The Business of Blogging – Backstage

I picked up the most recent edition of Brides Magazine at our local CVS this week. Clearly, I have issues. I’m calling it research.

I was really surprised to find that of the 394 pages, a whopping 280 pages are advertisements. And although I knew that Brides magazine was ad heavy, that’s actually 71% of the magazine being straight ads. That is huge. The large majority were fashion related, specifically wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses (this was the “Dress Issue”). Jewelry and travel ads were next and then there was the occasional invitation and cosmetic ads.

So what does this tell me? For one, the magazine recognizes that fashion related ads resonate the most with brides. And that all other advertisements are perhaps less interesting to the consumer. There is the assumption that brides purchase magazines most frequently during the beginning of their engagement so they are targeting the ads to the first decision that every bride wants to make. The dress.

It also tells me that this particular publication doesn’t feel like their sales will falter if they jam pack the magazine with these ads. So, the question that I am asking myself is, do the print magazines NEED this many ads to turn a profit? Is their overhead that high? Does this quantity and distribution of ads resonate with brides?

And more importantly for us, can wedding blogs learn anything from this?

21 Responses to “Wedding Magazine Ads”

  1. Serena says:

    One of the worst things about reading your favourite glossy and flicking through pages of gorgeous images is when you flick over to an ad that is clearly NOT fitting of the style and calibre of weddings featured in the magazine. That’s what SMP does so well, the ads of the vendors that you feature seem to match the theme and quality of work SMP is reknown for. Whilst they may reflect different price points they all uphold the style and creative flair that is SMP. Therefore we as readers feel safe that SMP not only brings us quality content but also only features quality vendor ads.

  2. Serena says:

    Further to my last post Abby, when you were starting out how did you compete with magazines?
    Images especially are key to SMP…before you had forged links with vendors etc, how did you source all of the beautiful images without impeding on copyright? Did you take images yourself, borrow from other blogs? What is the protocol on this? Can you borrow images for a blog if you have a link from the source? Would be great to find out more at Backstage on this topic.

  3. Tait says:

    Serena, that’s a great question. I’ll let Abby handle that one. However, I do remember that when she started out she had much less vendor content. She’d wrote a bit more about dresses and invitations.

    Take a look at some of the old SMP archives. Here’s a link to all posts from 2007 (sorted by reverse chronological order)

    http://www.stylemepretty.com/2007/

  4. When I was planning our wedding, my then-fiance-now-husband gave me a vintage copy of Brides from 1965, which he found on eBay. It’s a fascinating read. What I found particularly interesting is that around 100 pages of a 250 page magazine are devoted to setting up home – recipes, china, furniture, room designs and so on. I’d say there are 100 pages of ‘general wedding’, and around 50 pages of adverts – of which at least half are again devoted to china, silver, furniture rather than wedding fashion and accessories.

    Personally I’d say the lesson for blogs is to continue incorporating advertising in an intelligent, thoughtful way. 71% of adverts in a print magazine is insanely high – and is also the reason why I have stopped buying mags like Vogue and Elle.

  5. Asiya says:

    Hi Serena, I used to wonder the EXACT same thing. Would love to hear more on this topic too.

    Writing about South Asian Bridal trends, I too pick up a wedding magazine or two and call it “research.” hahaha…it is kind of sad. For this subset in particular, the magazines act as a second channel from the trade shows hosted by the magazines. The ads are predominantly fashion-oriented, as abby points out, but they are designed to look more like magazine fashion spreads or editorials. Still, they lack individuality and realism.

    I am still trying to figure out why girls buy them, and why I bought them, since they were so out of touch with what I could afford and what I wanted to look like. I’m assuming they still are for most brides.

    One thing though, the full page format provides an incredibly huge canvas, and I’ve been giving considerable thought as to how blogs are going to offer the same ad space to their vendors without it intruding on the content, which is what sets blogs apart to begin with.

    I personally feel that they do rely exclusively on ad revenue for profit, since no one subscribes to wedding magazines for more than one or two years. I don’t know that their overheads are that high, since the cost of publishing has gotten so cheap (enter china).

  6. Danielle says:

    This is such a great thread. As someone who works within the wedding industry and also a recent bride myself, I have purchased wedding magazines for years now. And, I have to say that my subscriptions have changed drastically over the last year or so. I, as a consumer, am turned off by the heavy ads. It makes me feel as though they are putting their advertisers needs above that of their readers. If I have to dig to find the meat and potato content then its not worth my time or money. And, perhaps this could be a lesson to advertisers- quality over quantity on who you market to. Another thing that has turned me off of some subscriptions is when they simply re-print ideas, features, and weddings that I have seen featured on numerous blogs a month ago. Perhaps this competition from the blogs is causing them to have to rely more heavily on advertisements and not the content?? There are some magazines that do a great hybrid and produce a great product (Martha, Wedding Style Guide from Australia, Cosmo Bride from UK)…. I think that bloggers can learn from this that thoughtful advertising that supports the brand of the magazine really resonate with readers and will in turn create a higher return for the advertisers— simply having a ton of advertisers with little relevance will turn off the readership. Perhaps this will even out in terms of profitability? I think SMP does a great job of balancing the priorities and loyalty to both their advertisers and their readers. The integration of advertising indirectly into posts themselves which in turn create content is leaps and bounds above what print magazines do.

