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Before I begin, I have to declare my bias! I was a magazine editor for nearly 10 years and I still work at the same publishing company in a different role. I’m really passionate about magazines and genuinely believe that they are a valuable tool for growing a business, particularly in so-called “niche” markets such as craft, which is where my background is.

Adverts in niche magazines can of course work really well - 75% of our readers say they've been influenced to buy a product after seeing it in a magazine ad - but they're only part of the picture.

If you have any questions, please leave them down in the comments below and I’ll try to answer as many as I can!

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Why work with magazine publishers at all?

We’ve been hearing it for years – “Print is dead!” But if that’s true, why do supermarkets still put the magazines in prime position right by the entrance to the store? The truth is, whilst some magazines such as weekly gossip titles have seen a sharp decline in sales, there’s still a** real appetite for specialist magazine**s from the British public. Supermarkets also know that magazine-buyers are likely to spend more than average in store, so they want to lure them in.

More importantly though, magazines are trusted by their readers. According to Ofcom, magazines are the most-trusted news source, seen as an authority on their subject.

“When scored by their users on measures of quality, accuracy, trustworthiness and impartiality (among other things) magazines perform better than any other news platform.”

Source: Ofcom

This is backed up by our own research. When we ask our customer database what influences them to buy a craft product, magazine features and adverts always come up trumps.

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Choosing the right magazines

So, how do you find out which magazines to work with? Ask your customers! You could pop a poll on your social media or send out a survey to your email list. Ask them which magazines they read and what they think of each title. That said, just because there aren’t many of your current customers who read a certain magazine, you shouldn’t rule that title out. They might be able to help you expand your audience to a new demographic.

You can also reach out to the magazines themselves – ask them to tell you about their readership, including age, average spend and their favourite brands. This should give you a feel for the kind of person who buys the magazine.

Focus on a target

Once you’ve chosen a magazine you want to get coverage in, pick up a copy and take a look through it. Every time you see a business similar to yours mentioned, make a note of it. This could be news pages, product reviews, inspirational features or adverts. Once you know where you want to see your business, you can make it happen. You can see on the page what the editor will need and if you can make an editor’s life easy, they’re much more likely to want to work with you!

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Have a realistic goal

I would say that whether you’re a bricks-and-mortar shop or an online store, finding new customers is one of the most important things for your business. The best job a magazine can do for you is introduce new people to you and your products.

Think about your customer’s journey. Where will they first hear about you? What will make them think positively about you? How will they find out where to buy your products? What will encourage them to make their first purchase? What will make them come back again and again? These are all things that a magazine can help with. Think about what a new customer is worth to you and how much work or money you want to invest in finding them. Balance this with how much time and money you are willing to spend to find them.

My general advice is not to focus too much on immediate conversions. Of course, you will often get some immediate purchases, but that’s not the be-all and end-all. In my experience, it’s best to use magazines to** build the awareness and reputation of your brand,** and encourage readers to follow you online and sign up to your newsletter. From there, you can build a relationship with them and encourage them to buy later on.

So, how can I get coverage in magazines for free?

Press releases

This is the easiest way to get coverage. Magazines are always looking for news stories from their community. When I was working on Knit Now, it was very rare that we received a relevant press release and didn’t publish the story. If it was interesting, we always found space for it. So, if you have a new product or you’re working on an exciting project, don’t forget to tell the magazines about it!

You can usually find the email address for the editor in the magazine itself or on their website. My favourite format for a press release is an email briefly explaining the story and where it could be featured in my magazine, an attached word document with more information and a link to download hi-res images from somewhere like Dropbox. You should also note if there’s anyone you can put forward for an interview.

The best way to bump your press release up the list is to provide really excellent, inspirational photography. Magazines are a visual medium and editors care about their pages looking beautiful. Don’t just send plain product shots – if you have lovely lifestyle shots, include those too.

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Image banks

Editorial teams are often very busy and working to tight deadlines, so my absolute top tip is to set up a simple image bank for press. This can be as basic as a free Dropbox account with folders for each product you sell. Send this link to any editors you work with so that they have instant access to your images.

