Use a Magazine to Improve Your Blog [Day 24 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog from Problogger]

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Jonathan graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Ouachita Baptist University. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. While he works for a contractor buying specialized tools, his passion is personal finance, frugal living, blogging, and stewardship.

Here’s my notes and some further thoughts on Darren Rowse’s Problogger Free Podcast on 31 Days to Building a Better Blog. You can listen to Darren Rowse’s free podcast here Day 24 Use a Magazine to Improve Your Blog. The complete list of challenges can be read here on Day 0 – Welcome and Introduction

Become A Problogger with Darren Rowse

As I’ve mentioned before, to get the full benefit of this series I’m going to go at a slower pace by posting this series typically on Tuesdays each week. I hope with this challenge we are all able to improve our blogs and websites.

So lets do this together! Day 23 here we go! Subscribe and check back often! #31DBBB

Day 24: Today the challenge is to use a magazine to improve your blog.

Grab a cup of coffee, tea, or smoothie and settle down with your magazine. Today old media or the magazine is going to help you improve the new media or your blog.

This could be quite fun!

You probably want to buy the magazine or newspaper. If you can’t afford one feel free to find one at a local library for example.

You might learn about some marketing ideas or about calls to action. You might pay particular attention to the front cover, headlines, colors, and fonts of the magazine.

This exercise is a great place to generate post ideas. This is particularly true if you chose a magazine that relates to your niche. This is a chance to learn about your target market. You might find the latest trends and developments in your niche. You might find some great writing tips. You could find tips on monetization. Mainstream media has been monetizing for a very long time. It should come as no surprise that they are very good at what they do.

Perhaps the magazine encourages reader engagement through online forums, competitions, reader contributions, or something else. If the author is a freelance writer perhaps this could create an opportunity for you to guest post for their blog. Or maybe this would be a good magazine to submit an article to.

6 Steps to Use a Magazine to Improve Your Blog

  1. Set aside 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Go to your local library, coffee shop, outdoors, or a place where you can work undisturbed.
  3. Get the magazine. Bring the magazine or some magazines that preferably relates to your blog topic or niche. An alternative is to buy a newspaper.
  4. Bring a notebook, pen, highlighter, sticky notes, scissors, and your laptop.
  5. Skim through magazine in 5 to 10 minutes. Start with the magazine cover and work your way through the magazine. Place a sticky note on anything that catches your attention.
  6. Take about 20 minutes or more to slowly dissect the magazine. Start with the magazine cover and slowly work your way through the magazine

Girl Reading Magazine

Ask these 9 questions when you skim through the magazine.

  1. What could you learn from the ad placement and design of the magazine?
  2. What level is the magazine pitched at? Is it written for beginners, intermediate, or advanced readers?
  3. Is the magazine pitched for a particular demographic?
  4. What does the magazine do well?
  5. What does it do poorly?
  6. What could you improve?
  7. What are the limitations of the magazine medium?
  8. How could you use this to capitalize on your blog?
  9. What grabbed you in the first pass?

What grabs your attention is really important. Remember you only have a few seconds to grab your reader’s attention. This is true in both the magazine and blogging world. Did a color, headline, an opening line, a picture or something else grab your attention?

Gather up your sticky notes. Now it’s time to slowly dissect the magazine.


Ask these 12 questions when you slow down to dissect the magazine.

  1. What techniques were used on the front page to draw people into the magazine?
  2. Who is the target audience of this magazine?
  3. What makes you pause and read an article?
  4. Why did you skip over other articles?
  5. What type of headlines are they using?
  6. How effective are the headlines?
  7. How are pitches used?
  8. What colors are popular at the moment?
  9. How are the articles formatted?
  10. How long are the articles?
  11. How do they use formatting like sub-headings, bold, italics, call outs, lists, etc.?
  12. How does the magazine sell itself?

There’s a slew of possibilities that could jump out at you. You shouldn’t necessarily copy the same format as the magazine. And certainly don’t take this as encouragement to copy the content of the magazine. Remember this is a great exercise in brainstorming ideas for your blog.

The value of this exercise is to step away from your blog for an hour and generate some fresh ideas for your niche.

If you’ve purchased your copy of the magazine remember to feel free to make notes, cut pictures, or highlight the magazine.

I hope you found this useful!

Further Reading:

Previous Challenges in this Series:

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What creative or fresh ideas could you get today from analyzing a magazine? What will you differently on your blog as a result of this challenge? Leave a comment below! 

