The Best Magazine Promotion Ideas Start With This One Strategy

12 magazine promotion ideas stemming from a strict email marketing plan


The scenario plays over and over again: A publisher invests the time and money to build a multiplatform publishing website, only to wonder why they’re not generating as much revenue as expected. When we audit their efforts, we find they’re not sending any promotions for their magazine. Coincidence?

Let’s say you’re Boating magazine, or some boating niche publisher. You have a Portal with free content, a magazine website that sells your magazine, and an online store with a dozen books that sell for $10-$20 each. You have 10 boating topics you write about on your portal, and you publish five days a week. You also have 10 paid books, one for each topic you write about. So far, so good, right? This makes daily emails a no-brainer.

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  • If you’re publishing a new blog post about fishing on Monday, your featured product in your daily email is a $20 book Fifty Hot Boats Under $30,000
  • If you’re publishing a post about water sports on Tuesday, your featured product in your daily email is the $10 2016 Water Sports Gear Guide
  • If you’re publishing a post about pontoon boats on Wednesday, your featured product in your daily email is the $15 2016 Pontoon Buyers Guide

You get the idea. In your daily editorial email, there’s complete alignment between the free article, and the paid product, which will boost conversion rates on these free editorial emails.

Unfortunately, we find that this is where a lot of publishers stop. What they’re forgetting is a spotlight email, and we recommend one spotlight email for every product platform you sell each week. If you sell books, a video training membership, a magazine and a live event, there are at least two promotional emails you could be sending per week.

What is a spotlight email?


At Mequoda, we call any promotional email that features a single product a spotlight. The idea behind this email is that the publisher is shining a spotlight on one product instead of trying to sell a bunch of things at one time. There are plenty of benefits to featuring one item, for example:

  • Creating a promotional calendar that aligns with the topics of your email newsletters
  • Better conversion tracking from email because there’s only one product to track
  • The ability to track different calls to action and copy and see which one performs best for a single product
  • More creativity when testing specific vs. non-specific subject lines
  • Easy A/B tests on copy
  • Room to support your promises with customer testimonials
  • Focus, focus, focus from your subscribers

A non-spotlight promotional email template reminds me of Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares. In every episode he does three things: spits out their food, freaks out about how unorganized their cooler is, and tells them to chop their restaurant menu down to only a few items.

The reason is because buyers need focus. Having 50 items on a menu only confuses and distracts restaurant guests. Cutting it down to 10 things focuses not only the guest, but also the chefs. Be responsible for only so many ingredients and dishes, and you can excel at all of them. Try to do them all, and you won’t.

The same goes for email. Throw 10 products at an email subscriber, and you don’t have the space to talk about each one. The subscriber doesn’t know what to look at first, so they leave by closing the email. But give him one thing to pay attention to, and not only do you have the ability to add more detail and “reasons why” he should buy, the customer can also quickly determine if the product is of interest and either close the email or keep reading and click through. The one-product spotlight email allows you to be more dynamic every time you send one out.

Let’s take a look at some examples of good magazine spotlight emails.

Magazine promotion ideas


This example from National Geographic is straight to the point – save 79% when you subscribe, and you can see a free sample issue on any device you want. It’s 100% traditional, and I won’t even comment on better pricing strategies. This is 99% of what we see when publishers send magazine spotlights.

But there are two different calls to action here. The “subscribe now,” which brings you to a page to subscribe to, I think, their print magazine.

The second one, if you click to “sample” the current month’s issue, brings you to a web magazine. And from there you can pay $6 for all-digital access.

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I dig this spotlight promotion from Warfare History Network. It’s friendly, conversational, and shows a few beautifully illustrated spreads. There’s no “79% off because we’re not worth 100%!” language leading you in; there’s intense savvy and interesting content that is simply worth subscribing to. (No offense, NatGeo, you know we love you.)

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Then we have Countryside, who hits consumers with a provocative letter that pulls you in.

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And gets us to the call to action, which follows the user throughout the rest of the letter. Each section details everything you’ll read when you’re a subscriber to Countryside Magazine, which is available as a print and digital package.

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A series of 12 magazine promotion ideas


As with any product you’ll ever have, if you want to sell it, you have to promote it. Even the most search-optimized landing page for a bestselling product that generates a ton of free traffic from search, can generate more revenue through email promotion. Think about it: If your email list has 35,000 people on it, (or 100,000, or 500,000 or more), all you need is to hit “send,” and a big chunk of those subscribers will see your magazine promotion. If you’ve been delivering them great content every day through email, they might be most inclined to pay for your magazine. To get in the habit of doing exactly that, first, develop your spotlight email template. In fact, develop, say, 12 of them.

  1. A short one, straight to the point with a super-charged call to action.
  2. A long one, including bullet points about every benefit they get as a magazine subscriber, and many calls to action.
  3. One with video, featuring exclusive content only available to magazine subscribers.
  4. One with a large image above the fold that provokes the email subscriber to keep reading to the call to action.
  5. One that’s highly designed and has more images than text (but don’t forget that alt text in case they have images turned off)!
  6. One in the form of a plain-text email from the editor.
  7. One that polls them on their favorite content from your site (with a more subtle CTA for the magazine).
  8. One that includes a “once a year” offer on the rate.
  9. One that includes reader testimonials.
  10. One that includes a list of links to premium content that would be immediately available to them, if they signed up for your web edition.
  11. A free trial offer.
  12. A “bonus gift” offer.

Once you’ve created your 12 email templates, to satisfy a whole quarter, choose a day of the week, say Wednesday, and roll through them every 12 weeks. For example, here’s a magazine promotion from Dwell, exemplifying the “free gift” technique.

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Meanwhile, Christopher Kimball at America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country has a more personal relationship with his readers, and offers them a free trial through a personal letter signed by him.

how to promote a magazine

Because all of the magazine promotion ideas are so varied, your readers won’t become bored of them, and over time you’ll be able to determine which templates generate the most revenue. Once you determine your top templates, create more of those and ditch the ones that don’t work. But no matter what you do, don’t forget to promote your magazine.

Your turn. What’s the best way you’ve promoted your magazine?


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