What is the deal with local magazines making drastic changes and leaving their readers in the dark? First it was 8 Days and its unannounced switch to SH Weekly. And now That’s Shanghai — in an unrelated move, we assume — has given itself a facelift. The September issue has a new look and the cover is emblazoned with gold lettering proclaiming itself a “Collector’s Edition.” But inside the magazine Shanghaiist finds nary a word explaining to readers the thinking behind the redesign, no explanation about what makes this edition so collectible. And don’t bother looking for insight on the magazine’s website — on Sept. 4, they still had an image of August’s issue under the words “This Month’s Magazine.” It’s a shame, really, because the new look is a big step in the right direction. While the content is mostly still the same, the magazine looks cleaner and classier now, and they’ve livened things up a bit with some well-placed color.
But there is one major aspect of the new look that doesn’t work — that clunky font they use just about everywhere. They use it for the That’s logo on the cover and just about every headline inside. It’s too fancy, too frilly, too difficult to read. The September cover of That’s Shanghai (pictured) reminds Shanghaiist of a magazine from our youth, but we can’t place which one exactly. Maybe it’s this one or one of these. Regardless, if it reminds us of a magazine from the 1970s or 80s, that’s not a good thing. Retro isn’t something that wears well in publishing. That font is going to get old really quick.
And what of the new 8 Days/SH Weekly? One Shanghaiist reader, for what it’s worth, gives it high marks. And the folks who work for the magazine certainly like it:
A lot has changed. The editorial team is the same, but we have pretty much dug down to the foundations. Jackhammering away what’s out of date, but leaving the good stuff. As you navigate this week’s issue, you’ll see a new upfront section and expanded coverage of style, health and beauty and tech. We have also greatly expanded our listings and brought in an old friend, Mr. Know-It-All.
Some things, of course, we didn’t mind waving goodbye to: the party pix, the old style listings, Tiffany.
It does seem though that the magazine will have a split-personality for the time being. Logos for both 8 Days and SH appear on the cover, under “contact us” on the masthead it still reads “8 Days” and the website still looks the same and has the old 8 Days URL (and a photo of the not-so-dearly-departed Tiffany). The editor’s note calls this their “39th issue,” not their first, so it’s clear they view this not as a new magazine but a revamped one. And once you get past the softball feature stories — like “Yoga vs. Pilates” and “How Bad is MSG?” — there’s some decent stuff in there. The look of it all is kind of blah, kind of advertorial-ish, though … to Shanghaiist, at least.
What do you think?