Boca Magazine Named FMA 2022 “Magazine of the Year”
Editor in chief Marie Speed shares secrets of her success and what taking home the FMA’s top honor means to her.
What does winning the 2022 FMA Magazine of the Year award mean to you?
To be recognized by your industry colleagues on a statewide level when there are so many excellent publications in Florida means a great deal to us—particularly when we’ve all been through one Great Recession, challenging times with COVID, and the overall fragility of print in general. It means we are still providing relevant and vibrant editorial and design to our readers; we are still upholding our standards of providing engaging magazine journalism. We believe passionately in this genre, and we feel this award recognizes that.
This year, Boca magazine also received awards in Writing Excellence for Best Feature and Best In-Depth Reporting, in Design Excellence for Best Use of Photography, in General Excellence for Best Advertorial and Best Custom Publication, and in Best Overall for Writing. To what do you attribute Boca’s great success?
From our inception 42 years ago, we have maintained certain standards and values in our publications: a lively mix between lighter articles and ones that address real issues of significance to our community; a commitment to a local, local, local perspective; the knowledge that storytelling, especially filtered through the human voice, is central to what we do. We try our best to use original commissioned photography, and we take pains in crafting our design to advance the content of each article. We keep editorial and advertising separate. We listen to what our readers want. We try to keep a pulse on what the national zeitgeist is, and how that filters into our world — and then we craft our content partly based on that. We insist on excellent original writing and design. We know where we live.
Tell us a little about the publication. What is the mission of Boca magazine?
Boca magazine’s mission is to navigate our community and region for our readers, touching on all aspects of lifestyle, including the tougher issues that also define where we live. In a region as relatively new as greater Boca Raton, and South Florida in general, I think it’s important to give our readers (many of whom are from someplace else) a sense of place, to help define who we are and why we live here. After 30 some years, I am still smitten with South Florida so it’s easy for me to find about a million ways to celebrate all that, but I know we also must be a trusted community voice, the authority on dining to design and everything in between. We must provide context for whatever we write about—and that comes from years of paying attention to where we live and what people care about. My customer is always my reader; if I consistently engage my readers, then I give advertisers a reason to be in front of them.
What is your favorite Boca article from the past year?
I have several favorites, but I do love John Thomason’s story “The Untold History of Africa USA” about a quirky old 1953 Boca Raton tourist attraction called Africa USA, which was an open-air wildlife park, complete with zebras and elephants — everything — including local residents decked out as African “natives.” What mesmerized me about this story was how Thomason found new people to talk to, with whole new insider anecdotes about that park I’d never read before. Everyone and their brother has written about Africa USA, but this particular story really brought it alive through fresh and masterful storytelling.
Covers are the hardest things we do. The cover is traditionally the province of the editor, but in our organization, it is more of a group effort, which makes the process difficult at best. I did think our July-August cover was clever because it was more than another pretty girl; it had movement. The type waving in the water was fun, and it conveyed that whole summer “life-is-good” vibe we wanted for our “Best of Boca” issue. We knew it would stand out on the newsstand, which is another consideration.
How do you see Boca magazine evolving over the next five years?
We are already committed to continuing to build our online platform, which is almost all unique content. Our online content has the advantage of being dynamic and current, as opposed to the monthly magazine format, which can be limited that way. I see this platform growing exponentially over the next five years; it has to. People are not consuming media the way they once did and we, too, have to offer an alternative to print that will work for us—and complement our magazine.
I think our secret sauce will always be the local angle; it is what we can offer better than anyone else. On the business side, we are going to have to offer innovative hybrid advertising options for both platforms and we are going to have to continue educating advertisers on the respective merits of print and online platforms. Having said that, I’m a die-hard; I still believe in the power of print. I still get a real newspaper every day, I read magazines, I read books. I do not think there is anything that can equal the way you can drift through the pages of a good magazine, the stories, the giant pictures, the luxury advertising, the way the pages feel in your hands. I love this medium. I’m rooting for it.