Nailing The Audience When Writing For Magazines

I have begun teaching my college level Professional Writing and Presentation Skills class. Anyone who has taken a writing class with me knows that for the first two classes I spend time working on analyzing the A.T.T.P (Audience, Tone, Topic, Purpose) of several documents. The first assignment I give is always to take a good look at 3 written pieces, analyze the A.T.T.P and give supporting evidence for your analysis.

IMG_20150910_085943957Nothing, I stress, absolutely nothing can be written if you don’t understand who you are writing for, what tone you’re going to use, what you are going to write about it, and why you are writing the piece.

For this class, the discussion ends with my students being able to look at a written piece and figuring out the A.T.T.P, but if this were a magazine article writing class, I’d take it a little further.

If you want to write articles for magazines, you need to *nail* the A.T.T.P. This is done by taking a careful look at the *entire* publication. Of course you need to read the articles and figure out what the tone of the magazine is (friendly, authoritative, etc) but another important way to figure out the audience is to look at the ads. You’ll find some valuable information there.

For example, at first glance, Prevention Magazine looks to be about health. The cover always has healthy food or healthy people being active on it. The cover also shouts to eh buyer that it is about health – “21 Best Age Erasures” “Stress Eater? 10 Snacks you’ll love” and “The Trendy Diet that Actually Heals.”

If you only looked at the cover and those articles, you might assume that the magazine is all about a healthy, holistic life, and while that may be true to some degree, a quick flip through the pages shows multi-page ad after ad for pharmaceutical medication.

While there is nothing inherently wrong with medication, (it could alleviate your symptoms so that you can participate in a healthy life style) those ads are important to the magazine because they bring in money. And because all publications rely on money, you’d be best to not suggest an article for this publication along the lines of “The tried and true method of getting off your arthritis medication forever.”

You can probably find a better suited magazine for that one

Let’s take one more example, one of my favorites – the Food Network Magazine. You’d think it’s all about food right? This one seems pretty obvious. If you read only the articles, you’d at least be on the right track. But take a look at the ads in this magazine. Sure there are a lot of food ads, but there are a lot of processed foods being touted. Fruit cups, frozen chicken bites, baking mixes. What does that tell us about the audience?

Well, they certainly like food, but they are very busy and often buy precooked foods. This audience doesn’t have the time to make all the recipes in the magazine, but they have the money to buy something close.

An article for a recipe that needs to take hours to sit before you can cook it is not going to fly with Food Network. They want recipes that look and taste good, that can require *some* pricey ingredients, and that don’t take a lot of time.

Again, you can probably find a better audience for your multi-step, complicated (yet no doubt delicious) recipe.

If you’re looking to write articles for the magazine industry, you need to do your research first. Look at a few issues of the publication, read the articles and then go back and take a close look at the ads. All of that information combined will help you figure out that critical A.T.T.P. which will ultimately give you a much better shot at being published.


Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). ( She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.

15 thoughts on “Nailing The Audience When Writing For Magazines

  1. Pingback: Nailing The Audience When Writing For Magazines | City To Country Magazine

  2. This is a really great tip and way to analyze writing. Same time, for me anyways, it sort of provokes existential crisis, mainly I think because it raises commercial and ethical concerns. Why can’t we get of that arthritis medicine? Why don’t those people spend all day cooking in the kitchen?

  3. Pingback: Writing effective emails | Live to Write – Write to Live

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