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Jan 18, 2008

PR Interview: How to Pitch AARP’s Magazine

SUMMARY: With the world’s largest circulation, AARP The Magazine serves 35 million Americans age 50+ who control $28 trillion of the nation’s wealth. The organization’s website gets 2 million unique visitors each month. The publication’s Senior Editor shares 10 pitching tips.
Contact Information
Gabrielle deGroot Redford
Senior Editor
AARP The Magazine
601 E St., NW A9
Washington, DC 20049

(202) 434-6846

Redford has been Senior Editor for AARP The Magazine since 1998. She oversees the lifestyle departments, including food, fitness, fashion and beauty. She also coordinates the magazine’s annual “Impact Awards,” which recognize outstanding Americans over age 50.

Previously, Redford was editor-in-chief of Maryland magazine and Annapolis Quarterly. She has been a reporter and editor for Warfield’s, a Baltimore business magazine, and The Capital newspaper. Redford is a 1988 graduate of Vassar College.

Circulation & Readership
o 22.5 million households
o 35 million members
o Available at newsstands
o Average time spent reading each issue: 49 minutes
o One-third of readers are younger than 60; 46% are 60-74; 21% are 75+.
o Spanish-language edition (6 a year) serving 400,000 Hispanics 50+

Print readership: Female, 59.1%; median age, 62; college graduates, 31.8%; employed, 48.5%; median household income, $53,693; home owners, 86.4%; average home value, $268,335; grandparents of children under 18, 56.6%; have Internet access, 82.8%

Online readership: female, 57%; married, 69%; median household income, $70,038; employed, 67%.
Sources: MRI Spring 2006; Nielsen/NetRatings Spring 2007

Examples of Current Editorial Coverage
AARP The Magazine was launched in 2003 when AARP Modern Maturity and My Generation magazines were merged. Its upbeat attitude focuses on helping readers live their lives to the fullest. It emphasizes the demographic’s positive spirit with the term Gen+.

Content categories:
o Finance: investments, legal and work issues
o Health: tips, trends, studies
o Food: healthy recipes
o Travel: domestic and international
o Consumers: useful information and advice
o Novel approaches, research, information on relevant subjects
o Profiles: people who have changed their lives in a major way

The site receives more than 2 million average unique monthly visitors and more than 16 million monthly page views. Typical time per visit is six minutes.

The website’s sections:
o Daily diversions (horoscope, this day in history, celebrity birthdays)
o Games (puzzles, word/mind/card games)
o Interactive: message boards on boomer-relevant topics, tools (e.g., create personal ads), quizzes
o Book reviews
o Recipe database
o Lifestyle
o Entertainment
o People
o Family and Caregiving
o Travel
o Health

The organization offers 12 newsletters. Two associated with the magazine are biweekly: AARP Bulletin Online and AARP The Magazine Online enewsletter.

10 Tips on How to Pitch Redford and Other Editors
Tip #1. Make sure your pitch resonates with the magazine’s demographics. “If an idea could appear in just any publication, we are probably not interested,” she says.

Tip #2. Banish the thought that the magazine is all about the elderly. AARP no longer requires its members to be retired. “In fact, we appeal to the boomers, as well as to those age 65 plus,” Redford says. Remember that the magazine runs three customized editions (50s, 60s and 70+). Have a multigenerational element to your pitch.

Tip #3. Offer exclusives; they don’t run articles published previously.

Tip #4. Don’t call or fax: “We prefer email or written queries.”

Tip #5. Only provide sources who have agreed to discuss the pitch with an editor.

Tip #6. Pitch must sound current even in a magazine that publishes every two months. Find some connection to engage the readers in a not-so-new topic.

Tip #7. Don’t exaggerate your material. Gain credibility by being as specific as possible. Offer details and numbers; they speak louder than superlatives.

Tip #8. Suggest stories that address quality of life. The magazine’s readers are more interested in the present than the future. They care about ways to enhance their current lifestyle rather than ways to prolong their lives.

Tip #9. Anticipate a journalist’s questions: offer possible headlines and subheads, write your pitch in the same style/language as the one the magazine’s staff uses. Hint: articles are usually written in a personable tone that reveals the author’s sense of humor.

Tip #10.The magazine works exclusively with freelancers. It’s a smart move to contact them with your queries. They are aware of the publication’s preferences and quirks.

Contribute to AARP The Magazine
The magazine is not interested in unsolicited manuscripts. However, if you would like to submit a feature possibility by emailing it to member(at)aarp(dot)org, make sure it involves a subject that would interest every one of the three demographics.

Sidebars and shorter articles are age-targeted, but feature articles stay the same for all three editions. Your suggestion should state in which department and section you envision the story being used.

Limit your query to one page. Clarify the concept of the article, revealing how you would flesh it out. Your proposal should leave an editor with a sense of your writing style. Don’t forget to include some recent writing samples; the story you are proposing should not be one of them.

Meet Redford and Other Editors
Most editors don’t accept lunch meetings from PR reps. “We just don’t have the time,” Redford says. They do occasionally attend conferences where you can catch them.
See Also:

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