What Magazine Advertisers Want

Convince magazine advertisers to “invest” in your ads and native content, then show them the numbers.

If you’re a new magazine, or even just new to digital magazines, you already know if you’re primarily subscription-driven (subscribers pay you) or ad-driven (advertisers pay you), but we find that many publishers generate revenue from both sources.

In either case, the health of your business depends on offering a substantial product with high quality content. We write about that often in the Mequoda Daily, so today let’s dive into offering a substantial advertising package.

This isn’t about what to include in your advertising package, which we’ve already covered here. Instead, let’s chat about what advertisers want from you.

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First, they want you to have traffic. Having 100,000 unique visitors per month vs. 1m unique visitors per month isn’t so much of a deterrent from advertisers as much as it is a price bargaining chip on your behalf. Less traffic equals smaller advertisers and smaller revenues. More equals more. If you’re unsure what to charge based on your unique visitors, look at the rate cards of competitors in your niche.

They want to know your circulation numbers, too. If you’re ABC audited, they’ll want the most recent copy, but if you’re not, they will still want numbers. If you don’t offer them, they will seek your Statement Of Circulation if you’re a print mag to see how many paid subscriptions you have, how many are sold through dealers and newsstands, how many are in free circulation (if any), how many leftover copies there are, and what your return rate is like.

But when all is said is done, the number they want to know is your circulation. Why? Because magazine sales alone aren’t trusted numbers to advertisers anymore. So many magazines are now giving their magazines away to physical newsstands for free, just so they won’t return them. If they’re not returned, they can claim that all the issues sold. Advertisers are hip to this practice now, which is why improving subscription sales should be your #1 priority to attract the best advertisers.

And once you have, you should have print + digital bundled ad packages ready for them that include all or most of the below:

  • Sponsored content distribution
  • Portal and email extras
  • Email newsletter sponsorship – banners and text ads
  • Audited magazine display ads
  • Native magazine sponsored articles
  • Social media campaigns
  • Lead generation opportunities
  • Enhanced directory listings

They most definitely want sponsored/native advertising content. But it has to be really, really good. Don’t let the advertisers write their own copy, they will never be able to accomplish the same integrity and brand voice that your magazine has, and the worst thing you can do is write a native ad that sounds like an ad. It should be a story, and it should be just as interesting as anything else in your magazine.

This quote from a recent doom and gloom article about native ads stood out to me:

We have to shift from reach to relevance, volume to value.

The content has to provide value to the reader, not just be a thinly veiled ad. Also, you must provide data with your native ads, just like any ads. In an article about why some publishers are having trouble getting advertisers to renew their native ad contracts, Digiday says, “Behind the low renewal rates is the fact that advertisers are uncertain about the return they’re getting on native advertising.”

Bingo. You have the numbers, show them. If you’re not getting good numbers, you’re probably not optimizing and socializing the posts well enough.

Also, if you’re only selling native ads and not a package, then they’re putting all their eggs in one basket and that’s never a good route.

Additionally, advertisers want visibility, so they also want you to publish the native ad for free, not behind the gated wall of your web or digital magazine. You can include it in the web issue, just as long as it’s not behind the paywall. And they’ll appreciate your services of search-optimizing it, too, which is beneficial for traffic to you, and to them.

Search-optimizing their post should be high priority, because if you can turn a native ad for an advertiser into a blockbuster post, you’ll have an excellent case study to show to other advertisers. Unlike an ad in your print magazine that shows up for a month, a well-optimized native ad can drive traffic to your advertiser forever. Now that’s not an ad spend, that’s an ad investment.


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