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The Facts: Magazine Media Tells and Sells by Linda Thomas Brooks

By Linda Thomas Brooks, President and CEO, MPA – The Association of Magazine Media.

I am often asked, “If advertising in magazines is still proven to be more effective than other media, provides a brand safe environment with trusted, credible, fact-checked content and reaches larger audiences than even television, why aren’t marketers reflecting that in their media mixes?”

My answer, “Beats me.”

Maybe somewhere there is a study on human nature that explains why people have a tendency to pick the latest fad over the tried and true. I, however, have always had a preference for choosing the option with the greatest likelihood of success.

With that in mind, MPA has collected outside, industry-accepted research that speaks to how and why magazine media works.

FACT: Consumers Invite Magazines into Their Homes

Consumers’ relationship with magazines generally begins with the customer reaching out and saying, “Here is my name. Here is my home address. Here is my credit card information.” That is different than every other media channel. When you think about all third-party data appends and cookie data, they don’t really know who you are. Instead, they can geo-locate you. They can ping you with a Starbucks message even if you aren’t a coffee drinker. They can intercept you and interrupt you.

As a customer reading a magazine, I understand the advertising. I like the advertising. The advertising is part of the experience. It is not an annoyance. The magazine is an invited guest, and the advertiser is welcome as a “plus one.” This is validated in Simmons Multi-Media Engagement Study, where attributes like “ads fit well with the content” and “has ads about things I care about” are highest for magazines.

FACT: Paper-Based Reading is More Effective

MPA looked at a compilation of outside research done by more than 100 neuroscientists, learning psychologists and cognitive psychologists to understand how people interact with print. What did we find? People process print content with greater focus of attention and with much more intense emotional reverberations than the screen format.

Scientists concluded through eye tracking, comprehension testing and FMRI machines that subjects had less distraction when reading on paper. Paper-based reading also has impact due to the additional sensory involvement—the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper and the sound of turning the sheet.

When subjects were tested while reading paper-based formats, they had higher comprehension and recall. They spend more time with printed pieces and at slower reading speeds, which stimulates emotions and desires. That emotional impact is very important to advertisers because a lot of advertising leans on emotional triggers.

The scientists also looked at preferred reading methods for what they call robust reading—really wanting to understand core material. All adult age groups, including millennials, favoured paper-based reading.

Why does all this matter to advertisers? If you are putting an ad out there, you want to know if your target audience saw it, paid attention to it, understood it and will remember it. All of those things are elevated with paper-based reading.

FACT: Print Boosts the Effectiveness of Cross-Platform Campaigns

Any strategic communications planner knows that when you add a media channel your numbers go up. According to Millward Brown, the single best channel to increase all upper and lower funnel metrics is magazines. The Millward Brown study compiled over 150 client studies in four categories—CPG, Auto, Entertainment and Financial Services—and looked at mixtures of media. They found that when print media is in the mix, critical KPIs go up the most.

Adding print is the best way to build awareness and consideration as well as move brand favourability and purchase intent. For example, the Millward Brown research shows that you get a 17% lift on purchase intent when you have print working in your media mix.

Understanding consumer journeys can be complicated, but the idea is always the same: You can’t harvest people at the bottom of the funnel, if you don’t put them at the top of the funnel first. The single best way to move both upper and lower-funnel metrics is to have print in a campaign.

FACT: Magazines Have the Highest Return on Ad Spend

When clients say “I already have high awareness and consideration, I just need to move some product,” I say, “Magazines are the best place to drive sales.”

Nielsen Catalina did a roll up of over 1,400 client studies that they had conducted over a year. They looked at their key metric, Return on Ad Spend (ROAS), which measures what you get back for every dollar you put in the marketplace. Magazines delivered a $3.94 return on every $1. The next highest, digital display, trails by more than $1.30 at $2.63.

For clients who already have high awareness and consideration, Neilson Catalina found that high frequency of use and high awareness brands have a much higher frequency of return on their spending in magazine media, a whopping $5.94. Those are the brands that have the highest return on their media spending and should be leveraging print.

FACT: Magazine Media Offers the Only Industry-Wide Sales Guarantee

About eight years ago, Meredith Corporation did research using Nielsen Catalina for CPG products to look at the results of a specific ad campaign. They boldly promised that if a qualifying campaign does not demonstrate positive ROI, advertisers can have their money back.

Meredith made their methodology available to any other MPA member publisher who could participate, and more than 80 campaigns have offered the guarantee. Some of those were print only and some of those have been multi-format campaigns.

Any guesses on how many times the guarantee worked? How many times clients got a positive ROI? Every. Single. Time. No other media offers an advertising guarantee. What does that tell you?

FACT: Magazine Media is Powerful Across Platforms

Not only is magazine media more engaging thanks to its paper format, even digital readers average 50 minutes with each issue. On social media—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter—magazine companies are the number one brands and they elicit more engagement than non-magazine brands.

When you look at magazine media audience across all platforms—Print, Digital, Web, Mobile and Video—magazines have enormous reach: 1.8 billion to be exact.

People enjoy print; better yet, consumers are adding other magazine media platforms while still enjoying that tangible copy. If audiences are engaged across platforms, why aren’t marketers?

Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage  Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Creates / Ontario Créatif


Getting Started on the Right Foot with Advertisers by Trevor Battye

By Trevor Battye, Partner, Clevers Media

Getting started with advertisers is often more about asking the right questions than it is about presenting the information. Once you have the answers from advertisers you will be better able to present the information about your publication that is most relevant to those advertisers.

