The Magazine Medic
An industry expert offers a critique of 'Where to Retire'.
THE PATIENT: Where to Retire
AGE: 20 years
PROGNOSIS: Positive if patient is
willing to make changes.
Who doesnâ€™t harbor dreams of a happy, active retirement in a (choose one): beach house/mountain retreat/golf community/island condo? Even the Magazine Medic, who truly loves his work, imagines one day trashing his toolkit and livinâ€™ easy in a yet-to-be determined paradise.
But where? Cue Where to Retire, a magazine born on a bet that Americaâ€™s aging workers were all busy fantasizing about cloudless climes elsewhere. It was a great idea.
Unfortunately, the magazine hasnâ€™t changed enough over the years. The housing market, meanwhile, tanked. Household â€śwealthâ€ť is, for many, but a sad memory. And many retirees are staying put, albeit reluctantly.
Where to Retire hasnâ€™t been entirely blind to these economic calamities. Itâ€™s responded by slightly reshuffling the edit mix. In particular, youâ€™ll see lots more about vacations. The obvious thinking here: If you canâ€™t afford that luxe kick-back pad when you exit the workforce, maybe thereâ€™s enough cash remaining for a few decent getaways.
What We Prescribe
â€˘ Number one, letâ€™s immediately infuse some cred into this patient. Most of Where to Retireâ€™s stories practically drool over the wonders of its featured towns. Câ€™mon, tell your 200,000 readers that sometimes a place is not all itâ€™s cracked up to be by its visitors bureau. Thatâ€™s your obligation. Your readers will be the better for this honestyâ€”and so too will your advertisers, who, even in a book like this, are banking on readersâ€™ trust of the surrounding edit. We realize that risking the wrath of advertisers is a sacrilege in our business, but itâ€™s often exactly what makes a magazine valuable to its prime asset, its readers.
â€˘ Ever heard of white space? Donâ€™t go looking for any here, and donâ€™t even enter if youâ€™re the slightest bit claustrophobic. (On the other hand, some of the magazineâ€™s infographics are excellent and just need to be aired out.) Covers: Where to Retire needs to produce some that donâ€™t look nearly identical to the ones that just preceded it. Finally, while designers are completely revamping the magazineâ€”the sooner the better, we sayâ€”donâ€™t forget to send the logo to its much-deserved retirement. It emphasizes the word to, which is just plain wacky.
â€˘ Re-set navigation throughout, and recalibrate the pacing, aiming for less of a bargain-huntersâ€™ vacation-catalog sensibility. Be far more transparent about whatâ€™s editorial and whatâ€™s advertorial. Assign feature photography thatâ€™s unblinkingly journalistic.
If the magazine can see its way clear to respecting readers more, its owners can one day retire with a clearer conscience.
A well-known reporter, writer, and editorâ€”at Time Inc., Primedia, and other American publishing companiesâ€”Cable Neuhaus has frequently been called on to help create, repair, and run consumer and trade titles of various kinds.
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