How Publishers Are Creating Free Digital Magazine Ads on Facebook to Sell Subscriptions

Publishers are getting creative with digital magazine ads on Facebook, and they don’t even need to leverage the ad platform to do it.

Before you read on, if you’ve ever subscribed to a magazine from a Facebook ad, or if you’ve seen a big response to your magazine marketing techniques on Facebook, please leave a comment on this post. I’m dying to know.

As of this year, Facebook is the top social media website with an astounding 1.49 billion active users. Needless to say, advertising on “the book” is a no-brainer for most businesses, including magazines. While many businesses have to spend time creating blogs and articles to share with their followers, these pieces of content are automatically a given with publishers. You have an advantage, hurrah!

I poked around the web to find out how magazines are promoting their magazines using Facebook. It wasn’t exactly easy, as I discovered that most publishers default to promoting their own content, which, if conversion architecture is set up, is a fine idea. But we do typically suggest aligning your social media promotions with your email promotions. More on that at the bottom of this post.


Subtle and effective digital magazine ads publishers are using to stand out on Facebook

OK Magazine

In this example, OK Magazine is featuring the cover of their magazine with their cover story online. OK! isn’t giving away the whole feature story, simply excerping from it and casually letting readers know that they can get the whole scoop if they pick up an issue on the newsstand or subscribe.

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Black Belt Magazine

Black Belt isn’t shy about announcing their latest issue. In this example, they give a short “letter to the editor” style blurb about the new issue. What’s great is that this post got more than two thousand likes…on a promotion!

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TIME uses video to promote the cover story in their magazine. In this example, they took a few excerpts from their photo shoot with Trump, and spliced them together. The link in the story goes to a page that encourages readers to subscribe to read the whole article.

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Gentlemen’s Quarterly (GQ) is geared towards a male target market, offering promotions its subscribers cannot refuse. This giveaway draws in an audience, but there’s also advertising for a special offer to subscribe to GQ (print and tablet app). This is a special promotional strategy where people are lured in by the exciting offer, and upsold to the magazine.

digital magazine ads

I Like Crochet

OK I admit I Like Crochet has an advantage here – I mean, who wouldn’t want to make such a neat scarf, right? That’s like asking if you want pancakes for breakfast. Like this scarf? Great. Drool over it a little, and then subscribe to the magazine so you can make it! By clicking the Facebook post you’re lead to an access challenge page that asks you to register.

i like crochet

The Economist

The Economist is always generating a large amount of content and sharing it with their followers. With this particular post, The Economist added a snippet of an old article to the Facebook post. It’s an archive piece, so its history is appealing to readers who are looking to gain a better understanding of a different period. The photo is appealing because of its historical weight, and the article’s section is also captivating. However, when a Facebook user clicks on this post, they’ll receive a message telling them to subscribe to the digital magazine app to continue the story. That, my dears, is one of the most effective and useful digital magazine ads for you.

digital magazine ads

In this next example, The Economist does the same with new content from their magazine. You might think links that go to subscribe pages would upset fans, but 271 likes and 105 shares later, I’m not seeing any evidence of that. In fact there was more than a dozen comments on this post and not a single one mentioning the paywall.

magazines on facebook


If you browse Cosmo’s Facebook page, you’ll see countless blogs and articles that are mainly targeting young women. With all of their posts, the Facebook commentary that introduces the article is always something quirky and carefree. If you look at Cosmo UK’s Facebook page, you’ll see that they promote the monthly issue as their featured image, and the cover model as their featured header image. It’s a subtle approach to promoting the latest issue, but it sticks!

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Men’s Health uses this strategy too, although they’ve given just a little more room to the cover by featuring it in the header, instead of the square cropped box for the logo.

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This ad is as simple as it gets. What’s here is simply a beautiful picture on location along with a simple description. In the text, there is a push to visit the TRVL app on the iPad. TRVL attracts views with its stunning photography of foreign locations, and engages the readers by reminding them that it’s free.

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Ideas for promoting your magazine on Facebook

1. Use the headline from your email and elaborate for your description.
2. Excerpt copy from your sales copy for the issue.
3. Shout out the cover model or business, and tag them in the post (maybe they’ll share, eh?).
4. Give away one small take-away (a mini recipe, a quote, an image, something only paid buyers will get).
5. Show a photo of you holding / reading / using the product.
6. Use the 12x12x12 formula as if it was an article.

Your turn. How are you promoting your magazine on Facebook, beyond content marketing? What do you like / dislike about the examples above?


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