MOM Magazine

I love my mommy very much. I write this not because she's one of this column's 8.45 subscribers, nor to publicly atone for botching the annual Mother's Day revelry (as always, Mom was elated to receive $10 in Loews' gift certificates and a CVS-bought card with my name inked legibly on its interior).

No, I write this because as I watch my friends bungle their first months of parenthood -- their kids sure seem to accidentally ingest a lot of styrofoam -- I realize just how solid my mom's instincts have always been. With much able assistance from Dad, she raised two exceptional daughters and a son vaguely familiar with the concept of a "napkin." There's no chance I'll be half the parent that my mom was and is; the first words my kid is likely to hear from my mouth are "If you don't like sports, you will be sold to the gypsies."

At some point down the road, a title like MOM Magazine might help keep me on track, even if it's aimed at an audience with different plumbing downstairs than my own. The small, regional (the U.S. Northwest) title traffics in common-sense parenting and the sharing of life experiences. As opposed to most parenting mags, it avoids product flotsam (I didn't notice a single brand name in any of the May/June issue's stories) and trite life/parent balance tips ("Need a break? Take a long, hot bath! Use a fragrant soap, even!").

MOM Magazine doesn't overcomplicate matters. It relates stories in plain, easily digestible language, rarely tapping developmental experts or edumacated, intemallectual professors for their long-winded opinions. It's the rare title for which the written-by-AND-for mantra (you know, like "Toes: Written By AND For Foot Fiends") actually holds.

So yeah, I like MOM Magazine a lot in theory. In execution? Not quite as much. The mag doesn't lack for ideas, as witnessed by the well-observed pieces on adoption (in which the writer chronicles the process of adopting the child of a neighborhood teen) and a romp through "Baby Boot Camp." There's also a clever column on pregnancy fashion and an A-to-Z list of advice for so-called blended families (though some might sense just a wee bit of an agenda in the inclusion of "prayer helps!" under the letter 'P').

But from the sweat-the-details and production-values perspectives, MOM Magazine simply doesn't cut it. I get yelled at by less fussbudgety readers whenever I point out typos ("The views, information and content in this magazine are those of MOM Magazine and it's [sic] contributors"), but every such miscue chips away at a mag's credibility. Yes, I screw up on this front as much as anybody else, but I'm also not looking to lure support from the ad community. The bar is rightly set a bit higher for professionally produced magazines.

Then there's the design. The cover shot of a post-makeover mom and her kids looks like it was pinched off some random suburbanite's refrigerator door. The fonts and color schemes remind me of the education trade mag that sat, perpetually unread, on my high-school guidance counselor's desk. The layouts are unimaginative at best and nonfunctional at worst: One page features a banner ad across the top, with 70% of the space beneath it devoted to two other ads and the other 30% devoted to a sidebar on breastfeeding. Just a tad schizophrenic, no?

What I'm saying here, I guess, is that the problems MOM Magazine have tend to be ones of scale. This got me all a-thinkin' about the challenge of launching a magazine nowadays, even one limited in geographic scope. MOM Magazine, to me, makes a lot more sense than most of the titles that come my way. It targets an underserved audience and it goes about its business differently than the competition. But owing to its independent status, it can only make its resources go so far.

It's a chicken-or-egg dilemma. The mag needs to up its production values to be taken more seriously by readers and marketing partners, but it probably can't up those production values until it attracts more support from readers and marketing partners. Here's hoping the folks behind MOM Magazine have a plan to address this dilemma. Theirs is an endeavor worth rooting for.

Published by: MOM Magazine LLC
Frequency: Bimonthly
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