Print Magazines Have a Pay Day When There’re Many Advertisers. Online Magazines, Only When They Have More Traffic

Just let that sink in for a minute.

Therein lies the fundamental difference between print and digital.

Every fall season, (fashion) glossies around the world print their extra-thick editions, as advertisers stack their budgets for the commencement of the post-summer year-end shopping season; from autumn/winter collections, to post-Thanksgiving sales, to Christmas gifting.


You hear tales of a quantum leap in advertising dollars made from a single monthly edition. September issues, as some of us are led to believe, are like the “Black Fridays” in the print magazine business. In fact, there are urban legends (more likely the truth) circulated here in Singapore about publishers banking six-figures from that one month’s run.

But you need to ask yourself, do these print magazines see a multi-fold increase in circulation for this same time period, commensurate with the multi-fold increase in ad pages? Clearly not.

And if not, what are advertisers buying into? Insertion into a thicker wad of paper, with the self-assurance that every page that is turned is given the same amount of attention?

Some people tune in to Super Bowl to watch the half-time commercials. I’ve never heard of anyone buying a magazine for the ads.

Of course, it shouldn’t surprise you that (most) print publishers will choose to get audited for that particular month. FYI: In the print industry, magazines need only be audited for one month’s run, in order to say they’re “audited,” if at all. And by audit, it means some third party verifying that you actually print x number of copies that month. So for appearance or auditing reasons, you’ll see more of these thick copies printed in September.

Did you know if one copy of a magazine is (officially provided) on a flight, every passenger on that flight is counted as readership. No? You’re welcome, there’s a fun fact to talk about on your next date.

There’ll be copies in huge stacks in bookstores, inserted into corporate goodie bags for any good reason, sent to restaurants, hotels, cafés (preferably in the same building as the client), to the clinics of doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists and most popularly, gynaecologists.

Digital platforms can’t do what print magazines do: make much more money, with more or less the same number of readership.

Websites whether they are (ugh, I know) or, needs to have more of the same quality traffic (e.g., more people who like football reading about football seeing football ads) in order to make more revenues. Even then, they never quite have the same big “pay day” that print magazines have.

Digital publishers are also “audited” by Google Analytics and sometimes, client-designated ad serving platforms all year round, each month, all day, every hour and second, down to the very click by who, where and when. That’s the detail we have to be accountable for.

Surely, at some point in time, advertisers need to think about just what they are buying into when they all jump onto the fall season bandwagon of print advertising.

Do you think your ad on page 246 will be seen amongst the other 300 ad pages of a 388-page magazine?

Or maybe you’re just happy you got a 30-word editorial mention under Features on page 42. Now, that’s something to write home to head office in Paris about.