April 30, 2013
Dog Ear Consultants
This is something we try to hammer home to all of our clients: an awesome front of book is one of the best ways to stop alumni from flipping straight to Class Notes to see who got married/promoted/had a baby/is still wearing UGG boots as an adult and skipping right over all the great content you worked so hard to produce. When done well, the front of the book can be even more effective than a meaty feature well at forcing alums to stop and take a look.
Front-of-book sections come in all shapes and sizes. But the really good ones all boil down to four main ingredients: 1) they’re fun and pithy, 2) they’re current, 3) they’re graphic heavy, and, above all, 4) everything’s short. Really short. Like south-of-300-words short.
One of the coolest front-of-book pieces these days is The New York Times Magazine’s “One-Page Magazine.” It features 12 (yes, 12) articles that run the gamut on a single page—everything from “Meh Lists” (not hot, not not, just meh) to brief how-to articles (like Carol Burnett on how to cope with the loss of a loved one). All articles are spoon-fed to readers in Tater Tot-sized portions, and there are more ideas packed into a single page than many mags have in an entire issue. Plus, the clever design work blends charts, infographics, and font variations in ways that make the page feel completely uncluttered.
The front of book is one way print magazines can compete with the web for readers’ dwindling attention spans. The trick in making it succeed is keeping it fun and keeping it short.