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Monday, October 14, 2013

Times What’s Up?!: It’s cool…!

Do you remember one of my older reviews about ‘Which? Right Choice’ magazine? It was quite an unusual kind of magazine to help consumers to make buying decision by providing them purely editorial perspective and unbiased verdicts on variety of consumer products and services. The USP of WRC is that they don’t accept any single advertisement or advertorial or sponsored feature (not even for the covers) to put in the magazine to ensure its positioning in readers mind that this magazine is absolutely editorial driven, not the advertisements.


Now ‘Times What’s Up?!’ is recently launched magazine by Times Of India group which is also in the same genre but interestingly it is just opposite to WRC in terms of content. TWU is merely a compilation of advertorials and promotional features except of very editorial articles. A very unique proposition and solves fairly its purpose to help consumers to in buying.

CONTENT
It is also mentioned in the TWU’s tag line that it focuses on consumer durables, IT and ITES segment. It contains all the advertorials and promotional features in the form of editorial pages. For a (consumer) reader, it serves its good purpose as it helps him to know about the product, the technology, the concept, the usage, the application of any featured product.

But the catch in this kind of content is that readers cannot absolutely rely on such information to make a firm decision to buy a product because most of the articles have no specialist or editorial credibility, they are just advertorial pieces from the companies’ mouth.

Content of magazine is well structured in various sections and articles are written in very short and crisp manner. The cover story only goes up to 4 pages; else every story is wrapped up in one or two pages maximum. Despite that, articles are structured and have several extra info boxes and hooks that make the magazine a content-thick and interesting read.

DESIGN 
After a long time I have gone through a magazine which has a good design in terms of creativity and discipline. As it was necessary for this kind of genre, it has got lots of design elements in the magazine. Every page has some fix and variable elements but everything seems placed thoughtfully and in the discipline. Hence, entire magazine when you flip through cover to cover, it looks beautiful and create interest to read it.

Cover, I feel, is little cluttered and not impressive for this genre of magazines which can be tweaked further. Also, for some reason, the launch issue was carrying ‘What’s Up’ as its masthead but second issue has ‘Times What’s Up?!’.

Inside pages are designed pretty well as they have consistency in using elements yet creative. Except a few places where things are placed or treated inconsistently, otherwise all the pages look good.

PRINTING
As most of the content is promotional features and are sponsored material, it could be justified only if they were printed well. In order to achieve this it is taken care brilliantly and printing is come up very impressive. Images are perfectly sharp, clear and skin colors are just perfect. It has got detailing in almost every photograph so all I can say that pre-press and press has done their job well.

PRODUCT
Again, since it has lots of sponsored material, to make it look better, it has got good quality of thick paper for inside pages and even thicker page for the cover which is then laminated to give it a richer look. Monthly issue of 52 pages is priced at Rs50 which if you look at its product quality and the reasonably good content, it seems pretty fine. Even it has made of higher GSM paper, but it has 48 pages only plus 4 pages of cover, that is not sufficient enough to make it as a perfect bound magazine with a spine, hence it is centre-pinned product which does not feel bad in slightly tall in size. Because of condense presentation, it looks quite content heavy but it should have more pages to accommodate more articles to feed a reader as a monthly periodical.

As I mentioned, it is a special and probably the first of its kind of magazine. But, I liked because it is put together well.

You might feel that my review of TWU is also paid or sponsored but trust me, I have never taken a single penny for my reviews in last seven years and I promise that my ‘VIRDI’ct will never be sold for any amount. That is why I can write my unbiased feedback on the publication which is helpful for the publishers to improve their magazines.


For more Indian magazines reviews:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gorgeous Looks: Not looking even average

Pratishtha Publication has recently launched this bi-monthly title – ‘Gorgeous Looks’ with the tag line of ‘The Health, Beauty and Lifestyle Magazine’. Now, each one of these three areas from the tag line are so wide and broad that you need to be very careful to decide your boundaries and scopes for the coverage and lifestyle, as I see, is the most misused genre in magazines publishing. Anything which does not fit into any category, that somehow gets a seat in lifestyle category. Exactly same is the variety (?) of content when you go through the issue of GL. You actually get lost and forget what kind of magazine you are reading by the way.


CONTENT
GL is a vaguely structured magazine which tries to feed its reader every taste from the kitchen. It covers health, beauty, travel, fashion, interior, portfolio, spaces, jewellery, shopping, celeb-talk, wedding, gifts, parties, cooking, art… everything in just in one issue. If you start browsing magazine from cover to cover in just one sitting, you will be kept hopping in various topics of life... (Oh, I forgot that it claims to cover lifestyle also).

And in this effort of giving everything, it lost from its core positioning of looking Gorgeous!

It seems that mostly articles are contributed from various sources/contributors and that is why they don’t look that they belong to one single magazine. Because of the poor subbing, every article has its own style & format of writing. There are several mistakes in proofing that also spoil your taste of reading.

DESIGN 
Articles are structured as they were originally typed by authors in Word or Notepad and then they are laid out on the pages in the same formatting… including bullets! There is nothing in the name of design, just random placing of images on pages and the text running around... that’s it.

Oops, I missed the biggest design contribution in the magazine is – section slugs! OMG, it is like a huge round rubber-seal kind of element of a diameter of almost 2inch and it is appearing every single page… it’s so irritating and spoiling the layout (which was already not impressive).

Cover is just a blunder in the name of designing – it has just a celebrity photograph on the cover and that too over-worked hence it has become a flat picture without any texture or details. There is not main cover story here although it is the newsstand selling consumer magazine. In the name of cover content, there are some bulleted words under two section names and rest under the – Other section.
And designer has done nothing here in the name of design but has just copied from word & pasted here using default leading and formatting. Oh, he/she has added black out glow behind the text which has just spoiled only the main image.
Contents pages are not better than the content page of a school text book.