New Relationships

Leads from advertising can come from anywhere. You can see an ad on a billboard or in a competitor publication. You can see something on TV, or see a business that might be a good fit as you walk down the street.

Member-Based Organizations

An important question to ask is what are the major member-based associations in your magazine vertical? Could you offer them a volume based advertising discount?

Some examples:

  • The Directors Guild of Canada
  • The Association of BC Book Publishers
  • Calgary Chamber of Commerce
  • Real Estate Board of Vancouver
  • Alliance for Arts and Culture
  • Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals

Could members pool resources and buy an ad together? Here’s an example. Note the cost of this full page ad is $525 divided by 12 publishers is $43.75 per title.

Sources for New Leads / Relationships

Your Board: Many publications have some form of board of directors. Whether an editorial board or a formal non-profit board, boards can often provide a great resource for new leads/introductions to new relationships. Remember these are people who have already expressed an interest in your organization.

Competitor Publications: You should keep a regular eye on competitors, both those who are in the same vertical as you, as well as those publications that provide similar editorial coverage. Don’t be worried if a competitor publication has a larger circulation, as there may be reasons an advertiser wants to advertise in both!

Suppliers to your organization: Many publications have never asked their suppliers if they would consider purchasing advertising or sponsoring the publication. If you can prove to your supplier that advertising in your publication could bring them additional business they are open to listening. This works particularly well with suppliers you have long-standing relationships with or if your publication is celebrating an anniversary. Once you’ve identified the organization you want to pitch, the next important step is to identify who you should be pitching.

Identifying the Right Contact in a Potential Advertiser

Start at the top of the organization you want to advertise, like the CEO or VP/Director of Marketing. There is a unique opportunity when approaching a new organization to start as high up in the company as possible. More often than not, this leads to the CEO or Director of Marketing passing word down that they would like to move forward to those who are in charge of execution.

Gauge familiarity with your magazine brand—has the client/lead seen a copy of the publication and your e-newsletter? Advertising sales is about selling a physical product. People need to see the magazine before they buy it. This is as important in print as it is on the web.

Communication Schedule and Preferences

When starting a new relationship you want to clearly establish what the advertiser’s preferred communication style is. Do they prefer email, phone, text, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Message? What is the preferred style of the industry that advertiser operates in? For example, construction does a significant amount of communication, whereas other industries do not.

Equally if not more so, it’s important to create a schedule with advertisers. While this may begin with an email or mailed media kit, you need to determine the best way to follow up.

Once you identify the advertisers that you are ready to pitch, you need a good pitch letter to get them interested in your publication. This, combined with making sure they see a copy of the publication, is important to get any new relationship off on the right foot.

Elements of a good pitch letter—Here’s an example

  1. Specifics related to that particular advertiser and vertical
  2. Other advertisers from the same vertical who advertise with the publication
  3. Relevant reader survey data / editorial info
  4. A schedule of when you will follow up

What are the key marketing periods for the advertiser?

For some that’s fairly obvious as many businesses have a key season (i.e. Fall Books) or Holiday Giving. But for others it’s less so. Have you ever celebrated Fluevog Day?

What are their existing key marketing tools? Enews? Product catalogue? Samples? Social media posts? How can you deliver these to your audience of readers?

Who is their product for? Your publication probably has a fairly wide audience or perhaps a number of segments. Which one is of the most benefit to the advertiser, despite being focused on your magazine’s editorial themes?

What value can the advertiser provide to your reader? Sometimes it’s sampling a new product or new content. What can your publication do for the advertiser that they can’t do for themselves? Consider that as a publication brand your strength is bringing people together around your editorial environment and you can deliver that in ways that a brand cannot, as you deliver the audience and the editorial arena for the advertiser to join. Consider if you are already doing or could provide the following: Events? Podcasts? Sponsored social media?

NOTE: All of the above require significant resources including time to develop, so before building any of the above you should check with your existing and potential advertisers to gauge their interest before launching.

How to Handle Common Objections

Ask why not?
This will often give you additional information about what might be a better fit for the advertiser. Here’s a sample of how to ask why the advertiser is not advertising by email. Depending on the relationship, sometimes the best way to ask why an advertiser is passing is to do this by phone as quite often people don’t want to put the reason in writing.

“No budget”
When do they plan their budget? How much do they typically spend on ads? Where do they spend most of their budget?

“Not the right time”
What are their key marketing times? What is the most important time of year for their brand / organization?

“Not sure it’s going to be a fit for your magazine’s audience”
This is a common objection particularly when starting a new relationship. Consider a contest and use the results to prove your audience’s interest in the product/service/advertiser brand.

How to Improve Existing Relationships

Advertiser Surveys: Create an opportunity to listen to advertisers. Too often in the media business we find ourselves pitching. The key to a relationship is to listen, and the best way to listen is to ask specific questions about how the client is interacting with your advertising. Note these questions should be questions that you are able to act on. Here’s a sample of an advertiser survey. Note that unlike a reader survey you don’t need to offer a prize, as you are trying to make the advertising experience better for advertisers.

Keys to Success

  1. Ask about things you can deliver on.
  2. Follow up—Likely two emails and a phone call to get an answer.
  3. You can’t please everybody! Look for commonalities.
  4. Share the results with your advertisers! They spoke, you listened: now here’s what is coming!

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Trevor Battye at or 647.376.8090 (Toronto) and 778.773.9397 (Vancouver).

Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage  Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Creates / Ontario Créatif