How to Read Magazines

Stack of Magazines

Cull the Herd

Over the years, I’ve subscribed to a wide variety of periodicals, including the literary periodical The Atlantic, the scientific journal Nature, and the luxury lifestyle magazine DuPont Registry Autos. One day in 2002, I realized I had 11 different magazines coming to my house, on a weekly or monthly schedule. I could not keep up with the volume of material and I did feel guilty about throwing them away if I had not read them cover-to-cover.
That is when I realized that magazines, even with a complementary subscription, cost much more than money. They cost time. If you have a plethora arriving at your household or workplace, consider doing the following as it sure helped me get a handle on this problem:

  1. Inventory: Count how many magazines you do have coming in the mail per month. Some people might be shocked how high this number really is. Include all subscriptions for both work and home.
  2. Reduction: If you have more than 3 subscriptions, try to figure how much of the content is really of benefit to you. If you read less than 15% of a particular magazine (on average), do not renew it. Instead, make sure you cancel this magazine. If you have any magazines which have not been read that are 3 months or older, throw them away today.

If you are concerned about the reduction part, remember that many magazines have their content online and you could read only those articles of interest on the web or via an app. Also, most public libraries have subscriptions to magazines and it might be possible to read through a number of back issues in a single visit.

Better Method: SSRR

Most often, even our favorite magazines have lots of advertising and low-value articles that have little appeal. The best way to read magazines is to use the SSRR approach.

Scan: When a new issue arrives, take 5 to 10 minutes to peruse the table of contents and page through the entire issue to discover all the features, letters, articles, reviews, cartoons, or ads that might be of interested. Sometime, just reading a headline of an article is enough.

Select: Do a second-pass and make a decision for each part if you would really like to spend the time to read the entire piece. Keep in mind the time cost and the level of interest for the item in question: a one-page book review will take much less time than a 12-page feature. No one has time to read every article of every magazine. It is better to choose the best ones.

Rip: Go through the magazine and tear out the pages that you have selected. You own the magazine; do not feel bad about this process. ***

Read: You have eliminated the flotsam and jetsam. You are ready to read the most important and interesting articles. Whenever possible, try to complete reading the selected articles within 72 hours of receiving a magazine, unless you have a good schedule and reminder system to insure you do not forget. As time passes, it is less than likely you will finish ‘old’ articles, especially once the new issue arrives. I sometimes store magazines articles in my tickler folder so that I will read them on a particular day. I also keep ‘reading’ folder in my briefcase, so I am stuck waiting somewhere, I can use that time to read material.

I hope this helps to efficiently process your magazines.

*** A sad story: when I was in 8th grade, we were given an assignment to write a 5 page essay and this was to also include a one-page supplement of pictures, figures, or graphs. We were told that we could use any magazine for the pictures except National Geographic. Our teacher believed that clipping pictures from this particular glossy magazine was a great sacrilege as they were ‘too beautiful for scissors’. The last verbal instruction was that if we did violate this rule, the result would be an automatic F. Well, one student did use a picture from National Geographic and did fail the entire assignment (I know this as the teacher also announced this fact very publicly to embarrass him as well). How sad! Do not fall for this special magazine fallacy. You own them. Rip and tear the information you need without concern or worry.