A Simple Explanation on How Magazine Ads Work

For some in the magazine media industry, the future of an ad-supported online magazine model was pretty obvious.

“We all saw programmatic coming, and dropped our sense of quality and dignity,” said Rebekah Billingsley of John Brown Media. (Billingsley was quoted by Esther Kezia Harding in The Media Briefing, after speaking at the recent Digital Magazine Awards.

According to Harding, many at the conference agreed that the ad-funded digital content model is clearly broken.

Billingsley expanded on her thoughts, saying, “The whole premise of programmatic advertising is that it’s based on what you already know about what that consumer’s been searching for. The magic of magazines and advertising in them is that they show you what you didn’t know you wanted before. That’s where the value lies for advertisers.

“Magazine companies should have more confidence in the quality of their audience who have paid to pick up that issue, and need to communicate the value of that audience to advertisers,” she continued.

Most at the conference agreed that those magazines that will survive – in print, digital or a combination of the two – would do so because they offer something truly special. Colin Morrison, the founder of Flashes and Flames, believes this is why so many “generic” titles are flagging.

“People are more acute than ever about sniffing out cloned content. Magazine content needs increasingly to be valuable and exclusive: what do you have that no one else does?” he asked.

That’s the basic question publishers must ask as we look ahead to the next iteration of publishing. As publishers increasingly take an audience-first approach, they realize that consumer behavior can be shaped, but it can’t be forced. The continued slide of digital magazine titles demonstrates this all too well, as does the tsunami of ad blocking behavior.

Publishers must recognize and embrace the strengths of each type of media: Digital is great at brand awareness and expansion; while print is the powerhouse for building loyalty, engagement and sales. And that is where ads work best.