Guideposts Editor: ‘[People] Want to See Themselves in the Magazine’

User-generated content was the topic on one of this afternoon’s con-current panel discussion at the 2008 American Magazine Conference. Kevin McKean of Consumer Reports and moderated the group which included Mitchell Fox, president and CEO, 8020 Media; Chris Johns, editor-in-chief, National Geographic; Susan Kane, editorial director and editor-in-chief, the Parenting Group; Edward Grinnan, editor-in-chief and vice president, Guideposts and; and Alexandra Bandon, multimedia editor, This Old House.

Bandon, whose magazine put out an entire user-generated issue this June, spoke first. “We learned a lot about ourselves,” she said, adding that despite not paying contributors for their content, “We spent pretty much the same amount of money, but we had to build a $40,000 Web site.” This Old House hopes to put out another issue next year, and Bandon revealed that advertisers “got very excited about it when it was in their hands.”

After the jump, more revelations from the other four panelists (in quick, easy bullet point form because I’m tired and I’m sure you’re sick of reading).


  • On the advantages of the user-submitted “What Nobody Told Me” section: “[User quote was] ‘I didn’t know an orgasm could cause milk to squirt. A hilarious discovery.’ That’s the kind of thing we couldn’t really generate.”
  • Why user-generated content from moms works: “On matters of life and death, you want to hear from a doctor. On just about everything else, moms want to hear from other moms.”
  • On Mom-tested products: “If the moms don’t like those products, we don’t run them.”


  • The impact of UGC, specifically “Your Shot,” on Web site traffic: “Started with one million uniques and six million pageviews. Now two million uniques and 40 million pageviews.
  • On the number of “Your Shot” submissions: “We get 300-800 submissions per day. The Quality of submissions has grown immensely. … [We are considering the] possibility of putting it into newsstand special or custom publishing (with a certain user’s picture on cover).”
  • One problem with UGC: “It doesn’t rate very highly. Our readers expect authority from us.”


  • “If people stopped doing stupid things and getting themselves into dangerous situations, we’d have a huge hole in our editorial calendar.”
  • Guideposts is a magazine that’s basically written by readers.”
  • Why you need dogs: “If I could give you one piece of advice about user-generated content… If you can figure out a way to get a dog into the content, you will get your numbers up.”

  • On the type of people who submit good UGC: “We’re not looking for good writing. We’re looking for good stories. … We’re willing to go to great lengths to help them write that story.”
  • On what people want: “They want to see themselves in the magazine.”


  • A strength of 8020’s business model: “Wonderful frenzy of activity that goes on online among the members.”
    8020’s ultimate goal: to have “multiple titles across many categories”

  • The one thing he wishes he knew now: “how painfully naive, cynical and close-minded the marketing community is.”