Inside pages also have lots of design related errors and undisciplined work. Even the regular elements are not used in consistency. When you pick up any magazine from this genre, you expect to see a beautiful work and soothing page design, but GL disappoints at core.

PRINTING
Not a single image is printed its original color. Reason might be simple that all the images which are used in the magazine are stock images or might be taken from the web. Mostly photographs are having non-Indian faces and printed in pink or reddish color tone…some images are having white color of skin, some are cyan heavy. Poor prepress work and image correction caused this bad printing. Registration is ok and there is no fringing on any page.

PRODUCT
GL is a bi-monthly and is priced at Rs50. Issue has around 100 pages from cover to cover. Looking at the price, the size is fine but the content quality is not such that you should spend even that on this magazine. It is printed on fairly good paper but ultimately a reader buys a magazine for its content not for the page quality only. It is perfectly bound magazine with a spine with a decent thick cover.
 
In order to covering everything under one title (as its editor-publisher, Amit Sharma also claims in his edit note), this magazine is not more than a compilation of variety of articles collected from here and there and put them together in form of a magazine. If they really want to make it sustainable and impressive magazine to create its space in Indian magazine reader’s mind, they really rethink on its edit & design with some focus.



For more Indian magazines reviews:

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Travel with Style: Does not take you anywhere

What comes to your mind when someone promises you to take for a 'Travel with Style'? Obviously, a stylish and luxurious traveling experience! I also expected the same when I picked up this magazine from newsstand which is launched last month only by Sampan Media Pvt. Ltd. But it wiped out all my expectations from this magazine when I read it thoroughly. 

As it is in the travel vertical, there are good numbers of national and international titles are already there on newsstands for the targeted Indian reader, you should be very-very clear and perfect about what you are presenting. TWS, which has a lag line - Stylishly Different... actually is very different from what you expect from the title… and that disappoints.
 

CONTENT
As I have mentioned earlier, it should have a clear focus on the content structure to create its own niche in this already saturated vertical, it has no idea where to head. In the name of luxury-style and travel, it has tried to pack everything from the world in one magazine. Result? - a lost and badly structured magazine.

It has a very weak and shallow FOB which has some nonsense news from the globe. Then it starts with health (?), some random questions from a celebrity on travel, then some pages on luxury cars, then a coverage of India Bridal Fashion week (?), a story on wildlife trip, then again Fitness, then some senseless interview, then one trip for South Australia and another for Delhi - back to back, one article on Armani products line, feature on some random photographer, shopping in Mumbai and eating in Italy... phew!

Clearly there is no editorial direction and have no clue of maintaining the flow of content presentation that is required for a good magazine. They don't have any idea what their reader wants to read. All the articles are appearing as if they are coming from several different magazines instead of looking from one single magazine. Most of the articles don't have any structure... they just start right from the headline and finish at the end. Copy desk work is also an average, not impressive. Paid features also laid out in editorial content style hence, there is not any difference between both.

DESIGN 
Very poor in the class... especially when your magazine belongs to such a lively genre where there are no limits for the creativity. Magazine page areas on some pages are going beyond the folio…!! The designers have not followed even simple and basic rules of page layout for a magazine. Every single page and stories are just a - jugaad!

Starting from the cover, there is no connection of the main visual with the magazine’s personality. Very bad cover story lines and top of that their treatment. Designer has tried all the effects and cluttering he could do… unnecessary and irrational – tilts, outlines, colors, typefaces, serifs-sans serifs, odd leading, placing, alignment of elements, shadows, block behind the text… what not! Worst part is that the word ‘with’ in the masthead of the magazine is placed differently in the second issue only!!

Inside pages are also badly layout. When you are reading a magazine from such a lively genre, you have some expectations of standard and class from it. Main body copy fonts are so dull and varying columns widths and gutters are changed as per the requirement (mood). There is no consistency in headlines and other design elements like, info boxes, tables, infographics. As the result, you don’t feel a ‘wow’ factor while browsing pages of TWS.

PRINTING
Prepress work is also not impressive. Some images are good but some are printed in weird colors. On many pages, even the skin color is not produced properly. Except of few pages where registration is shaken a bit, rest of the pages are printed well.

PRODUCT
Although 84 pages of content for a monthly magazine seems very less to read, but a good quality of inside pages and good paper used for the cover and a perfect binding gives a great look to this magazine. I wish it was presented well in terms of design and photographs; it would have been worth of its cover price which is Rs100. And the segment of audience this magazine is targeting is, does expect a great quality and a rich product to read.

Though, Travel with Style has its tagline of being stylishly different but the way this magazine currently is, it seems funny. To justify its positioning, publishers and editorial team need to think again on editorial structure and accordingly the art team need to put the magazine together to make it sustainable magazine in its genre.


For more Indian magazines reviews:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Innovation + Win = Innowin: Is this a right equation?

Everything that is out of the box is not an innovation. It is not necessary always is the result of creativity but also can be because of negligence. This belief of mine became even stronger after going through recently launched magazine – Innowin.

This quarterly magazine is published by Spenta Multimedia (renowned publishers of several custom & consumer publications) on the behalf of Marico Innovation Foundation. The moment I saw the launch issue on the stands, when I picked the issue in my hands, it looked different but was that enough? Here’s how do I feel about this magazine after going through it closely.

CONTENT
I find its content is badly structured... even editor seems forgot what needs to put where, things are put randomly without any discipline.

