Deciding Which Publications to Advertise in?

If your community is anything like the communities where we have businesses, you are not limited on the number of publication sales reps frequenting your business, leaving you voicemails, or filling up your inbox, all in hopes of getting you to spend your advertising dollars with them.  With so many options, how do you know which publication to pick?

Step 1: Look at Magazine Racks
If the publication you’re looking at advertising in is a community magazine found free around town, make it a point to look at the magazine racks when you frequent different establishments where magazines are placed.  Look first at the beginning of the month when all the magazines are freshly stocked, and then look again towards the middle of the month.  My hunch is you’ll start to see a pattern of which magazines are picked up most in your community, and which tend to linger around as “me-to” publications.

Step 2: Examine Cross-Over
Just because one publication has a higher readership rate than another publication doesn’t necessarily mean you should rule out advertising in the other publication.  Instead ask yourself, “By advertising in the second publication, will I reach a different part of my target market?”  If the answer is yes, then advertise in the second publication.

Step 3: Track Your ROI on Advertisements
In the town where our business is headquartered, we have 4 publications aimed at our target demographic.  Over the last five years I have found that advertising in the primer magazine for that particular area is more effective than advertising in any of the “me-too” publications.   I was only able to figure that out once I started implementing calls-to-action that allowed me to measure how many people the actual advertisement either brought into the clinic, called the clinic, or visited a unique landing page.

Step 4: Be Wary of “Special Publications”
Finally, understand the primary way a magazine or newspaper makes money is through advertisements.  When I worked in for a newspaper company, we put out a yearly Newcomer’s Guide in conjunction with the local Chamber of Commerce.  The publication was a great additional source of revenue for the newspaper, but its circulation didn’t extend much beyond the subscribers our advertising clients were already reaching in our regular publication.  The majority of the printed versions of the publication went out to our subscribers as a newspaper insert, while a small portion went to the local Chamber.  The Chamber did included the guide in their newcomer’s welcome packet for people who requested it, but each year, a large portion were also just thrown away as new issues were made.

Remember that story the next time a sales rep shows up asking you to advertise in their “Special Medical Issue”, their “City Guide”, their “Bridal Planner”, or even their “Back to School” issue.  Look around your community.  Do people actually use these special publications, or are they just another way for the publisher to bring in additional ad revenue?  There is no crystal-ball answer.  The answer varies by community and by publication.  Just make sure you’re making an educated decision before advertising in the publication.

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