What does ‘flatplan’ mean?

Flat plan and Flatplanning

The flatplan is a map of a publication as it is being produced. It shows the layout of all articles and advertisements, and in what order they appear. It allows for complete control of the publication production, therefore avoiding confusion. Without a flatplan, the Production Director and Advertisement Director struggle to control which pages go where. This makes signing off a publication incredibly difficult and time-consuming. Flatplans started life drawn out on pieces of paper stuck to the wall of the production team. As pages moved around and ads were booked (and cancelled), the sketched pages were annotated and amended.

Source: Wikipedia

Assembling the flatplan

At the heart of the editorial production process is the magazine’s flatplan. This is a type of one-dimensional diagram of the magazine, with a square to represent each page, laid out on one sheet of paper. It lets the editorial team see what will appear on any given page, and therefore how the sequence of the articles will run. The job of creating this document is called ‘flatplanning’ and is a collaborative effort between the advertising director and the editor.

Source: Jenny McKay – The magazines handbook

What’s a Flatplan?

Sarah G writes: As a PR, it’s worth knowing the ‘formula’ of a magazine when you pitch. It means you can identify the exact places where it’s best to pitch your client’s products and services. A flatplan is like a paper grid showing all the pages in a magazine issue, with a brief description of what’s on each part of every page – such as features, ads, letters, etc. Certain components will appear in the same place in every issue – usually the letters and problems pages, or new product roundups, for example. These are ideal pitching spots if they’re relevant to your client. But these aren’t the only predictable parts of the flatplan. Most pages in a women’s magazine, for example, are set aside for specific sorts of features which run regularly (but won’t be identified as such). The way to spot these ‘regulars’ is to look for things like tag lines – little straps that run on the top of the page and might say ‘health’ or ‘true life’. You will notice that there are the same number of ‘health’ features in every issue – this means the section editor responsible for health has the same number of pages to fill every week. Also, look at how pages are designed and the pitch stories that will work within that design. If a magazine always runs features with a boxed out case history and ‘fast fact’ sidebar, then pitching these items alongside your main idea will improve your chances of success.