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What We Can Learn from the Grocery Store Checkout Line

May 22, 2013

Dog Ear Consultants

ReaderServiceGraphicNext time you’re standing in line behind that check-writer with all the coupons, don’t get frustrated. Take a look around and use the time as a teachable moment. The magazines that are holding court over the Tic Tacs and the Bubble Yum? They’re there for a reason. The folks working on those magazine have done the research into “what readers want,” or better put, “what sells.”

Selling is their job. If the magazines don’t make it off the rack, their advertisers are not happy. And if their advertisers are not happy, their magazines are in big trouble.

So … what does sell? As far as we can tell from our last trip out at 11 p.m. for a pint of Ben and Jerry’s (don’t judge), it was service.

Take, for example, the latest issue of Men’s Health. Here’s a look at a few of the cover lines: “Build Beach Muscle!”  “7 Hidden Cancer Threats.” “5 Mistakes You Make Everyday.”

Men’s Health is offering service. All. Day. Long. They’re giving their readers something–tips, take-aways, news they can use.

And they’re not the only ones. Cosmo. Shape. Esquire. Better Homes and Gardens.  All the Big Kids are doing it. They’re doling out exercises for better abs, better petunias, better sex. They’re handing out fashion advice, make-up advice, relationship advice, weight-loss advice, parenting advice. They’re giving readers recipes for the best fried chicken,  for the heart-healthy salad, for the best summer picnic fare.

Are all of these writers qualified to dish out this advice? No.

They’re picking up the phone and calling the nutrition expert at your school. They’re calling the child cognition scholar in your psych department. They’re calling the oncologist who teaches your med students.

You know, the folks you’re passing on campus every day.

Here’s what we think: Alumni magazines should be doing boatloads more service journalism than they are right now. Boatloads. A few years back, writer Vicki Glembocki told a crowd at the CASE Editors Forum that we should be owning it.

Think about this: We have access to these experts everyday. And we’re preaching the expertise of an entire alumni body.  Ask a nutritionist about the Top Five Cancer-Fighting Foods. Ask a video game developer about the Top Five Games Everybody Should Play At Least Once. Ask a chef to tell you about the best ways to cook a hot dog. Got a grad who just won a huge award for directing the city’s art museum? Ask her to tell you about the Top Five Must-See Exhibitions This Summer.

We could go on. But we won’t. The Cherry Garcia  is melting.

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One Comment

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  1. June 20, 2013

    I love these ideas. The theme of our last issue was gratitude, and we did something along these lines with one of the articles. We had a child development professor give tips for instilling gratitude in children. It’s just hitting homes now, but hopefully it will be well-received!

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