FOB and BOB are also not impressive. Foreword of launch issue has a proper title of the write up and editorial has just repeated slug?? Its Foreword is written as an essay and editorial is written as a letter?? And then, both have signed off by real signatures :)

Immediately after editorial, a historical infographics starts abruptly, without any section opener or any introduction! It is designed so badly that it looks out of the magazine. This is the only article in entire magazine that has colored background and has gone into bleed. 

For the convenience again, books are not reviewed but excerpts are published to fill up the pages - not just 2-3 pages but all 8 pages.

First time in any magazine, I have seen a regular column is published in two parts?? BTW, first part is covered in three long pages and will be continued in its next issue (keep in mind that this is a quarterly publication, so you have to wait for next three months to read its conclusion).

DESIGN 
Countless Inconsistencies! No design guide lines! Even the leading is different for photo captions on two facing pages - Foreword & Editorial. Poor photography... though it is hardly there in the magazine, except a few mug shots. And most of the photographs, arts, illustrations are downloaded from the web.

No rules are followed for the columns width and height, every column is stretched sideways and downwards as per the convenience. Infographics are good but looks alien to this magazine... and they are too many in the magazine. 

Too many fonts used without any rationale. Images are used to fill the places and that is why there is no symmetry in images, they are starting from anywhere and ending at anywhere on the page layout. I agree that blurbs and quotes are used often as fillers but here they are placed inconsistently.

COVER
Poor illustration! Not at all a news stand friendly cover!!

After going through the launch issue, I felt that it was a wrong selection of cover story (it is like a magazine is made for technology enthusiasts and cover story is ‘what is technology’ OR a magazine is for chefs and cover story is ‘what is cooking’)

Bad placement & bad treatment to the cover story! Bunch of text on the left corner is placed left aligned, I don’t understand why?

8 (eight) case studies, which could be the selling point or powerful hook for this issue, is placed in the corner as last item! PLUS word suits well when you have already put a good number of stories and then you offer it as an EXTRA, here only one story is given and then PLUS comes :)

While in entire magazine, nowhere Serif font is used, why only Mast head is in serif?? Mast head is also not aligned. It is going towards the right hand side, entire design is right heavy.

Secondary stories are having text in smaller font size than inside body text!! And, these three stories are not having consistency in presentation. QR code looks like a part of illustration and is not aligned properly.

They need to understand that Green color is weak color for any newsstand selling magazine. Price line is not aligned with any element on the cover. Also, price has a slash dash to secure the amount on the cover… as if it is written by a pen and one can add digits to it :)

Date line is not aligned properly. Date line has an alien character which has nothing got to do with the subject of the magazine nor it is used anywhere in inside pages again. Designer has used slash and double slashes in the slugs and folio… which could be used here to make a link. 

The leading is not properly done… End of Line has the same leading as wrapped line. Also, leading is bigger in top three stories than the bottom stories??

PRINTING
Excellent... everything is perfect. As I mentioned earlier, magazine hardly has photographs but whatever is there are printed good. Except some movie shots which are used in one article, every image is printed fine.

PRODUCT
As a quarterly magazine, 104 pages are too less for an Innovative reader, either its periodicity should be increased or its page count. Currently it is priced at Rs100 which is not really high for its TG. It is printed on very good quality of paper and is perfect bound with a thick spine.

Innowin, the name itself is a bad try of showing off the nature of this magazine that it is about innovation and winning but it doesn’t impress me even a bit. Articles are not impressive nor are presented well, so as a whole issue doesn’t leave any impact on reader so that he will wait for three months to read its next issue. Editorial team must think about various aspects very seriously, not innovatively. They need to work towards to make this magazine useful, instead of making it innovative product.




For more Indian magazines reviews:

Monday, July 30, 2012

National Geographic Traveller India

I don’t think that across the globe someone who reads magazines and he does not recognize yellow framed magazine- National Geographic. Though in India don’t even have its Indian edition, still we all know what this yellow frame stands for. National Geographic magazine undoubtedly is most respected for its editorial strength – in terms of research, writing and of course photography.


National Geographic Traveller (NGT) is another publication surrounded with yellow frame and has earned same respect for its journalistic values. Its Indian edition is launched by ACK media (very well known for Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle & Karadi Tales) this month where it has to compete with other existing international & Indian publications like Conde Nast Traveller, Lonely Planet Magazine, Outlook Traveller, Travel Plus, Geo etc to create its own mindshare.

Publishers of NGT India had already claimed in media that Indian edition of NGT will be carrying around 80% of local generated content. I was so thrilled to pick up the copy of the launch issue, but my entire excitement got vanished the moment I started browsing inside the issue. It disappoints a reader at many fronts when he is an serious admirer of these Yellow framed magazines and he expects same level of editorial & production standards here in this as well. When expectations are very high from your product, then even a tiniest flaw or carelessness becomes unbearable… and here in this magazine, the magnitude of mistakes and negligence is very high.

Content
Magazine is quite thoughtfully structured and is divided into logical sections & subsections like InFocus, Journeys, Voices, Navigate, Get Going, Short Breaks etc. Content density is good as this issue has lots of stories to read for the month. As happens in such travel magazines, the articles and photographs are contributed by various writers-photographers from various parts of the globe. And that diversity, on one hand brings variety of flavors in the magazine, on the other hand it brings inconsistencies also and that can be very dangerous if not handled very carefully and intelligently.

The same I felt here in NGT where entire issue doesn’t look one single issue of one magazine but it reads as a good collection of articles taken from various sources just to accommodate stories in each subsection to make the issue complete. Inconsistency in structuring an article and writing shows quite immature presentation that I was not expecting at least from brand like NGT. Main cover story of launch issue on Himalayas is also structured so badly that you lose your interest of reading a few lines only and you just leave story immediately and turn the page. It is very common mistake what many writers/editors do when they lose their focus from where they ideate or conceptualize a story and then later they take story in absolutely different direction.

