Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Making Myself An Expert (On My Magazine's Audience)

Let me regale you with some info about what I’ve been up to over at Inc.:

One of my main daily jobs at my internship is to come to the morning staff meeting with ideas for daily stories that we should cover on TheWire (the news-peg-y section of Inc.’s site).  We want to give our readers part of a big story—a story that they could read fully in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or something of that ilk.  The key, however, is to highlight the part that our readers would actually care about. 

For me, the new intern on the block, this hasn’t been easy.   Day one: after sending my first completed Wire post to my editor, she came to my desk and kindly explained how the sentence I threw in at the end really should have been the focus of the entire piece.  Whoops.  Day two: the first piece I wrote once again got wholly rearranged and added to.  Yeep.  But then, bearing in mind the feedback I had gotten from both previous articles, I wrote my second piece and it went live with only minor changes.   Improvement! Starting to get the hang of things!  Day three: my pitch ideas at the morning meeting were met with skeptical nods and “That’s-so-not-Inc.” silences.  Back to the drawing board.

I’m not trying to simply point out my particular struggles with The Wire though.  Mastering the art tailoring content to our particular publications is something many of us have probably been working on every day.  Tomorrow I might read about a new exercising app in the news.  For Inc., I would write a quick piece about what it took for the founders of the company to launch the new product.  Laura over at Fitness, however, would write a completely different story about how the app could revolutionize exercise—from exactly the same tidbit of news. 

I’ve always been taught about needing to master and match a given magazine’s voice, but, before this internship, I had never really thought of digging for something deeper than that.  It’s not just about whether you write conversationally, use slang, or crack jokes.  It’s about parsing through large heaps of information to find that one little morsel that your readers will enjoy chewing over.   

Maybe none of us are quite there yet (I know I still have a long way to go), but becoming an expert on who exactly our targeted audience members are will help each of us become better interns. 

Jillian D'Onfro

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