10 Magazine Lessons That Will Make You A Better Content Marketer

magazine lessons for content marketers - picture of magazine coversDo you subscribe to print magazines?

Unlike digital media, print magazines remain visible on your coffee table and other reading areas.

More readers since other people pick them up and scan them.

My husband loves his weekly print magazine subscriptions to The Economist, The New Yorker and The Week. As a result he reads every issue, cover-to-cover!

Lately, he redeemed reward points for other print magazines.

While visually eye-catching, these new additions to our coffee table lack the core elements that keep my husband renewing his favorite subscriptions.

Further, these core magazine factors contribute to quality content and can make you a better content marketer.


3 Print Magazine Challenges To Avoid

Before working for The Economist, I grew up in a house where we regularly received lots of magazines through our mail chute. As an advertising executive, my dad got free magazine subscriptions.

So I was surprised when my husband’s new subscriptions arrived. These thin print offerings didn’t inspire us:

1. Use difficult-to-read text

Based on my print catalog experience, I bet the designers were young. Also no one in the chain of approval wore reading glasses. If so, they’d spot the difficulty physically reading the words.

  • Choice of fancy fonts in tiny sizes that reduced readability.
  • Lacked sufficient color contrast. Use of bright colors and distracting backgrounds made the words difficult to read.


2. Edit text to fit limited space reducing reading comprehension

Since magazine page count depends on production costs and advertising revenues, editorial length comes at a premium price tag. As a result, astute copy editors ruthlessly eliminate excess words.

Further, to get readers to also consume digital content, print magazine editors moved additional content online.

Your content must stand by itself. If your readers can’t make sense of your information they won’t read it!Click To Tweet


3. Offer no reason to keep the magazine

While print magazines deliver timely information, they also need other content so readers have a reason to keep the magazine.

For example, The New Yorker delivers cartoons, long investigative articles and stories that remain relevant past the current week.


10 Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers

In addition retaining paying subscribers and advertisers, quality print magazines have a longer shelf life beyond the current issue.magazine lessons for content marketers - picture of magazine covers

1. Focus on a well defined audience

To create quality content you must know your audience. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a magazine journalist, author or content creator, you need to get into your audience’s mindset.

Cat Person Coffee Cup

Without this information your content lacks meaning since it tries to appeal to everyone rather than a specific demographic.

The Economist, The New Yorker and The Week focus on an educated audience. Their subscribers tend to be professional and earn 6 figure incomes. In addition to informing their editorial, this data supports advertising sales.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Create a marketing persona for your content creators. Beyond the basic demographics and psychographics, find out more about your audience. Where possible talk to them to learn what their hot buttons are.


2. Establish a set content structure

Magazines follow a consistent framework that doesn’t vary from issue to issue. Often the Table of Contents provides insights into a publication’s structure. This includes the order features and regular columns.

By establishing a set content structure, you:

  • Build readership since your audience knows what type of content and when it will arrive.
  • Reduce editorial and content planning because a set of your articles and features are already defined.
  • Balance content workflow since columns and regular features are preformatted and not dependent on current events.

For example, The Economist places its top stories, known as “Leaders”, in the front of the magazine following their news summaries. By contrast, The New Yorker’s “Goings On About Town and The Talk Of The Townappear at the front. The New Yorker’s last page features its Cartoon Caption Contest.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Develop a monthly or weekly structure for your overall content offering. Adapt a magazine style framework for your content marketing to provide content options on a consistent basis


3. Offer chocolate cake content

Even the most serious reader has their guilty content pleasures!

To satisfy them, you must know what this means for your specific audience.

Chocolate cake content

For example, The Economist readers viewed the Obituary section as its version of gossip magazine content. When I ran market research for a new site design only using a few basic pages, roughly 10% of the respondents added comments asking what happened to the Obituary section.

By contrast, The New Yorker readers check the cartoons first. Further New Yorker cartoons provided the basis for paid products such as books and advertising.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Find what type of content fulfills your audience’s guilty pleasures. If you don’t know, ask your readers.


4. Add other voices

By their nature, magazines provide a forum for diverse voices. This includes their editorial staff and columnists. Occasionally, a magazine will invite guest editors or writers to contribute to the publication.

Further, in-depth interviews and well research features provide different perspectives.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Create roundup posts to gather other perspectives. Even better, this type of content attracts attention since people want to see what other people and influencers think.
  • Ask experts to comment on a specific point in a column or blog post. In Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina says, “A partner in content creation is a partner in content distribution.”


