Magazine Advertising

Definition: Print ads that run in local or national magazines

When it comes to magazine advertising, most people think of the large, glossy, national publications full of big brand advertisers. And it may seem like your own business doesn't belong alongside the "big guys," especially if you don't sell your product outside a one-hundred-mile radius--or even outside of your own state. But that's just not the case.

In fact, it's quite possible the next time you open one of those national magazines to see an ad for a business that's right in your own town that just has that one location. That's because, like a lot of other forms of advertising, many national magazines have local sections aimed at smaller businesses. Of course, these local sections are a bit larger than what you may be used to, covering such areas as the "Northeast" or the "Southwest" parts of the United States. So while you'll be reaching people way outside your neighborhood, you'll also attract local business (and may just wow the locals who see your ad on those pages).

Who should advertise in the local sections of the national magazines? Although it doesn't seem so at first blush, these ads are really good for small, "niche-y" stores that carry very specialized products, like hobby items. People will travel great distances to find a new supplier or expert or specialist for their hobby, and they'll spread the word of your existence to others with similar interests. These ads are also wonderful if you have locations in more than one area of any state or in more than one state. You can probably cover most or even all of them with just one ad if they all fall into one of those wide geographical areas that are sold as "local." Check the first few pages of any magazine to find contact information for the advertising department, where you can ask for a media kit and get information on rates and deadlines. And be sure to ask for a map that shows you what each local territory includes.

Of course, advertising in magazines with national distribution is going to be expensive even if you're only advertising in the local sections, and it's not be the way to go for most small or midsized businesses. You don't really need to cast such a large net--what you really need is to choose publications that are closely associated with your target market.

One option is to go really local with free magazines that you'd find in grocery stores or pharmacies. The focus of these types of publications is on home sales, cars, boats and other topics--you've probably picked up one yourself. Your business doesn't have to tie directly into the topics of any one of the magazines, as long as the readers of those magazines would also be interested in your product or service. Remember, it's the audience that counts, and you can find that audience in any number of places. The contact information for advertising in these publications will also be located within the first few pages. One thing to be aware of is that these types of free publications are published on different schedules, sometimes just a few times a year. And like most magazines, your deadline will be way ahead of publication, so don't wait until the last minute to call to place an ad.

One advantage of magazines, especially monthlies, is that they have a much longer shelf life than newspapers; they are often browsed through for months after publication. So your ad might have an audience for up to six months after its initial insertion. Moreover, readers spend more time per sitting with a magazine than a newspaper, so there's more chance they will run across your ad.

No matter which type of publication you're buying space in, be sure to ask the following questions before you purchase any ad space:

  • What's the magazine's circulation?
  • What are the demographics of the readers?
  • How often is the magazine published?
  • How is it distributed?
  • What are the special sections or themes planned for the year?

Also note that you have the opportunity with all magazines to save money on each ad by agreeing to run an ad in more than one issue. In fact, before you buy space in any magazine, it's a good idea to see which businesses that are targeting the same audience as you advertise in each magazine on a consistent basis. Remember, if the ads weren't working, they wouldn't be there issue after issue.

You can find publications that are appropriate for your advertising needs by looking through references such as the directories put out by the Standard Rate and Data Service (SRDS). The SRDS directories list all the relevant information about consumer and trade publications, including a short description of each publication, its editorial content, who the publication goes out to, and breakdown of circulation figures. Using this information, you can compile a list of publications suitable for your advertising.

For more in-depth information, contact an ad representative at each publication you've chosen and request a media kit. These contain sample copies of the publication, detailed information about the editorial content, a breakdown of readers' demographics, the publication's ad rates, and an audited circulation statement from the publisher.

There are two primary audits: the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC), and the Business Publications Audit (BPA). Audited circulations are sworn statements by the publisher, verified by an outside source, that the publication is distributed to the number of people claimed in the circulation figures.

With this information in hand, you can judge the cost-effectiveness of advertising in a publication by determining the relationship between its circulation and the ad rates. This ratio is your CPM, or cost per thousand. For example, if the circulation is 30,000 and the rate for a full-page ad is $600, divide $600 by 30. You'd see that advertising in this publication would cost $20 to reach each thousand readers.

As well as finding out each publication's CPM, inquire about what kind of deals you can work out with the ad rep from each publication. For example, you can sometimes negotiate for special positioning in the publication; inside the front cover, on the back cover, or within the first few pages of the book are prime locations for ads. Publications will often charge an additional 10 to 20 percent of the ad's cost for special positioning, but if you're a good negotiator, you can sometimes get it for no additional charge. Always ask for your ad to be placed in the first third of the publication (where readers are apt to read more closely) on a right-hand page, which is not considered special positioning.

You can also negotiate with the ad rep on a frequency discount. If you run your ad three times, six times or 12 times instead of just once, you'll get a reduced rate for each insertion. Publications have standard frequency discounts by the SRDS directory or on the rate card the ad rep gives you, but often the rep can give you an even better deal than the standard frequency discounts if you run your ad on a regular schedule and if the rep wants your business.

Most magazines also offer to place ads on their website, sometimes at a very reasonable rate--even for free--if you're advertising in their hard copy issues. If you can swing it and you're interested in selling worldwide or reaching a wider audience in your own hometown, this is a great idea. Be sure to put your web address, or URL, on every print ad, no matter where it runs, and put a link on your online ad that takes people directly to your own site.

No matter what magazine you choose to advertise in, your message will need to be strong and eye-catching. You only have a few seconds to grab the readers' attention and pull them in to read the rest of the ad. A bold graphic and an interesting headline will help you make a connection with readers right off the bat. The graphic and the headline must come together to pinpoint a problem and offer a solution to the reader.

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