Last night, I went up to UVA to hear Kristin van Ogtrop, the editor of Real Simple, speak. Her talk was in the Rotunda, which is very fancy. If you didn’t go to UVA or don’t live in Charlottesville, you might not know that the original Rotunda (it once burned down) was designed by UVA’s founder Thomas Jefferson. You can’t turn around in this town without seeing a photograph of it. The real thing stands, like a big marble tit, right on University Avenue.
(And this is totally off topic, but every time I hear about someone “speaking,” it seems as if it’s An Event, as if the person had previously taken a vow of silence, but now! Now we can behold the voice!)
Anyway. You can talk magazines to me all night. I’m all ears. And I had some white wine, so I was all fiery ears. In the Q&A part, someone asked van Ogtrop what sort of content Real Simple can and can’t publish. One thing, she pointed out, was that stain removal goes over really well with the RS readership. But basically, she said that they can’t publish anything that might make their readers’ lives more complicated. No complex recipes, no advice to clean the gutters four times a year, no insistence that a given solution will work for anyone (which is why I like the magazine). Every publication that has survived its first couple years, I think, knows its demographic, but I thought it was interesting to frame your content in terms of what would alienate the readership.
Also, she mentioned that the tactile experience of paper, at least for women’s magazines, have insulated them from the creep of the internet. This is something Stephanie and I have talked about quite a bit, and we leaned over and peered across the room at each other when van Ogtrop mentioned it. Paper! Hollah! It’s where it’s at!
I got to attend this shindig because Stephanie finagled me an invite. Steph’s on the advisory board of Iris, a magazine affiliated with the Women’s Center at UVA (who put the event together). Iris just got a fancy new redesign, by Anne Matthews, also Brain, Child’s designer, and tinkered with its own mission. They’re signing up people for free subscriptions to see how this whole re-do is working out, so click here if you are or know anyone who might consider herself a thinking young woman. Say what you must, but I’m down with any feminist publication that gives a shout-out to Go Fug Yourself.