Toasting the Best

Our magazine finds inspiration near and far

Ever travel to other cities across the country and grab their version of Madison Magazine to find out where to go and what to do while you’re in town? Maybe even do a little homework before you leave by hopping online to a city magazine website to check out their Best Restaurant lists or popular shopping districts?

As editor I often field calls from Madison residents and visitors alike who want advice on food and dining, doctors and lawyers, hotels and entertainment venues and, occasionally, an answer to the question: Why on earth are we publishing the opinions of John Roach for going on twenty years now? (Answer: He’s wildly popular whether you agree with his views of not, and if you’re like most readers you turn to the back page first before going anywhere else.) So it’s satisfying to know that we’re a trusted (or, in Roach’s case, provocative) source of information on all things Madison.

Here on Raymond Road, our membership to the national City and Regional Magazine Association comes with a few perks, including complimentary copies of publications with a similar mission—from Boston and Memphis to Chicago and Minneapolis to San Diego and Portland. Our favorites are shelved on the wall outside my office because we frequently thumb through them for ideas and inspiration.

For instance, whether you’re in Grand Rapids or Dallas, your city magazine provides you with a “Best of” list and a survey of Top Doctors, but the methodologies vary so it’s useful to see how other editors are handling the topic—and, well, you know the old adage about imitation and flattery. The most recent issue of Westchester (NY) features an interpretation of our own “Big Ideas” cover story—compact fluorescent light bulb and all—that we published in January 2009.

Of course, we’ve modeled many a cover after ones we’ve admired over the years. The trick is to make them “Madison.” Or, in the words of Mayor Dave on the essential purpose of an urban lifestyle publication, “to capture the soul of the city.” He made the comment on a visit to our offices a few years back, and it’s since helped sharpen my focus as a journalist at this particular moment in our city’s history.

The city-regional magazine genre dates back to the sixties, when the New York Herald Tribune began publishing a supplement, New York magazine, to offer readers more than the daily digest of news, classifieds and obituaries. The goal was—and is—to reflect on the place where we live and work with an authoritative, service-journalism style that touches on as many aspects of city life as possible. And the cover of each month’s issue is the direct marketing tool looking to draw you in, whether you are a loyal subscriber or a casual newsstand buyer, for information, entertainment, opinions, and, if I’ve lived up to my responsibility as editor, smart and relevant storytelling.

Though there are fewer of our kind today than there were two or three years ago, city magazine readership is up from coast to coast, and the big-market, well-heeled among us are pioneering new models of local, local, local content that we will adopt and integrate into our market in whatever print and digital formats allow us to serve readers and advertisers best.

As we ring in the new year and a new decade in Madison, Wisconsin, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the seventeen people who share with me the excitement and responsibility of putting a glossy magazine out every month. They are our two publishers, four sales executives, one advertising coordinator, three designers, three editors, two marketers, one circulation person and one business manager; they are working harder than anyone I know, and with each new issue that comes off the printer this passion and dedication (and sometimes exhaustion) is crystal clear.

A toast to you, my friends. You are the best of Madison.

Brennan Nardi is editor of Madison Magazine. Comments and letters can be sent to 7025 Raymond Rd., Madison, WI 53719, or bnardi@madisonmagazine.com. Letters we publish may be edited for space and clarity.

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