What makes a good magazine feature?

My colleague Kristen Convery recently shared a post that outlines what her team looks for when determining osu.edu stories. There was a lot of good stuff in there and it got me thinking about what makes a good story for Ohio State Alumni Magazine.

Before I go further I’ll say that many items Kristen mentioned apply perfectly to what we’d seek in a good magazine feature. All of our stories should advance awareness of the great academic and research achievements happening on campus as well as supporting the university’s national reputation. We aren’t doing our job if we don’t share that type of content with readers.

But there are some areas where a print publication that’s delivered six times a year is going to be naturally different than a digital platform. With that said, I’ll move onto three items we consider when deciding if a story is a good fit for the magazine.

  • Broad appeal: The magazine audience is as widely varied as you will find. Our readers come from every college and major and graduated in many different decades. To that end, we are always looking for stories that have broad appeal and matter to people of varied backgrounds. When considering stories I often ask the question, “If I had no connection to Ohio State, is this a story I would be interested in?” If the answer is yes, then that’s a good sign we may have a winner on our hands.
  • Results matter: A story that can clearly illustrate positive outcomes from a university effort is going to merit consideration. We live in a results-oriented society, so any time we can show how the university’s work is producing positive and quantifiable results it’s a plus. And tying back to broad appeal, the more wide-ranging the impact the better.
  • Take them back: Alumni magazine readers by and large have favorable memories of their times on campus. A recent magazine reader survey indicated that two of the most popular reader topics are institutional history and traditions and campus facilities and growth. Simply put, readers love it when the magazine can be a vehicle that transports them back to campus and reminds them of their time here. As a rule, we want the magazine to be forward looking, but with an alumni audience we’d be ignoring the obvious if we don’t look back every now and then.

Those are some of the items we consider when evaluating a story’s potential for inclusion in the magazine. With all of that said, there is no exact formula for what is going to be in each edition. Sometimes you get a great idea that doesn’t fit the above criteria but is interesting enough on its own that it merits a story. And you also want to keep your readers surprised and guessing, so zagging when they expect a zig can have some value, too. As long as you are keeping the readers’ interest at the forefront of your decisions, you really can’t go wrong.

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