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Steal This: Think Ahead

February 11, 2013

Dog Ear Consultants


Magazines aren’t built for breaking news. Even city weeklies can have months-long production schedules, ensuring they’ll get beat by the dailies or digitals to almost every story. So, instead, mags recap, they analyze, they go long.

But what can a magazine do to stay in front of the news? Simple: Look ahead.

Fast Company did this for years with their “Now” section (above) which was essentially an annotated calendar of important events coming up in the month ahead. Boston magazine had a similar front-of-the-book section called “Forecast,” which broke down the month ahead, doing news pieces pegged to dates—looming fiscal deadlines, sports season openers, book releases. Bloomberg Businessweek has their “Seven Days” feature, looking at the week ahead.

It’s a smart approach for alumni magazines to adopt. You are producing a giant engagement tool, right? So why not alert your audience—in some smart way—to things that are happening on campus? People might want to see a jazz giant take the stage at the campus auditorium. They might want to know—ahead of the rest—that the basketball coach’s 500th game will be on July 7. You can even prepare them to understand that big scientific breakthrough on the date that it is formally published in Nature. And you can make it more than a series of dates and definitions. Make the jazz concert item a Q&A with the artist. The coach’s 500th game can be an infographic. The journal piece can be a chronology of the discovery’s key dates.

It all makes the reader feel like they are in-the-know—that you are providing them with some unique, insider info. Which is just the kind of thing you want from a magazine.

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