Advertising. It is a standard part of magazine making that only a few can go without. But a trend is emerging and doing away with traditional adverts. A viable alternative that is cropping up in more and more magazines: the “sponsorships” (or “partnerships”) model that produces a more “native” and enjoyable experience for both readers (and the companies involved). I took a look — and heard from — Offscreen, Intern and Future Perfect on their different take on advertising.
The idea behind most mag’s sponsorships is not just to sell space to companies who want to promote themselves to the magazine’s readership, but to join forces with the sponsors, make them a part of the magazine. With this model, there are no regular ads; in their place are simple pages, usually in a distinct “sponsor” section of the magazine (sometimes even referred to as “editorial”), containing just logos and text and sometimes a photo.
The first time I saw sponsorships in a magazine was with Offscreen, way back in early 2012. The method that editor Kai Brach implemented has been adapted as a valid and valuable way of acquiring funding for an issue, with a handful of other publications involving and presenting companies in the same way (both Intern and Future Perfect mention Offscreen when talking about their sponsorships/partnerships model and you’ll see similarities in the photos below). This method creates a small community of companies around the publication and makes a far more enjoyable experience for readers.
“Not a week goes by without me receiving an email about the way I present sponsors in the magazine.”
— Kai Brach, Editor of Offscreen
Acquiring any sort of funding for a project is hard. Nicholas Underhill, editor of Future Perfect, found that their partnerships proposition went down better with companies than regular advertising. The key is making companies feel part of your product.
“It turns out that trying to secure traditional advertisements for an unproven, new publication is hard! … We contacted companies and brands that we thought aligned with FP and our projected readership, but they weren’t really interested. … Not only did a ‘partnership’ sound more palatable when presenting to companies, I thought it looked better than random ads too.” — Nicholas Underhill, Editor of Future Perfect
Instead of merely showing an ad, a sponsorship involves companies on an elevated level. By design, companies involved will probably be more relevant than with ads. As Alec Dudson, editor of Intern, pointed out to me, “there’s no point in an advert if it doesn’t work in the context of the magazine.” Sponsors aren’t just there to sell something, they are there because they align with the publication’s content and want to be a part of it and a member in its community.
There is more meaning behind the way sponsorships are presented and because of this, they tend to be more effective. As you’ve seen with the photos above, sponsor slots are designed consistently, without vying for reader attention. The publication takes charge of the design, taking time to present the logos and information in a calm, beautiful manner, and as a reader, you notice the difference instantly.
“The beauty of taking the sponsorship approach, was that you could make them flow beautifully with your art direction and make them look as carefully considered and curated as all of the content. They sit really easily in the issues and as such, seem far more sincere.” — Alec Dudson, Editor of Intern Tweet quote
As a reader, it’s nice to see publications making the effort to select and persuade relevant companies to get involved, rather than just going out to find a company with money and a ready-made ad. Presenting sponsors in a more paired back and intimate manner also actually increases reader engagement in some examples. I can’t be the only one who looks at sponsor pages more than regular ads. As Kai has learned from almost three years using this model,
“You can make something less intrusive and less ostentatious, and people actually pay more attention because of it.”
— Kai Brach, Editor of Offscreen
I can only see the sponsorships/partnerships model growing and becoming more of a standard for smaller magazines to generate support for their next issues. Traditional advertising just doesn’t come close to offering the same experience, and it seems sponsors, publishers and readers are all in agreement.
Originally published at journal.danrowden.com.