Respecting The Reader
Writing in b-to-b publications is sometimes slammed for “press release” quality.
Many editors never actually worked in the subject they write about and
sometimes bring limited understanding and sophistication to the topic.
That’s tough to do when your audience is the experts.
But writing in enthusiast media can be bad as well. Lazy, repetitive,
and sometimes serving as little more than a shill for advertisers. I
know it’s tough—there’s only so many ways you can approach a particular
subject (ever try writing about paper supply four times a year?)
Obviously, there is excellent editorial among many enthusiast
magazines—Runner’s World springs to mind—just as there is excellent
editorial in many b-to-b publications.
However, it’s apparent that the writing is lacking when reading magazines
that deal with one of my own enthusiasms: shooting. Yes, I know,
editors based in the New York-area are supposed to be either weaving
baskets during Tracy Chapman concerts, queuing up outside Aer (or
whatever hotspot will replace it next month), or God, help us, blogging
incessantly in their spare time, but me, I like to pop off a few
rounds. The next best thing (or at least it would be) is to curl up
with a magazine dedicated to the sport.
But I can’t take the writing anymore. I’ve let several subscriptions
lapse because it’s the same thing over and over. I don’t mean the
topics—I mean the actual phrasing. Reading gun magazines requires
developing the skill to read between the lines, particularly for
product reviews which are often purposefully bland so as not to offend
advertisers. Example: “The [insert model] was more than accurate enough
if I did my part.” Translation: You couldn’t hit the broad side of a
barn with this thing.
Worse is the outright cheerleading. Recently, a large manufacturer
developed a manual locking system for some its products. There have
been reports that the locking mechanism engages automatically when
fired. But one publication seems to have gone on a crusade for this
advertiser, even allowing one of its columnists—a professional trainer
who let that manufacturer produce a new product bearing the name of the
trainer’s school—to refer to a portion of its readership as
“turd-suckers” for raising the issue.
I don’t know if there’s a problem with that manufacturer’s design or
not. But I do know that seeing snide editorial defending this
advertiser is a big turn-off. Would a publisher ever publicly
address their advertisers as “turd-suckers?” Treat your audience with
the respect they deserve. If you want to convince me, get the models in
question and do a legitimate test. Otherwise, I can’t wait until my
subscription is up.