’s totally fine. Many libraries have them as well or doctor surgeries or other public places. You might want to use one from there; you just need to refrain from scribbling on it or cutting it up. If possible, get a magazine that relates to your topic, but it’s not essential.

Another stuff you might find handy, some sticky notes. I quite like to use those through it, and then a notebook and a pen, or something to record your ideas. There’s no real one way to do this, but the process that I outline in the book, 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, is this: firstly set aside an hour to head away to a place where you can be understood. I tend to do this exercise in a café.  

Bring along the magazine (of course) or a few of them if you’ve got more than one. A notebook, pen, some sticky notes. And then starting with the front cover, just quickly skim through the magazine. Place a sticky note on any page that catches your attention. You don’t have to pause and read anything yet, just take a quick flick through and see what leaps out at you.

As you’re doing it, you might want to ask some of these initial questions. What could you learn from the ad placement and design of the magazine? What level is the magazine pitched at? Is it for beginners, intermediate, advanced? Or a particular demographic of people? What does the magazine do well? What does it do poorly? What would you improve? What are the limitations of the magazine medium? How could you use this to capitalize on selling your blog and standing out from it?

Once you’ve had a quick skim through the magazine, make note of what grabbed you in the first pass. Was it a headline, a picture, a color, an opening line of an article or something else? These attention-grabbing things are really important for blogging. You’ve only got a few seconds to make that first impression upon people. Paying attention to what grabs your attention is really important.

Now take a second and slower read of the magazine. Again, start at the front cover and work your way through and as you go, you might want to ask some of these other questions. What techniques are used on the front page to draw people into the magazine? Who’s the target audience of this publication? What makes you pause and read an article? Why do you skip over other ones? What type of headlines are they using? How effective are they? How are the pitches used? What colors are popular at the moment? How are the articles formatted? How long are the articles? How do they use formatting like subheadings, bold, callouts, lists? How does the magazine sell itself looking forward to future issues or subscription pages?

As you read through the magazine, all kinds of stuff could potentially jump out at you. Take note of any of it that might apply to your blog. I want to make it clear, I’m not really saying you should be copying anything you see in the magazine, but rather, let it be something that stimulates ideas for your own blog. See it as an opportunity to learn and think about your own blog. Some of it will naturally fit with your blogging and what you could do, and other parts [00:08:44] that’s totally fine. Really, the value of this exercise today is to step away from your own blog for an hour and then just gain some fresh ideas and perspectives from another medium.

I hope you find today’s exercise good. Make sure you grab a coffee or your favorite beverage to drink while you’re reading a magazine and let us know how you find the exercise. I look forward to talking to you tomorrow on day 25 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog.

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and reading the magazine that you’ve chosen, and hopefully, it’s taught you something about blogging. I’d love to hear what that was at where we’ve put out today’s show notes and I’d love to hear a comment about what you’ve learned and what you’ve done as a result of today’s challenge.

Also, I look forward to chatting with you tomorrow on day 25 on 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. We’re in the final week now and tomorrow’s challenge is another writing challenge, so get ready for some writing. Look forward to chatting with you then. Bye.


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