The Rise of The Smart Magazine

I’ve become more of a reader in recent years, especially since tackling writing as my full-time career. I spend most of my reading time on non-fiction works, and lately I’ve spent even more time reading what I call “smart” magazines. These types of publications can be found either online or offline, and they deliver the goods more in the area of workflow and productivity practices and less in the area of apps and technology in this space. These smart magazines aren’t just specific publications, either. They are actually portals as well, as I can customize apps such as Zite and Flipboard to cater to my own interests.

If you’ve not taken the time to do that with apps of these nature, then I recommend you do so. If you haven’t here are some ones you can check out that are part of my regular reading regimen.1

Fast Company

This publication is one that I’m spending more and more time reading. The articles are definitely themed in a direction that appeals to me, and the online version of Fast Company has found a way to engage with its readers in a way that is aligned with its name. In a manner of speaking, it’s this engagement that is building its company of readers…and it’s building that company very fast.


I’ve been a fan of 99u’s work for a long time, and it has recently entered the publishing space in a different way — through developing books of its own. 99u is a brand (much like Fast Company) but it was first built entirely online and has since branched into the offline world with these books and the annual 99u Conference (among other lower-profile events). The pieces in 99u offer insights that are either congruent with my own or deliver a slightly different perspective. Ultimately, the writing at 99u is smart and inspiring, and that’s why I make a point of keeping up with what it puts out there.

SUCCESS Magazine

SUCCESS Magazine has been publishing for years, but I only started paying attention to them late in 2012. The print publication is not only well-designed, but it’s well written and the online version offers a lot of smart material. SUCCESS tends to cater to an audience that is more conservative than the others I’ve mentioned above, but the content is no less valuable. Without a doubt, SUCCESS delivers the goods every single month.

Productivity-Themed Magazines

I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading magazines that cater to a particular niche, and it should be no surprise that a lot of that time is spent reading magazines that focus on productivity. Many of them offer PDF versions of their publications, while others focus on the Apple’s Newsstand app as a delivery method (more on that in the next section). Some of the best ones I’ve read include Time Management Magazine, Productive! Magazine, and the just launched Alpha Efficiency Magazine. The online space has allowed niche magazines to find readership, and with the right marketing and delivery methods in place they won’t only survive…they may even be able to thrive.


The problem with Newsstand is that Apple seems to be burying it. They’ve made it pretty unappealing and the publications using it as a platform appear to have suffered as a result. I’d much rather see Apple roll in Newsstand with iBooks in some form or another instead of seeing publications like TechInch Magazine fall by the wayside, or The Magazine see falling numbers.

I know I’ve missed some other great “smart” magazines out there, so if you’ve got some you’d like to draw attention to then leave them in the comments below.

Photo credit: wax115 via SXC.HU

1 To be completely transparent, I’ve either written for or made appearances in many of these publications. But to also be transparent, I’d read them anyway.