The Tear-Out Factor

Photo: Katy TomasuloBy Katy Tomasulo
Washington, DC Chapter President

I’m a magazine junkie (and in this industry, I’m not alone, I’m sure). But I also live in a tiny apartment, so keeping shelves of my favorite consumer pubs is just not an option. Over the years I’ve developed a system for dealing with my addiction, a combination of detox and organization.

My personal magazines get divided into two groups: those that entertain and those that help me live a better life. Those that entertain get read in bed or at the gym and promptly recycled. Of those that help me lead a better life, I tear them apart. Decorating ideas from Real Simple go into one binder for future reference; new recipes from Cooking Light go into another; cool hiking trails from Backpacker go into yet another; and so forth.

In b2b, our readers are faced with just as many choices on their desks, with stacks of industry magazines from us and our competitors, along with general business pubs. Problem is, we don’t have the luxury of two groups. No one is going to read us for the pure entertainment value. We must fall into the tear-out group.

One of the best compliments I ever heard was at one of my old publications, soon after a redesign, when a reader told our editor that his latest issue of the magazine was torn to shreds. He’d ripped out pages to file away for later or to share with his workers. I can’t think of a better way of telling us that what we were doing was exactly what he needed.

I feel like, in the simplest terms, the tear-out factor is our ultimate mission. We have to give readers something they can learn from, turn around and implement, or base an important decision on. We already know this, but I think it’s sometimes easy to lose track of it. Take a look at your current slate of stories and at the presentation of those topics. Is it not only understandable, but useful and relevant? Does it solve a current problem? Is it actionable? Simply: Will it help your audience do their jobs better?

Every time I sit down at home to rip apart and file away a stack of back issues, I can’t help but think about my day job. Are my readers doing the same thing? Are my words and decisions inspiring them into action? Is what we’re providing them so helpful that they save it for future reference or photocopy it for the rest of their crew? Ultimately, that’s my No. 1 goal.

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