In the latest of our series on the sector’s best magazines and journals, we hear from the Association of Optometrists.
John White, managing editor of Optometry Today, discusses why you can judge a journal by its cover – and seven ways to make sure your readers tear off the journal’s polywrap every edition
For those of us in the business of producing print publications, knowing the habits of our readers has always been important.
And, with the rise of digital devices that can deliver content ‘on the go,’ this has never been more crucial. Only this week I saw new market research reporting that 30% of adults in the US spend more than nine hours a day using a digital device, and 90% of Americans acknowledge that they use their digital devices for more than two hours a day. Ring true?
However, to my way of thinking, seeing the digital space as ‘the competition’ is flawed logic. After all, they are not mutually exclusive. When we spoke to our readers, they told us that they still valued and read their print edition. They wanted our online offering too, though – reflecting their desire for more fast-paced news and job updates.
With that knowledge, delivering a journal that played to its strength as a print piece, and was a ‘must-open’ every edition, became the challenge.
Last year, that’s the question we asked ourselves when we embarked on a relaunch of OT.
We had decided to move from a fortnightly to a monthly frequency, which brought with it a shift in the way in which we structured the journal.
Out went the muddle of news stories that gobbled an extended section at the start of the publication, and in came a much snappier monthly digest, curated around the month’s most interesting developments, featuring Q+As and infographics.
Also given a serious shakeup was the features section. Previously an organic and reactive selection of longer form articles, we reorganised the content into clearly delineated editorial streams that reflect core areas of professional interests – encompassing practical business advice, opinion and comment for the profession’s KOLs, plus a showcase of the best product and tech developments from the optical marketplace.
To bring these elements together, we decided to embed a single ‘big’ theme. We launched in November 2015 with ‘Women in Optics’ – celebrating the success women have in all areas of the profession, while also considering what makes the profession a great and modern career choice for women today.
Job done, right?
Not quite. Working with our publishing partners – the excellent Think, membership publishing specialists – we agreed that the cover needed some TLC too.
Acting as the shop window to the content within, whether your reader decides to tear off the polybag can rest on the impact your cover makes in the first 10 seconds when the member picks up the copy off the doormat.
Here are seven steps we took to make sure OT’s covers grab the attention of the member and sells all that great content you and the editorial team have produced for them…
1/ Identity matters
Ask yourself if your Association’s logo is prominent enough. It may sound obvious, but when we looked at our original cover design we realised that the AOP’s logo was not being sold enough. Legacy matters, so remember to trade on your Association’s brand association and clout with members.
2/ Cover as art
Sure, getting Mario Testino or Wolfgang Tilmans in for a quick shoot is not going to be on the cards, but having a cover of your own that is 1/ striking, 2/ beautiful, 3/ thought-provoking, 4/ all of the above, is not just the preserve of Vogue et al. Don’t be afraid of your readers and certainly don’t assume they want you to play it safe. Think of your cover as art, ie. timeless.
3/ Creativity requires planning
To steer the cover idea planning process, we plot out our series of 12 themes six months in advance. From that point, in monthly bursts, the design team and I workshop creative solutions that best ‘sell’ the story behind the theme to the members.
4/ Ditch the stock images
Quality comes at a price – and access to a generic stock image libraries is not going to cut it.
5/ Change it up
Think about ways to vary the style of the cover. In the course of 2016, OT‘s approach has been to create variety through a mix photographic, illustrative and typographic treatments.
6/ Less is more
Covering your cover in copy that highlights all the great content in your journal may be tempting, but can also make for a cluttered read. We choose five stories that span a range of sections of the journal, reflecting our strength in depth.
7/ That physical feeling
When we started to plot the relaunch for Optometry Today, we ran a reader engagement exercise to understand what they liked and disliked about the physical product. They told us that a smart finish matters, so we ditched the flimsy saddlestitch, and opted for a sharp perfect bound finish pared with a 200gsm gloss cover for a more professional look. I think it looks great, but then I am biased!