This guest post is by Tom Treanor of Right Mix Marketing.
Maxim magazine. It’s banned in my house (unless it’s used for research purposes).
With its revealing covers, dependence on taboo topics, and issues jam-packed with girls, booze, and cars, you’d think researching Maxim magazine would lead to a wasteland for any type of valuable lessons.
I decided to find out what makes Maxim tick and to understand why its target audience is such a dedicated bunch. If you’ve seen one issue of bikini-clad models, you’ve seen ’em all. Right? How does Maxim keep the faithful coming back every month for more?
Turns out you can learn a lot of lessons that can be applied directly to blogging.
Here are the 12 most valuable lessons I took away from Maxim. (Hey, someone has to do the heavy lifting!)
1. Know your target audience, focus on their interests, and deliver the content they want
Maxim‘s audience is 78% male. 90% of its readers are between 18 and 49 (see the demographics here). The audience cares about women, drinking, cars, gadgets, sports, fitness and entertainment. Maxim includes an assortment of content related to these topics in each issue.
Key questions: Who is your blog’s target audience? What are their interests and are you delivering the valuable content that they are looking for?
2. If you’re about making money, focus on topics that sell
If you’re a non-profit, you may have a different goal. But if you’re blogging for a business or if you’re trying to use blogging as a business, you need to focus on topics that people are willing to pay money for. These topics include things like health, sports, gadgets, dating, sex and entertainment. Maxim focuses on a selection of very profitable niches.
Key questions: Are you fighting an uphill battle writing about a topic that no one cares about? Are you focusing on areas that no one will ever be willing to pay money for?
3. You need to take a creative approach, even for “no brainer” topics
Look, I know you think that a magazine like Maxim has it easy. Just put pictures and articles about sex, booze, and sports and you’re done. The reality is that they need to keep the audience interested. They have to come up with unique angles for topics that have been covered a million times already. Remember, they have to get people to pay their hard-earned money for this. If they don’t give them a reason to keep coming back, they won’t!
- “Leave The Puck, Take the Cannoli: How’d the Stanley Cups champs blow our $848”: Don’t just write about the NHL Stanley Cup winners. Why not give them an odd amount of money and tell the story of how they spend it?
- “Playing Dungeons and Dragons with Porn Stars”: Maxim includes a twist on a tired topic.
Key questions: How are you breathing life into a tired topic? What new twists are you including in your blog to keep your readers coming back for more? Are you suffering blogger’s block?
4) Pictures, pictures, pictures
Maxim uses pictures to its advantage. On the cover and within the magazine. Enough said.
Key question: People love pictures. If you’re sharing your post via social media, it often includes a picture or thumbnail. Are you giving pictures the attention that they deserve on your blog?
5. Lists are still king!
Humans are naturally wired to read articles that include lists. Magazines have known this for a long time and Maxim is no exception. On the cover of the January 2012 issue, in bold lettering: “37 Ways To Rule Winter—The Best Snowboards, Snowball Makers & Snow Bunny Hangouts”.
Key question: Are you using lists to your (and your readers’) advantage on your blog? Ignore lists at your peril.
6. Compelling headlines (and pictures) drive sales and readership
Headlines are constantly streaming throughout the internet on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Digg, Delicious and all of the rest of the social media, social bookmarking and social news sites.
Is this any different than the traditional magazine rack where pictures and headlines scream out for attention? We’ve covered pictures earlier but don’t ignore the headlines. If you have ten minutes before a trans-Pacific flight and you’re picking a magazine or two for the trip, how do the headlines factor into your decision-making process?
Example Maxim headlines:
- “Instant Threesomes! (OK, they’re cocktail recipes)”
- “Bite Club – Inside the Sinister, Salty World of Snack Food”
Key question: Do your headlines pass the airport magazine rack test?
7. It’s not a one-way “conversation”
It may be a surprise to think about it this way, but a magazine is not just a one-way communication vehicle. For example, Maxim runs contests and includes reader input in a portion of their articles. Not to mention the interaction that can happen on a magazine’s blog, website and social media outposts.
Key questions: How are you fostering reader engagement? Are you treating your blog like a monologue or a dialogue?
8. How-Tos are a staple
Like lists, how-tos are another staple of magazines. Just look at the magazine rack next time you leave the grocery store. Two “important” how-tos from Maxim include the following:
- “How Can I Open A Beer Bottle With My Teeth?”
- “Reboot Your Life—reform your life for 2012” (including multiple how-to articles on money, health, sex, tech, betting, food)
Key question: Are you teaching your audience how to do things that are important to them?
9. Include celebrity
Maxim doesn’t live on sex, booze, and sports alone. It also benefits from the glow that celebrities can lend to a magazine, book, movie, or TV show. Included in the January issue are JWoww from the Jersey Shore TV show (celebrity is relative), the Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard and his vehicles, and Snowboarder Shaun White on music, movies and gold medals.
Key question: Are you including information about or content from influencers or “celebrities” in your industry?
10. Utilize third-party research and spot industry patterns
Maxim included summaries of studies in an “Analyze This” section, including highlights of studies done on pick-ups, movies, happiness and money. It also included a “Sexy in stitches” article featuring recently injured actresses Halle Berry (broken foot), Reese Witherspoon (gash on forehead), and Bar Rafaeli (broken arm).
Key question: Are you including your own take on industry research and are you actively “connecting the dots” for your readers?
11. Storytelling is not dead
Even Maxim magazine would suffer if there was no drama. No human stories. No narrative. The January issue included a multiple page article about a “prolific art forger” who has never been arrested, entitled, “The Most Famous Painting In The World … And It’s A Fake.”
Key questions: Are you bringing stories into your writing? Do you include any drama, mystery or surprises in your blog?
12. Respond to audience feedback
Most magazines includes a reader letters section. Maxim is no different. In their “Ranting and Raving” section they respond to the good and the bad from their readers.
Key questions: Are you afraid to respond to your readers? Do you ignore the bad and only focus on the good? Are you responding to feedback?
It was tough duty but these are the 12 blogging lessons that I took away from the January 2012 issue of Maxim magazine. I suggest you go back over the key questions and see where you might have gaps in your blogging strategy.
Okay, your turn. What other blogging lessons can we learn from magazines?
Tom Treanor is the founder of Right Mix Marketing, which helps businesses of all sizes with Content Marketing Strategy. Sign up for his free .