{Click to go back to day 23 here} {Click to go forward to day 25 here}

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About Jonathan Key 112 Articles
Jonathan graduated with a degree in Business Administration from Ouachita Baptist University. He also holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Arlington. While he works for a contractor buying specialized tools, his passion is personal finance, frugal living, blogging, and stewardship.


    • Yes it’s a lot to chew on. But as the saying goes if you’re going to eat an elephant just take one bite at a time. Start small. Maybe do just the initial quick walk through of the magazine for 5-10 minutes. Never know what you might learn! Thanks for commenting and reading!

    • Hey Andrea,

      Yes there is a lot to think about on how to use a magazine to improve your bog an writing skills, your sales copy and of course make more sales…the Idea Jonathan is propounding here is superb. The Magazine creators spend a fortune to get that magazine in the rack for us to buy. How do they do it, why are you attracted to it, what can you learn from it. Thats the whole essence of the questions above. So Focus on those questions and for the meat and potatoes bookmark this blog post and reference it to become even better at it!

      Jonathan, this is the kind of post I love to read, to give my time to. I commend you for the detail, I find that I do most if what you suggest, Only I buy my magazines online. Its so much fun. Yet Your suggestion is great for health too. Get out more, get some fresh air, interact with real humans 🙂

      • Julie thanks for the encouragement and for stopping by! Online magazines can be really beneficial too! It’s so important to get off you blog and remember to experience life. I find some of my best ideas come when I do that. Thanks for reading and for your excellent comment as always!

  1. This is a really clever idea that I haven’t seen suggested before. I used to tell my writing students to look at magazine writing (some magazines) so I don’t see why this wouldn’t be a GREAT idea! As long as it’s a good mag.
    Carol Cassara recently posted…About bloomingMy Profile

  2. What an interesting idea. I think it’s nice to gather information that you could blog about from reading materials. I just never thought of using a magazine before. Awesome!

  3. Really, thank you for this. I like to plan out my blog post in advance and I sometimes find it hard to be consistent because I just get stuck. Such a great idea dissecting the magazine, using it for inspiration, actually reading a magazine (its bee a long time). Great ideas, thank you!

    • De I’m very glad to help! Glad you found this useful and insightful. Yes do take time to read a magazine. Sometimes getting off our blog and experiencing life is helpful to get the creative juices flowing again. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  4. Love your steps & tips how to implement this idea. I often jotted things down but didn’t always put to use. Great guide. I only read magazines when in a waiting room or hair salon, but next time, will see if I can step up the action.

  5. I get a majority of my blog post ideas from medical journals and magazines that publish health articles. But I have not used them in this way. Since I read them anyway, it will be easy to add these tips.

  6. Wow, I do this! My dad lives in a nursing home and often they have to ask me to leave the room for a while as they do this or that for him. So, I bring my magazines, post its and a pen. Even if I don’t use the ideas, it gets the creative juices flowing!

    Now YOU have to come over to my blog THREE TIMES this week to share at our blog parties ♥ THAT is your assignment, if you choose to accept it. If you do, let me know you were there OK? Today is the last day of our experimental G+ and TWitter party. Sunday eve Happiness is Homemade starts. And, my very own starts Tues eve 7pm ET. It is Wonderful Wednesday blog hop on a 14 blogs.
    Truly, I do hope you will stop by.
    I am now following you EVERYWHERE — look over your shoulder and you might see me LOL!
    Sinea ♥
    Ducks n a Row recently posted…Chili Salad Recipe – Best Leftovers Recipe Ever!My Profile

  7. These are great tips. I have struggled several times with blogging and these tips can help with becoming inspired about what to write. Thank you for sharing and linking up with us over at Welcome Home Wednesdays Link Party.

  8. I love this whole series by Darren, and you have done a fantastic job with this article. I, too, am taking this 31 day challenge (very!) slowly (there are only so many I can do at one time 😉 ) and haven’t done this magazine inspiration one yet. You, however, have inspired me to skip straight to this one! Good luck with the challenge!
    Wendy recently posted…Made to Last…45 Ways To Nurture the Mother / Daughter Relationship {Free E-Booklet Sneak Peek!}My Profile

    • Wendy that’s great! Yes isn’t this a great challenge? I find that if I take it slower I really glean more from these challenges. I’d love to read a blog post about how reading magazines impacted your blog and what you learned. Thanks for reading and commenting! Best wishes to you on this challenge too! 👍

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