Magazine titles are occasionally unclear, or even misleading. I am told, for instance, that Penthouse is not a magazine about apartments atop high-rise buildings. While a title should be timeless, the tag line can be timely and change whenever a magazine shifts editorial direction, telling the reader at a glance what the current editorial attitude is. It should also be brief and, if possible, bring the reader into the process. This is usually done with one of four approaches:
What we are:
Inc.: The Handbook of the American Entrepreneur
Architectural Digest: The International Magazine of Interior Design
What principle we stand for:
Conde Nast Traveler: Truth in Travel
Information Week: Business Innovation Powered By Technology
Who should read us:
Investment News: The Leading News Source for Financial Advisers
American Way: Trends for the Modern Traveler
Our core topics:
Treasures in Needlework: Knitting, Sewing, Crosstitch & Crochet
Maxim: Girls, Sex, Sports, Gadgets, Beer [This fluctuates somewhat from issue to issue.]
When the late, great Eli Segal purchased Games, I assisted him with the relaunch and one of our first problems was the title. We knew from looking over old correspondence, that there was confusion in the marketplace and many subscribers cancelled because they did not receive a magazine they thought would be about sports events or children in the playground. We came up with a tag line that delineated the magazine;Games: The Magazine for Creative Minds at Play;and subscribers now knew what they were getting.
I recently conferred with Patti Verbanas, executive editor at Art & Antiques, where the magazine was in search of a tag line. Indeed, the title was ambiguous, especially “art,” which can mean Andy Warhol to you and Charles Russell to me. Likewise, “antiques” can mean items that have been around for more than 100 years, while many consider more youthful “collectibles” to have collector and commercial appeal as well.
“What we want to convey is that we are a magazine that is written by experts for affluent, savvy collectors, and that the magazine incorporates their lifestyle as we profile how collectors collect and live with what they have amassed,” said Verbanas.
The two in-house finalists were:
Art & Antiques: The Magazine for Collectors of the Fine and Decorative Arts
Art & Antiques: For the Connoisseur Who Lives With Fine Art
I did some converging. My feeling was that the tag did not need the word “magazine,” which can be restrictive to the print version, and I always encourage strong linkage with the Web site. The clarifiers “fine and decorative arts” were important for they implied that collector items can have both artistic and/or decorative value, the sort of things one enjoyed living with, whether in a home or place of business. I also thought “the collector” (instead of “collectors”) was more personal, even editorially intimate, saying to the reader. “We are in this field together.”
So, my recommendation became Art & Antiques: For the Collector of Fine and Decorative Arts.
No One Likes a Bragger
Some of the weakest tag lines, in my opinion, are those that stray from promoting editorial content and merely boast about marketing achievement. For example, AARP The Magazine: World’s Largest Circulation Magazine. This approach is not unlike what you would expect from a hamburger chain;McDonald’s The Magazine: Billions Sold!
What then is the perfect tag line? I nominate my favorite from a magazine for pet owners. Here everything comes together in a tag that is brief, reveals the book’s editorial mantra, and says we are holding onto leashes together with wit and whimsy: Bark: In Dog We Trust.
John Brady is a partner at Brady & Paul Communications, a publishing consultancy that specializes in redesigns, and conducts workshops for professionals. For information on his consulting services, and to order his Interviewer’s Handbook: A Guerrilla Guide for Reporters and Writers, his Web site is www.johnbrady.info.