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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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).

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.

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??

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.

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.

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