Copy editing is again not at its best and subbing is also substandard. Many of the stories are having widows & orphans which could be easily avoided. Language or writing & article structuring is not in sync with each other. There are many other mistakes which show lousy proofing work in the magazine. Yes, the mistakes might be tiny but even those are not expected from a brand like NGT.

Copy for the main story on the cover is very straight – it neither provokes nor invites a reader. It should have carried a leader that could have support main story and could have given a direction to the reader to think. You cannot leave it to the readers that they will understand themselves what this story is carrying inside the magazine in more than 40 pages!! They could have easily mentioned here the key attractions of many articles like Assam, Himachal Pradesh and Dhauladhar mountains which all together have made this one big cover story.

Other stories on the cover are also put just thoughtlessly with average copy… and bottom line is kept there with no sense at all.

Design
NatGeo is respected for its visual presentation… especially for the photographs it carries. But beautiful photographs need same standard of design support so that those pictures can look at their best. NGT Indian edition disappoints at both. A very few pictures are there those remind you that you are reading NatGeo product but the moment you start browsing pages and you go through entire issue, you don’t feel to look at many pictures again. Is this the destiny of Indian edition of such a brilliant magazine title? It is really appreciable that publisher of NGT India has decided to create maximum portion of content local here but at this standard? Selection and editing of photographs is so poor that hardly a few photographs stop a reader and hook him to look at them again and again otherwise mostly are going to disappoint those who will buy this magazine for keeping its Photography quality in mind.

Design and layout is also flawed across the magazine. Yes, it has maintained consistency at most of the pages but lost at many places also. Design elements like frames, drop caps, slugs, photo captions, leading are used without using strict guidelines. It looks like that various articles of the magazine are designed in complete isolation. Even in the same section, two articles have no uniformity. And I can’t see a great design out of this that creativity could be an excuse for doing so. Rather, a couple of pages are designed so flawed that raise doubt on designers skills also. Layouts of some stories are just horrible – completely flawed.

Cover of the inaugural issue has its yellow frame as its identity with a different (Indian) tag line – Nobody knows this world better. Then there is one golden inked peel out sticker sort of element on the mast head which reads - Hello India (another example of average copy)! Cover photograph is excellent but I don’t think that it was the best photograph to put on the cover. A great photograph cannot be always the best for the cover of the magazine, they need to understand this. How can be a designer so careless while designing main cover of such an esteemed magazine and that too for the launch issue, I can’t understand - No discipline – No consistency – No balance!! Story elements are not aligned properly, improper leading, elements are just placed randomly without considering any logic, sense, sizes or weight. 

Infographs used along with the stories are few but good while photo-captions are placed inconsistently.

Printing
As a common reader, my expectations from this magazine were very high- in every aspect. Nat Geo is highly regarded for its photographs, and printing quality plays very critical role to present them at their best. But final output also depends upon the prepress work which in NGT India it lacks a lot. Many photographs are not edited/touched up well and that is why those photographs are not standing out well on the page. Some are spoiled because some pages are not printed in accurate color so they either are having other cast on them or looking dull in absence of right mix of colors. Pictures with cast don’t match with the reputation of this brand and you as a reader don’t expect such quality from this magazine. Registration is just perfect. Printing density is fine but looks poor only on those pages where ink is low.

Product
Because of slightly wider from a regular size and of course ‘yellow frame’ attracts you on the newsstands. 180 pages (cover to cover) of Inaugural issue are carrying good enough content to read in a month at the cover price of Rs.120. Paper quality used for the cover is just perfect, so is the center fold inside the magazine. Inside pages of the magazines are good that helps to produce clear printing.
 
Travelling vertical in Indian publishing market is getting very competitive now. Since there are already well-established brands exist and other international popular brands are also entered, it is going to be very tough to reach at top of genre position in India. To reach there and to stay there at top position NGT has to control over the content, structure, quality and its presentation. Then only it can sustain its global reputation here also in India. Otherwise if it continues to do as it is done in inaugural issue, it will also lose its charm as many other reputed brands had entered in India and their Indian editions failed to hold their readers who picked up initial issues based upon their international reputation.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Small Medium Entrepreneur: Business of businesses

’Franchise India Publication’, the publisher of various other publications like Estate World, The Franchising World, Retailer and many web portals has recently launched a new magazine- Small Medium Entrepreneur. As name suggests itself that it is to target the small & medium sized businesses & entrepreneurs in the country where couple of other magazines already are there to target the same genre. It is quite common of having many magazines from same genre with very similar or resembling titles but at least their treatment should be different if you want to create your own identity. Here, ‘Small Medium Entrepreneur’ is carrying the words ‘Small Medium’ in very small size but the word ‘Entrepreneur’ is kept very large on the cover that resembles very closely to another magazine from same genre. It seems that it is done deliberately to ride upon other established magazine’s credibility.

It would have been better if this magazine was launched in Hindi language, at least in that way it could have its own unique proposition and untapped audience too.


Content

The magazine is badly structured editorially and content viz it is very shallow as a monthly periodical. Launch issue is conceptualized without any vision. Biggest mistake is putting such a big story (60 pgs precisely) in the launch issue that occupied more than half portion of the magazine. The story idea itself is good but the issue chosen to carry this story is not right. Launch issue generally works as a sample of a publication which gives a taste to the reader to hook the reader into it. In the launch issue, stories need to be planned to convey the editorial structure to the reader… the structure of this issue should reflect the entire content blue-print of the magazine to the reader so that reader should come back to the newsstand to pick up the next issue.