Quite often when working on a magazine, something will have to be changed at the last minute, or I might want to fill some empty space on a page with a quick shopping sidebar. For anything like this, I’ll start by looking at the image banks from brands I work with because that will help me meet my deadlines.

Competitions

Most magazines are keen to run competitions and giveaways for their readers, and usually the prizes are donated by companies to promote their products. For a big giveaway, you might expect to get a full page of coverage for your product. For many, this is a fair exchange, depending on the cost of the product.

It’s totally fine to ask for more though! Some magazines may also be happy to share the giveaway online, encouraging more people to follow your brand on social media. Check the legislation where you are, but you might be able to add extra requirements for the giveaway, such as asking entrants to follow you on Instagram.

Another thing you can ask about is data sharing. This is governed by strict regulations, such as GDPR and magazines should know and follow the rules. However, it is often possible for the magazines to add an opt-in box for people entering the giveaway to choose to be added to your mailing list. The chances are, if they’re interested in winning your product they’ll be interested in buying from you too, so these email addresses should lead to sales for you in the future.

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Content

Editors are often working with a strict freelance budget for commissioning features and projects, and they want to make their magazine as fantastic as they possibly can within that budget. If you can offer good-quality content to the editor for free, they’re likely to be interested because it’ll help their budget go further.

I’m absolutely not advocating for giving your work away for free just “for exposure”. That exposure has to translate into sales for you somehow, or you need to get some other benefit from it – or ideally both.

For many businesses, just showing the product being used will generate enough sales to justify the effort they put in to creating the project. For example, a stamping company might produce some tutorials using their new Christmas stamps for a stamping magazine, which means thousands of people will see them and want to buy them. The reader gets some great inspiration, the brand gets sales and everyone is happy.

Or, let’s say you produce your own yarn. You’re a great designer and you’ve created a shawl pattern to showcase the yarn, but you aren’t confident with photography. You’d might have to spend £40 to get the pattern tech edited and another £100 to commission a photographer to take pictures. Alternatively, you might be a great photographer and tech editor but you want to pay someone else to create a design. Either way, this is quite a bit of cost you’ll have to recoup either from yarn or pattern sales.

Instead, you could offer the pattern to a magazine and in exchange they will pay to have the pattern tech edited and photographed. Once it’s been in the magazine, they will send you the final version of the pattern and the photos. You will** retain the rights** to your pattern so you can still sell it and make further income from it, and the pattern will appear in a magazine so thousands of new knitters will see your yarn.

When discussing this with the editor, make sure they clearly signpost to your product and that they don’t offer any substitution suggestions. You can also think about asking for a “call to action” box to be added to the page – such as prompting readers to follow you on Instagram or sign up to your newsletter, or a discount code to encourage readers to buy your product.

The caveat here is that the content has to be suitable for the magazine. The editor has the final say on this and it’s possible that the content you want to provide just isn’t the right fit at the time you want to offer it. Perhaps the editor has already commissioned a similar feature, or they don’t think it’s quite right for the audience. For this reason, I would suggest only producing content that you want to produce for yourself anyway. If it gets featured in a magazine, then that will just be a nice bonus!

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Offers & discounts

Just like giveaways, editors are always keen to give nice little extras to their readers such as special offers and discounts. Most of the people I’ve spoken to say that when these offers work, they more than pay for themselves. When these offers are strong, they often end up on the cover or outer packaging of the magazine, which can get your brand some great visibility.

For example, let’s say you’re a fabric shop. You set up an offer with a magazine whereby readers can claim a free pair of scissors worth £20 when they buy 10m of fabric from you. The magazine gives you a full page of coverage for this offer, which helps raise the profile of your shop. The wholesale cost of the scissors to you is £10 and you make an average profit of £5 per metre of fabric you sell. For each customer, it has cost you £10 to generate £50 of profit. You’ve seen a nice little boost in sales, the offer has paid for itself and the readers are happy because they would be buying fabric anyway and now they’ve got a lovely new pair of scissors as well!

