Myth-busters: Four Magazines Point the Way to Gens X and Y

Hats Off to 'Real Simple,' 'Domino,' 'ReadyMade' and 'Every Day with Rachael Ray'

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If you're not into tidying your pencil drawer, sourcing the loveseat to match your Jonathan Adler vase, turning your closet into a home office, or cooking a cheesy-triple-mushroom-and-bread gnocchi bake, you probably think you don't have much to learn from Real Simple, Domino, ReadyMade or Every Day with Rachael Ray.
These magazines weren't about testing markets, they were about the gut feel of one or two people that they had something to say and a new voice in which to say it. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
These magazines weren't about testing markets, they were about the gut feel of one or two people that they had something to say and a new voice in which to say it. | ALSO: Comment on this column in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

You'd be wrong. That's partly because everyone should have good shelving solutions (advice to the wealthy: Check out Vitsoe) and mushroom gnocchi in their lives, but more importantly because these titles tell us more than many creative directors about the way to engage Gens X and Y, and because they are exploding some of today's most prevalent myths about the mediascape.

Busted myth No. 1: Print is dying.
Despite the Street's excitement about (and unrealistic expectations for the growth of) all things digital, most in the industry have woken up to the fact that successful media and advertising is about content good enough to pull people in at a cost-per-engagement that makes sense for the marketer. If that's digital, that's great, but content doesn't become great just because it's on the interweb machine. Equally, because it's print, it isn't inherently dying, hence all four of these magazines arriving and thriving in this digital decade.

Busted myth No. 2: Print's role, if it has one, will be as an aspirational, lying-in-the-bath read.
Part of the reason print has done such a good impression of a medium gasping its last is that so much of it is either patronizing or inaccessible to media-savvy Gen X and Yers (who form an increasingly large part of the ranks of today's financial analysts and media pundits). Although they differ in many ways, these magazines share at least three core values that do not rely on aspiration or bathwater: They are real, they are useful and they are accessible.

Historically, magazines, in the words of Domino Editor Deborah Needleman, employed a didactic approach. "They brought the product to the readers from on high: 'We the editors are going to let you in, let you breathe our rarified air.' Their model tried to be aspirational but also made readers feel 'I'm too fat, I'm too poor, I'm too uncool.' "

She's right, and she could easily level the same charges against many newspaper editors, commercial copywriters and so on. Digital isn't better because it's digital, but what it has done well is spoken to younger generations in their direct, honest language, not in the patronizing journalese of some editors or the bullshit voice of the '80s adman -- you know, the "no dropped calls," "makes you look 10 years younger," "this bank really cares about you" crap. These magazines got that. "We're in the trenches because we are the reader," Needleman adds.

Busted myth No. 3: Only the internet is interactive.
These four magazines prove that even print -- perhaps the most seemingly one-way medium -- can be an interactive, even user-generated affair. ReadyMade Editor Shoshanna Berger estimates that 60% of the DIY projects in her magazine, which has just been sold to Meredith, come from readers. "They're incredibly engaged, they get it, they collect it," she says. "You can't talk down to them or tell them what to do. Martha was for our mothers' generation. We relate to each other and media in a different way."

Final myth: To find an authentic voice in which to speak to your audience you need market research, focus groups and copy testing.

These magazines weren't about testing markets, they were about the gut feel of one or two people that they had something to say and a new voice in which to say it. Generations X and Y can smell a forced connection a mile away. In this respect, marketing science can't match talent. As Berger, who helped launch ReadyMade in a garage, puts it: "You can't cook up the voice in the R&D lab of some big company."
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