Launch issue of SME consists of one feature, one profile, one start up story, three guest columns and two-three very generic kind of articles only. Sub-editing & copy desk job is mediocre and there are proofing errors which spoil the mood of reading.

100 Best Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs of the year 2011- cover story of the launch issue is structured badly & presented also very unprofessionally. It’s nothing but a compilation of testimonials taken from various entrepreneurs. ‘Junoon, Jugaad and Luck’ is the centre of the testimonials which I think is a brain child of editor and is enforced upon entrepreneurs to say anything or something on that! And poor entrepreneurs in many cases have replied ridiculous.

Design

The way its editorial structure is not robust, design is also vague. Designer has done blunders at fundamental level of designing a magazine. Body copy typefaces are changing randomly, text is overflowing in the folio area of pages, alignment of body text is changing abruptly, columns widths are floating on almost on every other page, typefaces used in entire magazine are immature.

Looking at the issue, it seems that designer got stuck with one ‘idea’ and applied it at anywhere and everywhere in the magazine. For example, if painting effect was the idea for the cover story, it is unnecessarily applied on group president’s picture also. You cannot find any thought behind any design or layout in entire magazine. Not a single photograph of any of ‘top 100 entrepreneurs’ is put the way it is put full length photograph of group president on his page!

Rest of magazine is designed so badly that you actually don’t need any publishing software to do layout for such pages, same could have done using any word processing software also. Lots of inconsistencies in design, elements, colors and the way things are put or text wrapped around the images across the magazine. Photography is hardly used in the magazine. The images or illustration are taken from web or stocks and those are used here very carelessly. Content lacks info graphics as support.

Logo for the biggest story ‘Top 100…’ is created carelessly. At some places it has background at some places it is used without solid background... at some places it is in different color... at some places it has different size, leading, kerning, treatment...! Copy desk has messed up even with the text used in such a small logo.

Let’s talk about the cover of the inaugural issue. There are many points where I disagree and dislike the cover- editorially as well as design viz.

- profile on Metro shoes is one of many entrepreneurial stories of 4pgs only but it is put as main cover story while there is BIG generic story which is around 60 pgs long but kept it at bottom as if it is just like another story in this issue. It can be annual editorial property of this magazine and it should be treated in that way only.
- Poor visual for the main story as the prop gets camouflaged in the background.
- It seems that editorial team got obsessed with the phrase coined by them- Junoon, Jugaad & Luck… that is why it is unnecessarily attached with main cover story though it has got nothing to do with this particular story.
- Unnecessary usage of free hand writing font, or probably they have thought that these are Hindi words so… ;)
- Unnecessary usage of various colors.
- Photo caption on the cover? Anyway, it is hanging in the air and that too right aligned!
- Badly designed logo for the biggest story of the inaugural issue… unnecessary cluttering in the text- outlines, multiple colors… poor and useless tag line of the logo… poor sub-editing.
- Gradient black behind the Masthead? It could have some other contrast color… as it is cover is having too many colors where they actually are not required.
- Unnecessarily used black strip at the bottom to put the text over it.

Printing

Hardly any prepress work was required in this magazine so that part is OK. Whatever photographs are there, are fine and they printed in natural colors. But some product shots have lost details because they are too dark. Printing itself is good and has come up with perfect registration.

Product

Printing could have come up better if it was printed on better quality paper. Inaugural issue of SME consists of 114 pages. Paper quality of inside pages is average but the cover is fine as it should be. It has a perfect bound spine but not utilized sensibly. Cover price of the magazine is Rs.75 at news stand.


The domain, small business and entrepreneurs, has lots of scope for relevant information and exchange through various mediums including printed magazine. That is why couple of magazines are already there in the market and doing good. But, it needs serious and insightful content and requires a professional level presentation to create its own mindshare for a new magazine. Small Medium Entrepreneur, the way it is currently, does not impress as a serious business magazine.


For more Indian magazines reviews:

www.magworld.in



Monday, December 12, 2011

Science for a common man: Popular Science India

I always see ‘Popular Science’ magazine as a periodical that explains the reality of this scientific universe in simple language to a common and a layman where he lives. It covers every aspect science and technology that touches our day-to-day life and may affect our future. It brings science from scientists’ laboratories to the layman’s level understanding of complicated facts & principles and that is why I prefer to call it ‘People Science’ magazine.

The most authoritative & leading source of latest science & technology world – ‘Popular Science’ was launched in 1872 in America as a monthly magazine. Since then, after the launches of around in 30 languages in more than 45 countries, it is now launched in India by Next Gen Publishing (also the publishers of Smart Photography, Car, Bike, The Ideal Home & Garden, Mother & Baby, Computer Active, Commercial Vehicle etc).

Content

Its topic is such that it really does not require be localized and that is why Indian edition has almost entire content from its parental publication only. Hence, no complaints till the time it is relevant for its targeted readers. Structure of magazine does not come across the magazine as clear as it appears on contents pages. The section – What’ s New, looks little weird here in this magazine as the entire magazine is already positioned as latest & updated resource of innovations in the scientific world. Features are very informative and supported with facts & figures that makes an article very interesting to read.

Since it is targeting a common man who wants to know about the world, the language of articles is kept simple & jargon free to make the subject easily understandable. Though, I find inconsistencies in structure of articles the way they are written and that makes some articles disinteresting. Overall, the entire magazine is very informative and anyone can enjoy reading it. Yes, I feel that the content falls short looking at its monthly periodicity.

