A PSA On That COVID-19 Headline You Want To Use + Should Your Mag Go Online?

Last December, before everything got terrible, I groused privately to some friends that 2020 was going to be a year of bad headlines. I was already seeing a slew of “2020 Vision” stories, and I was pretty sure I’d see a million more.

Obviously, that seems like a petty concern right now.  (Hindsight is ALSO 2020, amiright?)

But the reality is that my team and I are still writing lots of headlines, and you probably are, too.

And I bet you don’t have to guess what headline is in heavy rotation these days.

Here, let me give you a hint:

All together now.

Why am I telling you this?

If you’re writing stories that won’t come out until May or June or beyond, please don’t headline them “Alone Together.” Your readers will have seen that line so many times by then. It will feel exhausting.

Spend 15 minutes coming up with a list of possible headlines that do NOT include “Alone Together.”

Research shows that a good headline can get 8x more readers than a bad one. If you want your audience to read the stories you’ve put so much time and effort into creating, the easiest, most powerful change you can make is to your headlines.

Roundup of COVID-19 newsletters

Want to revisit any of my coronavirus-themed newsletters? Here they are:

Week #1: Consider this template for your magazine’s COVID-19 storytelling

Week #2: More COVID-19 advice, fix the worst page of your magazine, and a work from home tip

Week #3: COVID-19 Coverage: They won’t remember late. They will remember bad.

Week #4: Avoid a tone-deaf story. Here’s one to try.

Should you ditch print for your next magazine?

A lot of schools are trying to decide whether now’s the time to go online-only with their magazine.

Maybe you’re among them!

Certainly, there are compelling reasons to consider it.

Your school will save all of the printing and mailing costs required for a print magazine, which might directly or indirectly make it easier to support your students during a challenging time.

You’ll be able to change your stories if they become outdated.

In some cases, printing might not even be an option if your printer is not deemed an essential service

They’re all legitimate reasons!

But do I think you should print the next issue of your magazine?

Not necessarily!

Only print your magazine if you want your audience to read it.

Yes, that sounds flippant.  But the reality is that even though we’re all spending a lot more time on our screens right now (thanks for that reminder, Screen Time Weekly Report), your readers are unlikely to make your school’s or magazine’s website one of their top priorities.

A print magazine is a “push” communication. It arrives in your reader’s mailbox and they have to interact with it, even if it’s just to glance at the cover before slipping it in the recycling bin.

It’s likely, of course, that they’ll spend at least a few minutes flipping through the pages, skimming class notes, and perhaps reading a story or two beyond that.

The value of being able to “push” that publication into their hands is significant!

An online magazine, by contrast, is a “pull” communication.

Your audience has to have a reason to visit your magazine’s website. They don’t just happen across your magazine website the way a print magazine all but certainly finds its way into their hands.

Sure, there are ways to get people to your site.

Maybe they’re clicking on a link from an email with an intriguing story (if that email hasn’t already landed in their promotions tab or spam folder).

Maybe they see a post from a Facebook or Instagram page (if it occurred to them to follow your institution in the first place).

Maybe they’re…coming up with the idea on their own? (Maybe.)

You probably see the problem: you need to be doing all sorts of additional work to draw readers to your stories if you go online-only.

Switching from print to online doesn’t just change the medium — it makes it much harder for you to get your stories in front of your readers. Yes, you might cut a few costs. But at what price?

If it is at all reasonable for you, stick with print. If you can’t, I would actually encourage you to skip the issue entirely and print a summer/fall edition or something similar. Go big with that edition, rather than go online for one issue.