A Quick Way to Eyeball Your Magazine Competition

How to find out some ballpark figures about your magazine competition so you can see where you stand in the arena


I used to work in the heart of New York City. Every day I walked through Times Square and the 42nd Street area (before a series of mayors cleaned it up), teeming with people who weren’t always friendly. If you think magazine competition is tough …

New Yorkers are notoriously thick-skinned, some would even say “hardened,” individuals. Walk down the street, they usually don’t make eye contact. Keep to themselves. No smile or cheery “good morning” for a stranger.

01-a-quick-way-to-eyeball-your-magazine-competitionUntil you stop someone and ask for directions. Then, surprisingly, they’re usually willing to help. In fact, on a busy sidewalk, if you ask out loud “Can anyone tell me how to get to the Empire State building?,” you can actually attract a small crowd.

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Nearly every New Yorker within earshot will have an opinion as to what bus or subway to take, or how to walk there. You can even gin up a debate among strangers as to the fastest, safest route.

So much for breaking the ice with New Yorkers. Just ask for advice.

In publishing, the best way to get an answer is to ask. Want a celebrity interview? Ask for the interview! And be prepared to conduct it, because very often, the person you ask will agree to give you the information you want right then and there.

Why do they do it? Because it’s smart. It’s flattering. It’s good business. And because they’re nice people.

But what if you want to learn a little more about your magazine competition? You can’t just go up to them and ask. I mean, maybe you’ll bump into their marketing director at a conference (::cough:: this happens all the time at our Digital Publishing & Marketing Intensive ::cough::) but in most cases when you’re comparing your publication to a competitor, you’re in the dark.


Work in the dark no more. Estimating your magazine competition’s online revenue is easier than you think and requires only four easy-to-find figures:

  • Average Monthly Visitors
  • Page Views per Visitor
  • Revenue per 1,000 Impressions
  • Percent of Inventory sold

Average Monthly Visitor counts are often discussed in the media by website publishers and are also available from several Internet marketing research services.

  • Compete is a free service that will predict a website’s monthly unique visitor count based on a sample.
  • Nielsen and other Internet marketing research services can find the figure, but will require payment.
  • You may also find more accurate numbers in a publisher’s rate card, which often lists traffic for advertisers.

Page Views Per Visitor is also available from Compete and Nielsen, and other similar services.

Revenue Per 1,000 Impressions can be estimated by any publisher analyzing a direct competitor. The market’s rate should be relatively uniform, and your figure should be close to your competitor’s. This number should not be confused with the similar Revenue Per 1,000 Ad Impressions figure.

Percent of Inventory Sold is the hardest number to estimate, but not impossible. Successful websites sell about 65 to 75 percent of their inventory. Be sure to include advertising inventory when calculating this figure. If a website has three advertisements, and two are above the fold, then the third on the bottom of the page is being seen by fewer people and is not maximizing advertising inventory.


In traditional brick-and-mortar businesses, there is a theory of management called MBWA. It stands for “management by walking around.”

It means getting out of the office and out into the real world. Talking to people. Experiencing your business firsthand, much like your customer would.

Of equal importance, especially for online businesses, is “marketing by walking around.” That means doing a thorough exploration of the “neighborhood” in which you operate to determine competitors, potential marketing partners, and new business opportunities.

How does your monthly revenue compare to the estimate of your competitors? Hopefully yours towers over the competition, but if not, we can help you optimize your magazine website to attract users and make money. I’ve got 30 minutes, how about you?


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