Design

Since whole content published here in Indian edition is from its US edition, the only part is left to do here is design & layout the pages… and in many cases even that is kept same. Still, there are many inconsistencies and loop holes left in design. Considering it a general interest magazine and keeping the subject in mind it really needed to be a lively and vibrant in appeal. This is what the designers have tried to make it but when there are so many things or so many design elements are introduced in one magazine, it becomes big challenge to handle them and it should be handled extremely carefully and consistently.

Cover of the launch issue itself looks little imbalance and has lacking in proof reading. The cover of Indian edition does not match with the grid of its parental edition. Without enough numbers of cover stories, the issue looks very shallow in terms of content. Subject of this magazine is such that it requires lots of stories in every issue to justify its worth. Yes, its masthead in fluorescent color is coming out very well and pops up in the magazines’ crowd at newsstand.

Layout of ‘Contents pages’ looks as if randomly done and has no consistency. Same sort of inconsistency is there in the presentation of section openers. Image boxes, those are used in the top band, are absolutely useless and could be used in better way. As I have mentioned that too many elements means, too much care and too much precision is required… and this is the area where this magazine has problems and needs to have check points.

Info graphs & illustrations are very impressive and informative except one or two places which look out of place here in this magazine. Photographs are also excellent and handled very well in layout the pages. Again at some pages some goofs occurred which I am sure, will not happen in other issues.

Printing

Prepress work is fine as images are looking great. Photographs are appeared in almost natural colors and are looking good. The only problem is that it is printed at low density and that’s why pictures are not smooth but showing pixels. Otherwise, issue is printed well with perfect registration. Colors are also come out appropriate except a few pages where some particular ink is appearing heavy. Again, I hope that will be taken care in next issues.

Product

Inaugural issue of Popular Science consists of 100 pages. Paper quality of inside pages and the cover is just perfect as it should be. Though it has a perfect bound spine still it looks very thin and gives a feel that it has very less to read. I think that it should have two more forms to justify its newsstand cover price of Rs.100.

Since it is not a hardcore science journal but is an interesting source for the mass – a common educated man, it carries lots of features, facts, insightful articles in a descent manner and at an affordable price. This is the magazine which you can read and enjoy when you are travelling or you are sipping your evening tea.




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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Filmfare now available in Hindi… big deal!

In the launch issue of Hindi edition of Filmfare, Editor Jitesh Pillai has signed off his edit note with- ‘I hope that the same affection & bonding you would share with Hindi edition of Filmfare the way you have been doing for the last sixty years with English edition’. After going through the issue I was surprised if two products are not at same level in terms of editorial quality & seriousness, how can you expect the same kind of treatment & bonding from the consumer for them?

In fact, for that matter, any magazine which has no editorial vision or has not done complete editorial ground work or is not serious about its standards or does not understand the content needs of its audience that magazine cannot become a great magazine. Perhaps, that might have profitable business preposition and might be treated as a successful magazine but it cannot earn any association and the bonding from the readers. Publishers generally are very serious in terms of following the ‘best’ practices those are necessary when they launch any new magazine or they launch any foreign title in India. Then, why they seem so careless when it comes to launch of a Hindi or any regional language edition of their existing brand? Why do they not care seriously what content is going inside, how that content is presented, what quality & standards are followed when putting an issue together?

By the way, here is another magazine in Hindi… another senseless byproduct as an independent magazine! WWM pvt ltd has launched their flagship brand & almost sixty years old magazine FILMFARE in Hindi. Hindi edition is launched as a monthly magazine while Filmfare English comes twice every month. In the genre of Hindi Films, as it is there are not too many magazines available and whichever is available is also has the same problems- same editorial negligence… step-motherly treated poor Hindi versions of existing established English brands.

Content

Looking at its editorial structure, it looks that either this magazine is put together without any understanding of content needs of its audience OR it is conceptualized very carelessly. If at all, an editorial structure is very critical aspect of any magazine and when any magazine doesn’t have same editorial structure to another magazine (even in the same genre, in the same market), then why it is assumed that the same editorial structure can work for both the versions of Filmfare? It seems as if it is made with just convenience, nothing else. And top of that, section and column names are kept so thoughtless that few of those cannot be understood by its audience.

It is so irritating when you read typical media terms or slangs in Hindi like Paparazzi, Glamfare, Style Check, Hottie, Director’s Cut, Some Like it hot, Summer Blaze, Style Sizzle, Summer Wardrobe, Star Light Express, Photo Play (they forgot conveniently that it is mentioned as ‘Vishisht Photoshoots’ in content pages), Action Replay, Snap Shots, Perfect Man, Bad Boy, Bebolicious, Temptress, Fashion Play (they forgot again that it is mentioned as ‘Fashion Station’ in content pages)…many more! It is an easy excuse if it is said that they never wanted to use hardcore Hindi words so they decided to make it ‘Hinglish’ and that is where problem starts. Because then you need to define very clear and strict guidelines to the desk for ‘what should be written in English and what should be written in Hindi’.

There is no issue in using one content bank for multiple magazines but it should be done smartly and it should have some connect & context also. Here in the Hindi edition of Filmfare, that is fine if content is taken from its English editions, but it is translated so badly that it leaves a bad taste after reading. There is certainly no copy desk guide which could tell translators/desk team that what degree of slang is allowed, how much usage of Urdu and even ‘phaarsee’ words is acceptable or what kind of words are to be left in English (and even in English script) only etc. Entire magazine has very badly structured sentences & phrases and that clearly shows negligence on subediting part. There are no guidelines followed for the usage of numerals in the magazine. There is no consistency in usage and spellings of words in entire magazine.

