I’m going through my mail, I have a nice pile of new magazines, wrapped in poly bags (being in the industry, I get quite a few).  I’m noticing a trend with more and more trade magazines selling ads on the front cover. Is it a good idea? Should we try it? Definitely not!

The most popular spots for advertisers in a magazine are always the premium spots, the scarce or exclusive positions like the outside back cover. I know some trade magazines are struggling with revenue so I can see the temptation to create another exclusive option and sell the cover. While it might provide some additional revenue in the short-term, I’m concerned in the long term it will very much go the other way.

You only get one chance to make a first impression, and a magazine cover is our first impression. We put a lot of time and effort into choosing the right image and captions to maximise this and ensure the magazine gets read.

There’s a lot of information and a lot of magazines out there so in order to cut through we need to grab people’s attention quickly with our cover and entice them into reading the magazine. If this impression doesn’t impress, a reader will quickly move on. What hope could they have of finding quality content inside if the cover looks like a catalogue?

So it isn’t about being holier-than-thou about advertising. Any magazine that includes advertising must have as one of their goals to maximise the results for these advertisers. But this is best achieved by delivering the best and most engaged audience.

According to Sid Holt, CEO of the American Society of Magazine Editors, “The short-term gain

[of ads on the front page] is outweighed by the long-term damage to the editorial integrity of the publication, which in turn devalues the magazine as a vehicle for advertising,”

So while there’s plenty of benefit to the one company who has taken the front cover position, the publisher has punished every other advertiser in the publication and reduced the number of people who will ever see their ad.

Don’t be tempted by the short term gains, as it won’t pay in the long run.

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