Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Judge a magazine by its advertisers

A friend asked me this morning what parenting magazines I subscribed to. None. I found parenting books trump parenting magazines any day.

Having been in the magazine industry for a few years, I know first hand how much magazines pander to their advertisers. Not surprising since the advertisers pay the rent, and the salaries, and the bonuses. The handful of parenting magazines in Malaysia leave much to be desired, with minimum content and a lot of advertisements. Whatever content they have is 90% advertiser driven.

In the last few months of my pregnancy, I got a whole stack of Parents magazine (a US publication that you can find on the newsstands here) for free from work. So I did read them. Though US magazines tend to have a lot more editorial integrity than Malaysian ones, I still found the content lacking.

Don't forget, magazines cater to the reader who wants a quick read. Therefore, articles are usually a page or two in length, meaning the subject is dealt with superficially. Features are slightly longer, but how much can you learn about potty training in 3 pages? I find magazines are good for finding out about the latest baby products on the market, or getting a cool recipe for a cartoon birthday cake, but beyond that, hit the books.

Another thing to think about: if brand X is an advertiser, the magazine is going to highlight something from brand X as the must-buy of the month. If a certain brand of kids' toys is colourful and noisy, you will inadvertently find one of the magazine's articles touting the benefits of colourful, noisy toys. (In fact, noisy toys are found to be harmful to a kid's hearing and babies can only see colours from 2 months onwards.) If a certain baby food brand is an advertiser, you will find the food pages advocating feeding your babies food from a jar (in fact, freshly pureed food is best for baby).

While kissing advertisers' behinds is a universal rule of thumb with magazines, and I am all for it when it comes to my favourite fashion magazines, I find it a bit disconcerting when it traverses the world of kids.

So, no parenting magazines for me.

Read more books.

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