I cannot understand if in any English language magazine cannot afford any spelling and proofing errors (though we have software & spellcheckers to help) to have, then why the same seriousness & concern is not applicable on Hindi language magazines? Why it is assumed that readers won’t mind if they find lots of spelling errors in body text, in captions, in headlines or even on the main cover? There are lots of words used throughout the magazine which are carrying wrong vowels and few vowels are absolutely (conveniently) ignored in the Hindi edition of Filmfare.

Because of substandard quality of translation, entire magazine is full of badly structured sentences which you will never find in any other (original) Hindi publication. Many words are kept in as they used in English without even thinking that they are meaningless here in this magazine. What worst could have done than that main copy in subscription advertisement of its own, has a wrong usage of language! Apart from that, in entire magazine you can see lots unnecessary and wrong usage of punctuations.

Sourcing of articles/stories is understood that Filmfare English has huge bank and that can support its Hindi version as well, still selection of stories could have done better and serious manner. Launch issue is put together so carelessly that one of the cover stories, that is mentioned there on the main cover, is not carried at all inside the issue…!

Design

Same problem! When two magazines have different positioning, different TG, different socio-psycho levels… then how come they can have same design style sheet! Using same photographs is just fine, but other design elements??? Why they cannot be customized or redesigned accordingly, why color scheme is kept same…just because of negligence.

I understand the maintaining the brand personality but Designers have just finished their job through easy escape route that they simply copied style from English edition and have implemented here in the Hindi edition. They didn’t even think what works-what does not work or what looks good-what does not look good in Hindi magazines. If one line is center aligned in English edition, it is kept center aligned only in Hindi also even though it is looking ugly and unbalanced on the page. If one word is kept large or bold in English, without putting any brain, same treatment is given here in Hindi also, who cares if it is looking bad when it is printed. Designers need to understand that using these kinds of special effects if you can add some impact or pun in the simple text in English, here in Hindi same treatment can spoil the taste of it or some time even the meaning. They need to understand that dealing with English typefaces and Hindi typefaces are absolutely two different challenges. Same typography which you are doing with English text, you just cannot do with the Hindi text. You need to handle blank area very smartly which comes above & below every word written in Hindi.

Few of design elements could be tweaked accordingly as they look good if they used along with the English text, but they are not looking great with Hindi text.

Quality of photographs used in the magazine is good. Cutouts are fine, only a few places it looks that job is just finished otherwise it is ok. Layouts are also good. At least design has some consistency which, on the content part is missing.

Printing

Prepress work is good so is the final product. Only a few pages are not printed in natural colors and not showing real skin colors otherwise colors are printed well. Main cover of Launch issue is looking good though I don’t understand what are the lens flare like bubbles there on Sonakhi’s photograph. If it is not a mistake, it is not adding any value to the picture.

Product

Hindi edition of Filmfare is launched as a monthly magazine as it is shown on its date line where month & year is mentioned though page numbers are kept around 150 that is almost same as one English edition carries every fortnight. This perfect bound Hindi edition is priced at Rs.40. This genre has lots of stuff to put in one issue, and I think the quantity of content carrying this Hindi issue is good enough for a monthly periodical.

It was really a good news that Filmfare is now available in Hindi, but the quality of product has disappointed badly. As a reader I expect the same degree of professional seriousness that its English edition possesses. If I take this magazine as a separate – stand alone magazine, I don’t think that it can get the same respect & association with its readers which Filmfare otherwise has been enjoying for around 60 years. Right now this magazine is good if you want to see lots of good photographs of your favorite stars, because the moment you start reading text part, it spoils your taste. Content sharing between language versions is fine, but editing, subbing, proofing are the critical areas where they need to work seriously if Mr. Pillai wants the same treatment from its readers for this version as well.


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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Imperfect Magazine for a Perfect Woman!

Publisher of recently launched magazine- ‘Perfect Woman’ claims that it is aiming at the modern, discerning and sharp focused woman of today. Perfect Woman is the new entrant in the genre of magazine for woman in India which is launched by GGC Ltd. as a monthly magazine.

Indian market is already flooded with many Indian & foreign titles like Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Femina, New Woman, Woman’s Era, Elle, Good Housekeeping, Verve and many more. Amongst them, few are fighting to be on top and couple of others are struggling even for their survival,. In that kind of competitive scenario, it becomes even more challenging to come up with an extra ordinarily brilliant product to capture a remarkable market share for you.

Content
The market of woman magazines in India is getting wider everyday and that is why each woman interest magazine has to be positioned absolutely smartly whether it would be a general reading magazine for women or it is going to be fashion magazine or a shopping magazine or home making or some other special interest magazine for women! It can’t be just another carelessly positioned magazine.

Though, ‘Perfect Woman’ is a general reading (i.e. anything and everything related to women world) magazine so it has all the areas to include bollywood, fashion, travel, celeb talks, beauty, life style, entertainment, art, cooking and what not…!! And in order to include everything, it became just a mess. It happens in many of the cases if editorial team is not sharply focused on what they have to put and what they have to reject in the issue. The issue of Perfect Woman just looks like a collection of all kind of articles in order to hook its target audience in any of its article.

The issue looks very shallow in terms of content density because individual article are not presented in structured manner. All articles look very blend and fail to make you feel contented after reading. Language and editing part of magazine is also not impressive.

Design
If content is poor or it is not rich in terms of its focus, structure and gravity; it becomes very difficult to lift that article by design only. And, in this case, situation is worse. Perfect Woman seems as if it is designed 25 years ago. The typefaces, colors, body copy font, text sizes & leadings, the page layout… everything is so old fashioned and dull that it does not go with the positioning of this magazine – a magazine for a modern woman.

