Learn from the Big Boys!

If you want to make your magazine a success just browse through the glossies on the shelves at your local newsagent. They know a thing or two about how to produce a magazine.


Are you nuts?” you say, “My little free A5 local business mag has nothing in common with Vogue or Marie Claire or FHM. We’re worlds apart.”


Oh no you’re not!


Almost every magazine is an advertising magazine…period. Vogue, Marie-Claire and FHM are just as dependent on advertising as you are. Without it they’d fold, in spite of their cover price.


Pick up a glossy magazine at random and really study it. How many adverts can you find?


I have on the table near me a copy of Junior magazine, a high-end glossy magazine about children, aimed at middle class, affluent parents. It is 130 pages long and features 37 pages of adverts. Then there are three pages of book reviews; a multi-media review page (CDs and DVDs); a toy review page; a page of ski-fashions mentioning the names of the stores where the clothes can be purchased; reviews of family-friendly holiday destinations with companies and their contact details all cited; two pages of food and drink recipes featuring…you’ve guessed it…more product recommendations; a page of interior décor recommendations; numerous pages of fashion recommendations; two pages of camera reviews; two pages of craft-product recommendations; an entertainment page and a shopping page!


There are just 48 pages devoted to articles and news, including two letters pages and three Q and A pages where experts on topics such as education, health and nutrition answer questions sent in by readers.


Yet when you read this magazine you don’t feel short-changed…why? Because the editors are clever. The whole magazine has been beautifully engineered. An article about the joys of craft for children dovetails with a little project for making a soft-toy dog and a couple of pages of product recommendations. An article, written and illustrated by a leading photographer, is preceded by a full-page camera advert and followed by two pages of camera reviews. A lively travel article about a winter holiday precedes pages of ski fashions. The food pages have recipes, hints tips and product recommendations.


Yes, make no mistake about it this is an advertising magazine, but it’s a top-notch one.


A quick trawl through my magazine rack at home also elicited a gardening magazine with 138 pages, 47 of them straight advertising; a canoeing magazine with 66 pages,19 of them straight advertising and a photography magazine with 138 pages, 39 of them straight advertising but also product recommendations on almost every page!


These are successful, commercial magazines and therefore great models for your own mag. So look carefully at your own publication. Think about what sort of editorial you need to attract the advertisers you want. 
Advertisers and readers are in agreement about one thing...they want to see editorial. You, on the other hand, want as much advertising as possible to generate your income. As we've seen, if you box clever the two are not incompatible. Most magazines devote at least a third of their space to editorial. You may not feel able  to go quite that far but a serious chunk of editorial is required to let advertisers know that yours is a 'proper' magazine and worth being seen in. Dress up a few more pages with recommendations and advice which are really advertising by another name (and which can be charged at a premium rate). Add business features and advertorials to your price list and work on making your mag as readable as you can so readers will look forward to it dropping on their door mat.
For example, a piece on spring cleaning would look great preceded by a full page add for a local domestic cleaning firm and what about photographing and recommending some great cleaning products (available of course at your local hardware store with its address and telephone number prominently displayed). You could also run a piece about the day in the life of a cleaner...or a Q and A page written by a local cleaner. Once you start thinking along these lines you'll find you generate all sorts of extra ideas.
Think laterally: are there any local experts (apart from the cleaner) available who might provide a regular page of Q and As…a GP, a dentist, an optometrist or a nutritionist? All of these suggestions are great advertising draws for healthcare products, pharmacies, health food shops etc. as well as other members of the same or similar professions. Perhaps you could get a local teacher or childcare expert on board. One thing I’ve learned as a parent is that we will read anything and everything about children because we need all the advice we can get. Also parents buy stuff…lots of stuff so advertisers love anything that gets us reading your magazine.


The more you study the big glossies the more you’ll see that they’re not so different from your own mag. Emulate their style and you’ll more than likely to emulate their success.



text menu area