5. Summarize recent news

Each magazine issue offers a summary of the latest developments in its niche.

At a minimum, most magazines offer bite-size news near the front of each issue. For example, The New Yorker’s “Talk Of The Town”consists of short pieces related to the past week’s events.

The Week curates 2 two-page spreads for World and National news. To help readers, they place the news summaries on maps to show where events took place.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Offer your audience a curated summary of recent events. Scott Monty of The Full Monty and Christopher Penn of Almost Timely News provide great examples of how to curate relevant news.
The Full Monty

Scott Monty captures attention for his curated news with a painting

Chris Penn

Example of weekly content curation – Christopher Penn


6. Create regular features or columns

Magazine issues includes columns written by dedicated authors and focused on a specific topics.

In addition to providing content, columns help editors by:

  • Supplying content with a consistent structure. This reduces creation work.
  • Building reader anticipation. Your audience looks for specific contributors.

For example My ClickZ “Actionable Analysis column focused on the measurability of digital marketing and appeared every other week.

By contrast, The Week has several regular features. For example, they ask an author to select their favorite 5 books and explain why they’re important to read.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Add one or more regular columns to your content offering. This expands your content offering with easy-to-create content and/or additional voices.

For example, Douglas Burdett of Artillery Marketing turned his “Marketing Book Podcast” into a “Top Business Must-Listen” in a crowded field of podcast interviews.  Each week, Burdett interviews authors similar to our text version of author interviews. BTW, the interview provides a useful and easy content structure.

The Marketing Book Podcast

Alternatively, Jay Baer introduced a regular video show YouTube supporting his book, Talk Triggers. Note the consistent branding and spotlight on Baer’s image?

The Talk Triggers Show


7. Offer editorial opinion

While newspapers dedicate an entire section to the publication’s collective editorial opinion, magazines often use a “Letter From The Editor” format for opinion content.

Referencing historical figures, The Economist’s opinion columns include Bagehot, Bartley and Schumpeter. Unlike other magazines, the authors remain anonymous.

Magazine column

Additionally, print newspapers and magazines also include letters from their readers.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Add an opinion column to your weekly content offering, either yours or other people’s. For example, Spin Sucks uses one of their Slack Channels to collect input from their community. Further, Spin Sucks links to the contributors that they reference.

Here’s an example curated by editor, Whitney Danhauer. (Note how Spin Sucks consistently uses a tailored hashtag.)

spin sucks


8. Provide well researched, long text content

Despite reports of the demise of the human brain’s ability to focus and pay attention, The New Yorker is known for its long investigative articles that span over 5 pages.

3 Types of Audience Attention

3 Types of Audience Attention Defined

Contrary to current digital content trends where images are inserted every 300 to 400 words, long New Yorker articles often lack images beyond the introductory illustration or photograph. Further, cartoons and advertising don’t interrupt the narrative flow.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Offer long form text content. Satisfy text-first readers. But, ensure that your long-form articles provide a quality reading experience and are well researched. Where possible allow readers to save your long digital content to Pocket or other option.
  • Offer non-text content consumers a choice of other content formats such as video and audio.  For example, The Economist has added audio content called, “The Economist Radio.”


9. Spotlight authors

In addition to by-lines, The New Yorker highlights its contributors. Each author blurb includes a page reference to help readers find specific writers.

By contrast, The Economist lacks bylines including for its columns like Schumpeter.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Acknowledge contributors. In addition to making writers feel good, show their influence when you distribute your content.


10. Support business revenue and profit goals

The New Yorker, The Economist and The Week all carry advertising but, unlike other publications, these marketing messages don’t interfere with the content.

In addition to subscriptions and advertising, The Economist and The New Yorker host live events targeted at related topics.

Actionable Magazine Lessons For Content Marketers:

  • Diversify your revenue streams. Avoid depending on only one product or service. This enables you to cross sell your buyers.


Print Magazine Marketing Lessons For Content Marketers Conclusion

While print magazine consumption and revenue may be declining, don’t let that deter you from learning these content experts.

Although today’s content hungary majority turns to their smartphones first for information, they still seek to have their existing content needs met. And magazines have years of experience meeting these information needs, so learn from them.

And you’re well positioned to help them by offering content tailored to their specific needs and wants.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies.
You can find Heidi on FacebookTwitter and Google+.


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Other Photos: ©2019 Heidi Cohen – Permission to use with link to this article.



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