The Potential of Digital Advertising in Magazines


Let’s say you have a magazine for your customers on your plane/train/cruise ship, and you spend time sourcing great content and advertising to help them plan their journeys and enjoy their travel more. You have an eager, focused audience with a lot in common. Wouldn’t your readers appreciate the chance to purchase tickets for the tours you’ve recommended or book the restaurant your magazine raves about? Wouldn’t your advertisers appreciate the chance to reach out even more? 

Most print magazine advertisements can, at best, list a website or phone number. 

Most digital advertisements bounce in readers’ faces, annoying them until they navigate away. 

We can do better by not only respecting readers but providing something of more value to both them and the advertiser. 


(Image credit)

Commerce, Interrupted

A few months ago, I was on a flight reading the complimentary airline magazine as I always do. Airline magazines often have surprisingly great writers (Paul Ford for example) and many have interesting tips for wherever you’re going. 

In this case, it was not anything in the magazine about Reykjavík, my final destination, that caught my eye. This time it was a piece of jewelry. That might sound normal for many people, but I’m honestly not much of a jewelry person. Advertisements from Tiffany’s and other jewelry brands usually bore me, and I flip right by them.

This one was different. A necklace like nothing I had ever seen before. I was fascinated by it. I flipped back to that page in the magazine several times to stare before the flight ended. I looked through the duty free catalogue to see if perhaps by some amazing coincidence it would be there but no dice. I snapped a picture of the ad with my phone just to save the company’s name. I was sold. 

When I got home I spent some time trying to search for the piece in order to find it online & buy it. Shockingly, this jeweler who put together such a stunning magazine advertisement had basically zero web presence. How can this be?! It’s 2013! After much searching, I found a company who sold a small set of this jeweler’s collection, but not the piece I loved.

Eventually I exhausted my energy after finding there were no distributors in Ireland for this jeweler – only in Denmark. And while there were a handful of online retailers selling their collection, none had the piece I liked. It was late. I was pretty sure I could call their store in Copenhagen the next day and ask about pricing, shipping, etc., but I did not.

Imagine how different this story be with a digital magazine? 

If Scanorama, the Scandinavian Airlines magazine, had been a digital magazine, that advertisement becomes so much more powerful. I could have clicked and bought the necklace and had it waiting for me when I got back from my holiday. In this case I would have. Whatever about the other products usually in Sky Mall, this was different and special and spoke to me. Now that sale will probably never happen as I unfortunately have no plans to go to Denmark any time soon. Even if they had had a website I could buy things from, it would have been a more likely sale.

Apply this thinking to other potential commerce

When we provide crappy, ugly advertisements in our publications, no one wins. The reader is now annoyed and the advertiser gets basically zero traction. Why let your advertisers chase away your readers? You probably need them both. 

When we put thought into our advertising, we can create beautiful and more effective advertising. I bring this up with our customers at Woopie to convince them not to put banner ads in their publications. At first, they often think their hands are tied. Then I show them ads like this lovely interactive domain search and this fun developer ad, and their eyes light up as they understand the potential. 


(image courtesy of

It’s About Respect

Is it time-consuming to be thoughtful about your advertising? Yes. 
Is it easier to just sign up for ad services and not care if the ads are good and just forget about it? Well, yes. 

Ultimately you have to do what makes sense for your publication. If your publication is fully reader-funded through subscriptions or memberships, well done. If, like many publications, you rely on advertising to help fund your magazine either partially or fully, why not see what happens when you raise your expectations?

Curating advertisements creates a better, more respectful relationship with both readers and advertisers. Installing set-and-forget advertising never makes sense unless you’re planning a short-lived magazine. If your publication’s ads are relevant and interesting for your audience, you’ll not only improve effectiveness but eventually will be able to charge more for your advertising slots. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *