Viewfinder The Line Between Editorial and Advertising

Between Editorial and Advertising

Magazine publishing is an abstract business. The subscription price is less than the print and delivery costs. Profits from single-copy sales are offset by the fact that most of the magazines in newsstands and bookstores go unsold and are shredded. These facts require publishers to rely upon an income stream from advertisers. Since magazine publishers have a business relationship with the advertisers, the subscribers often suspect their objectivity in reporting.

Magazine publishers must have a reputation for impartiality, or readership diminishes, along with trust in the reporter’s sincerity. This requirement for impartiality hits the special interest publisher hardest. TV and radio rarely provide editorial coverage of advertisers’ products and services. Newspapers may write about advertisers’ products and services, but not in every issue. Likewise for general interest magazines (Time, Newsweek, etc.).

Every issue of a special interest magazine includes extensive editorial coverage of the advertisers’ products. Some advertisers believe that, because they pay advertising fees, they should get favorable stories. Some readers suspect that publishers conspire with advertisers to deceive readers into purchasing products. It doesn’t take much creativity to imagine what it’s like to be a special interest magazine publisher. At all times, some advertisers are boycotting because they can’t influence editorial, and some readers believe the advertisers are influencing the magazine’s coverage.

In special interest magazine publishing, there is tension between the advertiser and ad salesperson, because the advertiser wants more influence. This cascades into tension between the salesperson and the editorial team. Sometimes there is tension between the advertiser and the writers. If the advertisers succeed in applying undue influence over the editorial coverage of their products, then the subscription marketing team grows concerned about the magazine’s reputation. Advertising is dependent upon healthy subscriptions and readership. If the number of subscribers decreases, then there is tension between the subscription marketing team and the ad sales team. When subscriptions go down, so do the advertisers. All of this tension can be unnerving, but it is healthy tension and it is usually invisible.

The situation is similar to a building. Although hidden, buildings experience compression, tension and slight bending. When everything is in balance, the building stands and does its job. There are occasional catastrophic failures, but they are rare because of the healthy tension inherent in structural engineering. This holds true for special interest magazine publishers. Videomaker stands and does its job by distributing loads and gracefully balancing the needs of readers and advertisers.

Matthew York isVideomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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