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A note on print timelines

If you want to get the word out about a big event or anything else time-specific, make sure you let the magazine know well in advance. At Practical Publishing, our magazines go to print about 3-4 weeks before they go on sale, and we start planning the content up to a year in advance. News pages are the last thing we work on, so for those we aim to have all of the copy in 2 weeks before the print deadline. However, if you want to get a project into the magazine, these might be planned in up to 6 months ahead.

If I can get this for free, when should I pay for print ads?

Free coverage can only take you so far – and as you’ve seen, it sometimes takes a fair bit of effort on your part. If you want maximum impact for minimum effort, it’s definitely worth talking about an advertising campaign, but as ever – you should have a clear idea of your aims before you go in, and make sure your ads are part of a holistic marketing strategy.

Benefits of print ads

We regularly survey our audience and one of the questions we ask is what influences them to buy a product. Surprisingly, advertising still ranks highly – second only to a feature in a magazine. Put simply – print adverts, when they’re done right, work.

You might find it useful to put unique discount codes or specific calls to action on your adverts so that you can track conversions. However, this will only capture a percentage of the impact of your advert. Clients have told me time and time again when they’ve advertised a specific product in a particular colourway in a magazine, they’ll see a spike in sales of that colourway but not all customers will use the discount code.

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Editorial coverage

If you choose to part with your hard-earned cash, it should be part of a holistic campaign, covering display ads as well as guaranteed editorial coverage. Don’t assume that just showing pictures of your products and a link to your website on an advert page will work on its own. On Knit Now, I worked closely with our sales team to make sure all of our advertising clients were looked after, and their campaign worked hard to achieve the business goals.

For example – one client I worked with was keen to show the story behind their yarns. As part of their campaign, I included editorial features showing behind the scenes in their mill and interviews with some of their key designers. Another client was focussed on building their email list, so we did lots of giveaways with the option to share data as explained above.

Longevity

In my opinion, one of the best things about a magazine is that it lasts forever. In contrast with ephemeral digital content, many readers keep magazines for a long time. This is particularly true of craft magazines. In a survey of our knitting and crochet magazine readers, we found that they kept their magazines on average for at least 3 years – with many readers saying they keep them forever!

Supporting the community

Magazines are an integral part of many communities, particularly in niche interests. Just like our favourite high-street stores, they are part of a network where every part supports each other. When you support magazines, whether buying them on the newsstand or paying for advertising, you’re helping them to keep going even if times get tough. This in turn means they can pay their network of talented freelance designers and writers whose work is the backbone of many creative communities.

Magazines are also a great advert for whatever niche they serve - I know many of my readers' interest in knitting was sparked by seeing an inspiring magazine on the shelf, picking it up and falling in love with the world they found inside. Magazines are often the only presence your industry has in a supermarket - whether that's fly fishing, horseriding or cardmaking. It's important to keep them there as long as we can!

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Which publisher?

I don't like to say this, but not every magazine is created equal. I really recommend speaking to your peers about their experience working with different magazines, especially if you're considering parting with any cash. I have heard on the grapevine of some publishers charging for things that I really think they shouldn't, or not being flexible with campaigns when the client's priorities change. I can vouch for our team here at Practical Publishing (especially Amanda, she's my fave - if you speak to her, give her my love!) but just as a word to the wise, please just ask around before signing any contracts.

Finally…what about digital?

Many magazines also have an online presence. That’s probably a subject for a whole new blog post, and I’ve already written quite a lot here so I’ll save most of that for another time, but I do want to give you some quick pointers.

Many magazines have impressive-looking follower numbers and most of the time that is genuine, but please beware. Some businesses make the mistake of paying for fake followers so pay attention to the amount of engagement (likes, comments and shares) on each post, not just the number of followers. Magazines also have their own email lists. You won’t be able to see the exact number of subscribers but most have tens of thousands.

I really recommend talking to the magazine’s sales reps to find out what digital packages they offer, but follow the same principles above – make sure you have a measurable goal and any activity should be part of a holistic marketing campaign.

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