This article is republished courtesy of Sheridan. It is one in a series of articles about How to Launch a Magazine.
In our previous articles in this series, we explained how to develop your audience for your magazine launch and how to craft a content plan to meet their needs. At this point, you’ve solidified your magazine concept as well as identified who’s in your niche and how to give them the content they want. In this issue, we’ll explore how to develop your advertising plan and sell ads to support your new publication, whether it’s totally new or you’re adding a digital edition to your current print offering or adding a print product to your online magazine.
The importance of ad sales
After reading the first two articles in the magazine launch series, you know your launch won’t be an easy or inexpensive endeavor. How do established magazines — print or digital — make money to pay for publishing costs? Subscriptions and advertising. Whether a paid subscription model or free publication, advertisers are essential to a sustainable print or online magazine.
Advertising is more than just a means to sustain or profit from your magazine. It’s also a way to introduce readers to new products, services, and technologies. Advertisers like magazines because they can make bold statements and catch the eyes of potential customers. They know a targeted audience sees the ads and that magazines have longer shelf lives as well as pass-along readership. Advertising in magazines is a no-brainer for company leaders who want to sell to their readers.
With so many publications competing for ad dollars, how do you get a company to buy ad space in your magazine or on your website — especially when you are just starting out?
Create a plan
Magazine publishers should always have general advertising strategies to follow, but when you’re just starting a magazine, you need to craft a concrete, cohesive plan for how to sell ad space in your new publication.
• Do you need to hire an expert? Finding your first advertising investors will take a lot of legwork, phone calls, and networking. An experienced ad salesperson who knows the ins and outs of magazine ad sales can help you increase speed and efficiency. If you don’t have the budget to hire a professional, learn everything you can about ad sales and make sure you have gathered all the pertinent information, including your projected circulation, costs, and more.
• Who do you contact? Get in touch with company leaders who have products and solutions your target audience needs. Call companies who regularly advertise in competing magazines and offer an introductory package or other incentive.
• How do you convince a company to buy advertising? By now, you should have developed your audience and content strategy. Now it’s time to create a media kit that includes a mockup of your magazine or website, details about the editorial content, a breakdown of audience demographics, and publication ad rates.
• How do you determine ad rates? Rates are based on circulation numbers and publication costs. Research ad cards from competing magazines, and give professional ad agencies a discount. You can also offer discounts for frequency and for buying space in both digital and print editions. Offer options such as inserts, local sections, belly bands, and polybags with product samples.
• What about all the technical specifications? Educate yourself on preferred file types, paper types, colors, fonts, and other design elements as well as ad specs so you are knowledgeable when you talk to advertisers.
• How much lead time do you need for ad materials? Determine a workable time frame by judging your staff and other resources, design time, printer schedules, and similar magazines. Give yourself extra time with the first issues to work out any bugs.
Tips and best practices
Advertising is an essential component of a successful publication. Here are a few tips to help with your ad-selling efforts.
• The conundrum of launching a magazine is that you need the advertising money to produce and circulate your magazine, but the way to get advertising is by producing a well-developed magazine and growing your circulation. It’s best to start with enough financial backing to get a few issues under your belt.
• When trying to get advertisers to invest in a launch, emphasize the opportunity for them to become “founding members.” It can be an enticing draw, and if it’s a big name company, this can create interest from other advertisers, similar to the draw an anchor store in a mall has for other potential retailers.
• Learn everything you can about why companies choose to advertise in particular magazines — look and feel, circulation, content, cost, and incentives — and be prepared to emphasize those aspects when you approach them for advertising.
• Offer advertising editorials or sponsored content. It's a great way to give companies exposure and encourage them to buy ad space as well.
• Your media kit is an essential tool, especially for a new publication. Have it professionally designed for a professional look. Obtain media kits for other competing publications for comparison.
• Offer advertisers an editorial calendar that outlines topics the magazine will cover in coming issues as well as any special sections or themes you have planned.
• Always have house ads prepped and ready in case an advertiser pulls out at the last minute. You can design these to attract advertisers or promote an event or subscription.
Finding advertisers for a new publication is not an easy task, and it takes a lot of learning and preparation. It’s often cost-effective to work with a consultant to help you get your first issues off the ground.