Should I only advertise in paid-for magazines?


In our travels as a marketing consultancy, we often speak to businesses that pronounce we only advertise in paid-for magazines, because readers value the publication’.  You can see the logic, but it’s incorrect.

Firstly, over the past decade the amount of paid-for magazines sold has dropped drastically, indeed the whole paid-for scene, whether magazine or newspaper, it’s all been in decline.  You’ve probably been into a supermarket and been offered a newspaper or magazine free of charge that would normally carry a cover price (both national or regional).  This is an attempt to pad up ailing circulation figures, which have suffered on many fronts.  Publishers of these paid-for products know that if the circulation drops, then their high cover price is unjustified, meaning their business and advertising revenue is in jeopardy.

Secondly, the proliferation of good quality free-to-the-public magazines has led to the decline in the paid-for publications. It’s no longer necessary to spend £2-4 when you are able to pick up a premium quality magazine free of charge.  Carefully examining paid-for magazines, what you’ll realise is that many carry massive amounts of advertising and advertorial, undermining the reason why a member of the public would really pay!

Consider that the whole magazine and newspaper marketplace has changed drastically over the last 10 years with the advent of better software and computer processing power, desktop publishing has become more accessible and consequently many free-to-the-public magazines have cropped up, run by locally based, small scale publishing companies.  What this has done is broken the monopoly held by some of the massive media groups, particularly in relation to the county glossy magazine scene.  For the advertiser this is a great scenario because this introduction of competition brings advertising prices down – you also get more choice about the type of magazine you wish to use, it’s definitely a win-win situation for advertisers.

Free-to-the-public magazines provide business advertisers with a major advantage over the paid-fors, because advertising in a free magazine where the publishers print 15,000 copies, you know that there’s no barrier to all these magazines being picked up by the public (providing the quality of content is good – see here).  The problem with paid-for magazines is that if they print say 10,000 copies, these have to be sold, so in reality, you don’t know if they sell 1,000 copies or 5,000 – the barrier is the price, the higher the price, the larger the barrier.  Equally, there may be a long delay in the selling of these magazines – what you require as a business advertiser is the instant promotion in front of potential customers that only free-to-the-public magazines can provide.


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