Free magazines don’t work for advertisers but can be highly effective for B2B content

Despite the announcement that Sport Magazine is to fold, free print magazines remain a viable, valuable option for B2B content marketers

Sport Magazine is the latest free magazine to bite the dust. The announcement of its closure follows the decisions at the end of 2016 to close print operations for Coach and Raconteur.

This blog examined the reasons behind those failures and suggested ways for marketers to add to the perception of quality to the free content they produce.

The closure of Sport by Murdoch’s News UK is another nail in the coffin of free print titles that are given away at travel hubs and universities. Falling advertising revenue meant the business case no longer worked.

But don’t confuse an inability to make money from a product with a lack of demand. The circulation of Sport had been rising to more than 300,000, and Shortlist magazine is given away to more than 500,000 readers. There is clearly a demand – just not the right way to monetise it. 

B2B content is different

The case for free B2B printed content is not shaken by the failure of Sport and other freesheets. In fact, their failure helps establish magazines as a premium product as familiarity can breed a certain degree of contempt.

And remember that advertising can successfully fund B2B content marketing magazines, either in part or in whole. There are some publishers who will fill pages with any ad they can take money for, but this short-term approach is always to the magazine’s detriment and devalues the editorial content. Done well however, advertising can add to the perception of quality and serve a useful purpose for readers.

Magazines are incapable of providing the insights into customer behaviour that are made possible by digital content. They are yesterday’s technology. No wonder that many modern marketers wouldn’t even think about going down the print route. And that is their strength.

The case for print

In a world of information overload, digital bombardment, fake news and untrustworthy, low-quality information, there is a place for print. It will only ever form part of the suite of marketing tools, and it must be done very well indeed.

And few people will pay for it when there is so much other information flying around. They want quality but they don’t want to pay. Give them what they want and win their loyalty and trust.

For the best brands that want to build the strongest partnerships and establish themselves as trustworthy and expert, there are few more powerful marketing tools than a top-of-the-league magazine. The fact that they are rare simply makes them more valuable.

(Image: Sport Magazine covers)

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