Saturday, December 4, 2010

Truly All It Claims To Be, Country Woman Is A Magazine That Hits For That Demographic!

The Good: VERY light on ads, Decent magazine for the culture
The Bad: Light diction, Uncomplicated/Information is fairly common
The Basics: In a delightful change from many women's magazines, Country Woman has real women doing things with minimal advertisements and a lot to read!

Frequently when I consider magazines, I find myself wondering about the purpose of the medium. Is it possible the magazine has had its day and it is time to disseminate information in a more environmentally responsible and clever way? I find myself wondering about that as I consider the latest issue of Country Woman magazine, not because I did not enjoy the magazine, but rather because there was nothing in it, save a few personal testimonials, that I am not pretty sure is as easily available on the internet. These days, it takes a lot for me to recommend a magazine, I'll admit, but with Country Woman, I kind of "get it;" the demographic, despite being encouraged to check out the magazine's website, is not widely regarded as the most technosavvy or particularly interested in spending leisure time on-line.

That is why it was actually quite easy for me to recommend Country Woman magazine. This magazine fits its demographic perfectly, with no pretense and a clear understanding of whom it is intended for. This is a magazine designed to fit the lifestyle and interests of women who enjoy living, working and raising a family in the country, away from urban crime and complications of social malaise. The magazine is not a glorification of technophobia or of any particularly complex social agenda, but rather one that is attempting to keep women who like raising a family well-informed, "stylish" (that's in quotes not because I do not find country decor stylish, but rather because most of the style elements in this magazine involve antiques and it is hard to truly consider that a "fad"), and living the best possible life in the country one might.

For the purpose of this review, I used the June/July 2009 issue. This publication, released every two months, is a cornerstone for the woman living in the country who enjoys classic country/western living. The magazine, designed to amuse and enlighten women living in the country, is a glossy sixty-eight page publication (including front and back covers, which the numbering system does) that focuses on recipes, crafts, and country living.

Right off the bat, this magazine gets huge points for being ridiculously low on advertisements. There is a single page advertisement within the pages and two column ads, one for Weekly Reader and one for a sister publication of this magazine. After reading many magazines for women where the pages look essentially like a catalog, this is a refreshing change of pace for me as the magazine is substance, not marketing.

As well, huge props to the publishers of Country Woman for putting real women on the front of the magazine. The cover picture is of a robust woman who does not look like she was taken off a catwalk in Milan or Paris. Instead, she looks like . . . a country woman! She's eating well, has some muscles (she's a horseback rider, so this is pretty much necessary) and she is wearing clothing that fits the country. This alone is wonderful for women everywhere and justifies the magazine's continued existence. The other aspect of the cover I enjoyed was the claim it makes to now being printed on recycled paper. This is a wonderful thing.

As with most magazines, Country Woman begins with a table of contents. The page and a half of contents is a little busy and includes a separate list of contents for the recipes interspersed throughout the magazine in alphabetical order. The main groups of articles in the magazine are broken down into the categories "Visit With Country Women," "Home-Style Cooking," "Country Homes & Gardens," "Readers Share," and "Crafts For Summer" (one assumes this last category changes with the seasons. The categories are organized within the magazine without a strong sense of order to them, as all of the articles in the "Home-Style Cooking" and "Crafts For Summer" sections are together, but the other three categories have articles spread out throughout the magazine.

After a page and a half of letters sent in by readers, mostly requesting more of the same that Country Woman already provides, there is an Almanac page of ideas for women living in the country, like using solar lights when the electricity goes out. This page - front and back - is full of useful tips for living in the country (for women or men!). This is followed by a guide to country homes. The articles vary between straightforward room by room tours of various country homes and interviews with those who live in such houses talking about how the house works. The net result is largely the same, though, houses in the country are given a spotlight to give women living in the country ideas about other things they can do with their houses (or make them envious of homes of other women!). This section - or the articles in the "Country Homes And Gardens" classification - provides useful decorating, home improvement and home maintenance tips for women running a country home. This section includes an antique appraiser which is very cool, but also a subject of a PBS show which might be of equal use to the readers of this magazine.

The magazine continues with a wonderful article on getting married in the country and different variations on that theme. The article is very in-depth - with wonderful photographs - illustrating everything from simple outdoor weddings to horseback weddings. This is very much in the style and keeping of Country Woman as the pictures are filled with children having a great time and women smiling and the whole concept that this is the most important day in a woman's life. The articles in the "Visit With Country Women" section do a good job of balancing the feminine ideal that many country women are raised with with the independent woman who is strong and in charge of her domain. There is a bias toward the traditional ideal of a family, though the magazine does not shove that down the reader's throat. Articles in this section like the profile of Dawn Samuelson (a "horse whisperer") are interesting and cover their topic well.

The home-style cooking section is similarly well-detailed, with wonderful recipes, though some are very much a part of the "country" culture. So, for example, the star-spangled cake is cute, but I know I'll never make that recipe. Even so, the recipes throughout the cooking section are organized, have a wonderful sense of order and are both affordable and seem delicious. Conveniently, they also include nutrition guides so those who are looking at the health of the recipes have a decent guide.

After this is both the best and worst use of the magazine. I'm not particularly fond of country crafts myself, but the "Country Crafts" section in Country Woman magazine is useful in that it uses the medium well and not so great in that some of the crafts - the wearable beach towel for kids - seem ridiculous, at least to me. To each their own, though. The way this magazine works wonderfully with the medium is that it provides things like cutouts for the crafts, so people who want to do them have scale models for exactly what they hope to make. The internet and printer variables being what they are, this would not be guaranteed using online resources, so Country Woman makes a contribution to women who want this sort of thing by providing as much space in the magazine for it. The country craft section is fairly detailed on how to lay out projects and the articles there are well-written (if a little dry) for achieving the desired objective. I, naturally, am left wondering what kind of social faux pas it might be considering in the country when two reader's kids end up at the beach wearing the same towel-outfit.

Finally, the magazine closes with a crossword puzzle, notes from readers and a collection of photographs of places around the United States that readers send in. Readers in this issue also contributed to an article on "most embarrassing moments" and they were remarkably clean and wholesome for embarrassing moments.

Country Woman is a good magazine, but it is not terribly complicated and it certainly does not stretch the abilities or perceptions of the modern country woman. There are no politics espoused - though there is some implication of them in the country values - and the diction level is simple enough that it is easy to get young country women hooked on it at a young age. And given the choice between creative, reading, and cooking or bland, vacuous and shopping (as if there were only two choices here!) I'd take the former. The photographs are good, but the articles are substantial and are not simply filler between the next five advertisements, making Country Woman a worthwhile magazine in its own right.

For other magazines, check out my reviews of:
New York
Renovation Style
Playboy: Women Of Starbucks


For other book and magazine reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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