Next Stop: Your Magazine Dream Job

Storytelling Lessons You Can Learn From Print Magazines

By Heather Taylor

Lately, Ed’s been feeling a little bummed to see more open laptops than magazines at the airport and in bookstores. Print, of course, is far from dead, but sometimes it feels like all the time spent writing, editing, reviewing, and proofing a story is becoming outdated compared to the ease and frequency of blog posts and Snapchat Stories.

But, as many of our editor extraordinaires like to remind Ed, now more than ever people are picking up magazines. In fact, if you feel like you’re about to burn out, some people recommend picking up a magazine to re-inspire your creative juices. From in-depth interviews to stylized imagery, there’s so much that print media can teach anyone in digital about creating compelling content. We caught up with a few pub editors to find out what working in print has taught them about the fine art of storytelling.

“Everything is there for a reason.”

Think back to Aesop’s Fables from childhood. Even now, you probably remember The Tortoise and the Hare or The Boy Who Cried Wolf. You know the beginning, middle, and end because the best stories are the ones that draw you in with good writing.

Carey Polis, digital editor at Bon Appétit, says that one of the greatest lessons print magazines have taught her is the value of good, tight writing. “There’s no wasted space in print. Everything is there for a reason. That’s a lesson I try to keep while editing for digital, even when our space is unlimited.”

“Think about the reader.”

This is exactly what Bethany Heitman, editor-in-chief at StyleWatch, constantly encourages her team to do. “Everything we publish should serve our audience in some way. I want editors to think about how a piece of content will enrich that reader’s life.”

For example, when working on a story, Heitman considers these questions about the StyleWatch reader:

  • What about this story is enriching her life?
  • How will it help her with some of her biggest fashion or beauty questions?
  • Does the story fit in with the overall StyleWatch message of making fashion and beauty fun and inclusive?

Enrichment, knowledge, and message are all key, but so is actually talking to your readers and giving them a chance to be heard. “It’s important to have a strong relationship with the people you’re creating content for—engaging with them on social media, speaking with them in person, asking them questions—to figure out who they are and what they need, so you can provide exactly that,” she says.

“Learn what it takes to make a beautiful story come to life.”

Jenna Rosenstein spent over three years at Allure. She worked mainly on the print team where she was an instrumental part of the process in helping beautiful stories come to life. “Every feature I worked on was printed on paper and then passed around for five or so editors to hand-edit,” she says. “After several rounds of edits, the story would then get passed to the copy and research editors, and then design. Just getting one page of the magazine together required the eyeballs, hands, and talents of so many amazing editors, designers, and photographers.”

As you can see, nothing at a glossy mag happens instantly. While it may take a village to bring a single story to completion, it’s also a story handcrafted by an editorial team full of passion and dedication for the publication.

Rosenstein, now in digital as the senior beauty editor for, credits her time at Allure for turning her into the one-woman show she is today. “I write, research, and copy edit my own stories. I source my own imagery and work with the design team to tell them my vision,” she says. “If I hadn’t spent so much time exposed to the workflow of a print magazine, I don’t think I would have the ability to pull together stories of the same caliber on my own.”

Heather Taylor is a former entertainment writer turned brand mascot aficionado (and head writer) for Advertising Week’s Icon Blog. She shares her thoughts on pop culture at HelloGiggles and has been published in Brit + Co, The Drum, and BettyConfidential. Chat with her about anything from SNL to the Pillsbury Doughboy on Twitter @howveryheather. GIFs highly encouraged.

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