If you thought my job was all about inserting typos, commissioning features and playing Unreal Tournament, well, then you thought pretty much the same as me! But today I'm in Marlow attending a conference for all the editors at Future. Now, admittedly not many people go through their local magazine shop counting Future logos, so you may not realise quite how many magazines we make - suffice to say there are well over a hundred people here, all learning the latest theory about brand vs product.
I find this very curious, because I've never really considered the Linux Format brand - as far as I'm concerned, readers buy LXF because they want Linux news, reviews and more rather than looking for, recognising and trusting our brand. Our sky bar (the line of text at the very top of the cover) used to have a little summary of what the magazine offered regularly (something like "The latest news, the hottest reviews, your problems doubled" (or "solved"; one of the two), but now it just lists three or four things from the current magazine.
We have market researchers at Future whose job it is to look at things like Tesco Clubcard data to try to figure out what kind of person reads LXF, how often they buy it, what other magazines they buy, and more. I hear from them very rarely, and then usually only get the top-level headlines along the lines of "did you know most LXF readers are male?" But one of the facts they roll out to us fairly regularly is that most LXF readers don't buy every issue - they buy every other issue, or one in every three, four, five or even six.
Now obviously I spend a lot of my time agonising over cover lines (no, they aren't flippant or off the cuff, and they certainly aren't last-minute jobs), and one of the things I try to strive for is to have each LXF cover convey roughly the same message: "this is the magazine to read to get up to date with Linux news, see what's on the radar for the future, learn how to do more with Linux, and have a varied read at the same time." Clearly there's a disconnect somewhere between what I think I'm doing and how that comes across to you, which makes me very curious. Picture this:
- You walk to the magazine store
- You see a new issue of LXF
- You pick it up and look at the cover
Now, what do you look at first? The main headline? The sky bar? The disc? The interview? Do you think "meh, there's nothing here about XYZ program; I'm not interested", or are you more interested in anything as long as its practical?