3 Lessons Magazines Taught Me About How to Get Your Audience Clicking

In a past (career) life, I worked as a fact-checker and copy editor for national magazines. That included fact-checking and copy editing the magazine cover, which meant I got to see all of the other editors’ notes on the “cover lines”—those enticing titles framing the cover girl. I learned how editors construct cover lines and how they choose what to call out on the cover. 

Although I never worked for Cosmo, theirs are my favorite. Notice a trend? 

Sexy sex sells sexy magazines. 

Sexy sex sells sexy magazines. 

Lesson 1: Write titles from the point of view of your audience

The toughest, and the best editors excel at asking this question of every story:

“Why should we care?” 

Once they’ve answered that question, they often slap that answer on the cover. When I thought about the title for this blog post, at first I thought of the title, “3 Lessons I Learned from Magazines.” 

But why would you care about what I learned at magazines? I’ll tell you why: because it’ll help you get clicks! 

Lesson 2: Try numbers in the title. 

Did you notice the title of my post? 3 lessons. THREE. People want to know what they’re going to get when they open a magazine (or click a link). Including a number in a post works so well for web content, and here’s why: it lets the audience know that they will be able to SCAN the article. Somehow, THREE points will be highlighted. They’ll be able to quickly scan these points and pick them out.  

Another way magazines use the number in the cover line is to represent an abundance of info. “YOU’LL LEARN SO MUCH IF YOU BUY ME!” screams the magazine.  

When I worked at Gourmet, we would often verify a cover line like “32 Tips and Tricks for the Juiciest Chicken.” Those tips might be found throughout the magazine, and we would page through the magazine to verify that there were 32 and that we hadn’t missed any. But the overall effect of the cover line gave the impression that if you opened the magazine, you’d be swimming in tips and tricks! (You can see another example of that in the 99 SEX Questions cover line in the Cosmo photo above). 

Lesson 3: Learn from experience. 

As a content creator, when you share something and see a lot more engagement than usual (likes, comments, shares, clickthroughs), take note!

In Cosmo’s case, they know that cover lines that feature SEX (NAKED is a close second) sell magazines. They have tested and learned. So they continue to get the word SEX on the cover, month after month. 

In your world, this might mean you keep blogging about topics that you’ve seen your audience respond to in the past. You try different things until you land on something! And you re-share content that engaged them in the past. Don’t be afraid to repost popular content. 


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