There is no design guideline followed in the magazine for sure, because every page has its own style for layout, column width, font, body copy font sizes, leadings, other design elements, lines, borders, corners, boxes, frames, back ground colors…!

Poor quality of photography, poor cut outs, badly paced images and very carelessly edited & cropped images are fail to make it a nice presentation. The way design elements are created and used to layout a page, clearly shows the lack of professionalism in this publication. Many of design elements are just introduced on the pages without any value. They clearly are not adding any value to the article nor in esthetic of a page, but are there just randomly. Overall design in entire magazine is undisciplined.

Printing
I say it often, a final product is a result of many steps involved to reach there and if some goof ups happens at any of initial levels, it has its cascading effects and it becomes almost impossible to make up at its next levels. If content is not focused and if design is also immature, it becomes very difficult to make it an impressive and attractive article at pre press & printing stages. And, unfortunately with this magazine pre press work is also gone for a toss. Many pages has registration problem and that is why pages have color problem and images are printed badly.

Not a single image is printed in its real or original color. On some picture red color is heavy, in some picture it has yellow cast or magenta cast.. as the result pages are looking horrible. Dark images are printed in flat black and showing no details if it is a product of dark color.

Product
Being a monthly magazine, it should have more content to justify its periodicity. In same genre, on the other hand, competitive magazines are giving content of somewhere 200 to 400 hundred pages per month. This magazine consists of average 100 pages and is priced at Rs. 60. Magazine is printed at normal paper which is perfectly bound and has a glossy cover.

Still, it fails to justify its price mainly because of less and poor quality of content & its presentation.


Overall, The Perfect Woman magazine is just ‘me too’ kind of magazine in the genre where already Indian market is flooded with brilliant products. I feel that the magazine which is made for this audience is not as trendy, focused and contended as its target audience is, as it is claimed. In this situation it seems very difficult for this magazine to craft its own space and to hold its readership.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Business Enterprise: Management Kids’ Primer

I have said this at many places that few magazines are simply conceived & started by their editors/publishers without having any publication sense. Just because they have got some expertise in a particular domain or few hundreds or thousands contacts in that segment, they start thinking that they should now start a magazine for this community on this subject. And, my belief gets even stronger, whenever I come across magazines like – The Business Enterprise. This is the newly launched publication from Brisk Corporate Services Pte. Ltd. Chennai.

Though it is claimed to be a complete enterprise magazine but actually it seems just a compilation of an absolutely general management & business articles those you can find in any of beginners management books or even in business supplements of news papers.

Content

If it was focused, it was structured & designed (editorially) as per the positioning of this magazine; it could have done a great job. But, the way it is now, it is very shallow & vague in terms of depth of content. In the editorial note of inaugural issue it is mentioned that this magazine will cater from micro to macro issue of not only business but for entire enterprise. But I think in order to cater everybody at all the stages, the magazine has lost it focus.

Though, it is good that entire magazine is divided into few sections but these sections don’t have their own identity. Also, entire creativity of copy-desk must be drained in naming these sections only otherwise I can’t see any reason for a serious business magazine having all the section names (deliberately) starting with the alphabet – ‘E’…!!! It looks weird while going through these section names – Enlighten, Exclusive, Entertain, Envision, Evolve, Engage… Eeeik! May be it is because they must have thought to use the same ‘E’ in each section name that is used in Mast-head of magazine- Enterprise (it is my assumption)!

As I have already mentioned in starting itself that entre issue looks like a collection of white papers or chapters of some self-motivation book or some management school book for dummies. Few articles are so general as if they are targeted to a layman or written for a general interest magazine or newspaper. Topics covered in the issue are so amateur and top of that copy desk work is also not impressive. Headlines are so dull and boring that you don’t even feel to read the article in first place.

Design

Entire magazine is very immaturely designed! Designer has tried all his imagination and all the available effects provided by the layout software. I have never seen so tiny font size for the body copy in any of magazines. That too, with variable column width... and height(!!) unlocked baseline…! Unnecessary variations in typefaces, illogical colors & effects on headlines are good enough to spoil the seriousness of the magazine.

Mostly stock images are used for the layout or downloaded from the internet. Those foreigners’ images fail to connect you with the core article, where characters & environment described in the article are Indian.

Poor illustrations, carelessly done cut-outs & useless infographics- don’t add any value to the articles. Almost every article has different color scheme for titles, sub heads, drop caps, boxes…! There is no consistency or any logic behind so many variations in design. Illustration styling is also changing in every article, that leaves very bad impression.

Cover of inaugural issue is designed very vague & carelessly. Uneven leading, text cluttering, mismatched & proportionate size of typeface, wrong back ground color for the inaugural issue and almost merged top band….over all – a bad cover!!!

Printing

Prepress work is pathetic. Lots of images are printed in improper sizes. Either they are over stretched or they are used in wrong aspect ratios. Lots of images are printed in low resolution and so are printed as pixalated.

Printing is ok as it has come out well. Pictures, which were good, are printed in good with all the details. It could have come out even better if pre-press job was done perfectly.

Product

Inaugural issue consists of 84 pages only that is quite less if you look it as a monthly magazine for such a wide genre. Content pages of this issue also reflecting the less content in the magazine. Paper quality is ok but less number of pages and less number of articles don’t satisfy the TG’s hunger for the content for monthly periodicity even for Rs.50 for the cover price.

Overall, The Business Enterprise seems a shallow, disoriented and poorly packaged magazine. As it is structured currently, it is nowhere close to any established business or entrepreneur magazine and if it is not tweaked at right points, it has to struggle to first, find or create its own space in the industry and second, to survive with that positioning.




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