  7. Tait Larson says:

    Wow. Such great coments.

    Alice. I would love to see that magazine. I want to head over to ebay right now and buy some vintage wedding mags.

    Asiya, I think the large pages are something that blogs will have some trouble replicating. Large images can be expensive or slow to serve. Our hosting costs are way up b/c we want to serve images very quickly.

    I remember when we first moved to a 600px wilde main column. We had hired someone to redesign our site and they made a huge main column. At first we didn’t know what to do with it. Then we started putting in lots of large images. We think readers liked it. Many other wedding blogs followed us and changed their layouts. Funny.

    I think brides still buy wedding magazines b/c they do have great content. Martha Stewart Weddings does great stuff. they work their butts off and produce a good product.

    Danielle, I think you are right. It’s all about relevant ads. I think that Brides would tell us their ads are relevant. Obviously relevance is subjective.

  8. Abby Larson says:

    Hey guys! Sorry fo the delayed response. As for sourcing content when you are first starting, here is what I did…

    -Much of the time, I made my “own” content. Built inspiration boards and color palettes, product round ups, Q & A sessions and stationery features from friends (I was in the stationery biz when I started). Appropriate credits were given always.

    -When I started doing real weddings, I reached out to photographers, planners, designers and florists asking if they had anything unique that I could put up on my site as long as I credited them. I didn’t care so much about duplicating content at the time because I was just getting my feet wet.

    -We formed relationships with vendors really early on so they learned to trust my instinct with photographs and know that I would preserve the authenticity (no cropping, distorting, saving at low resolutions, etc) of the images.

    -I often offered to share the post before I actually pushed it live so that they could feel comfortable with their work. Usually, after I did that once, they were much happier to send me work.

    Hope this helps!! I never really intended to compete with magazines in the very early stages. It all happened kind of organically. As I wrote more and got a loyal following, I started to see a space for edited wedding content on the web. That is how the real weddings really evolved.

    General rule of thumb is to ask before taking an image. There is a fair use rule that says as long as you take an image down within 24 hours of posting (if asked to do so by the owner) you aren’t doing anything wrong. But if you are unsure, it’s ALWAYS best to as permission.

  9. Jacquelyn says:

    I’m so glad someone pointed out the ad increase in magazines! Perhaps this sounds naive, but before I got married I actually couldn’t for the life of me understand why my friends spent money on bridal magazines because the whole magazine was just ads + seemingly repetitive, recycled content. It wasn’t until AFTER I was married it dawned on me that brides-to-be were using the ads to “shop” dresses.
    Interestingly *now* I read them – for research as well! :)

    I wholeheartedly agree the number of ads is getting to be too much – I actually only just an hour ago put down a new magazine (non-wedding) because I was exhausted from trying to find the content in between the ads. To the recycling bin it goes. :(

  10. Melanie says:

    Abby, I think this is a great post!
    I wanted to point out that one of the reasons why there are fewer ads in magainzes that are not dress, travel or jewelery related is because the media giants have made it next to impossible for small or new businesses to purchase ad space in the content pages or the ad pages in the back section.
    I am always looking for new and cost effective ways to market my business and magazines sadly are just not one of them. A small 1/8 page ad in color will run over $2000 for a smaller more local magazine and waaaay beyond that for Martha Stewart, Brides etc. And that is a per issue cost. It’s a huge risk when there are multiple places that a business owner can put their marketing dollars these days.
    With the recent closure of so many magazines, I had been wondering whether small ads were worth it and whether brides even take the time to look at them. But I guess you never know unless you take the risk!

  11. Serena says:

    Thanks so much for your response Abby. It so amazing to see how your hard work and creativeness pays off with SMP. Love it!

  12. I’m so glad that the ad issue has been pointed out! As a wedding blogger, I often buy magazines in the name of “research”. Martha Stewart Weddings is by far and away the best in terms of content and actually has ads that seem to match the content, so I don’t find myself bothered by their ads and am more willing to go check out the advertisers. I used to feel the same way about Elegant Bride, which sadly folded last year.
    Your post is so timely for me, because just this past month I have sworn off buying anymore issues of Brides. I really resent the both the amount of ads as well as the quality of ads in Brides, and every time I do break down and buy it an issue on impulse, I am kicking myself as soon as I open the mag. I literally have seen some of the same tacky, dated dress ads since I started buying wedding magazines to plan my wedding in 2007! With a magazine jam packed full of these, I start to question the taste level of the magazine.

  13. Abby, I just love the topics you cover on Backstage! Because I publish a magazine myself, I can say that advertisers make magazines possible and during the economic climate we experienced in 2009.. no magazine is going to turn away an advertiser, even if they are performing well above their costs. Because printing costs are so high, they have to pull in a lot of advertisers, especially on a national level. I’ve never liked looking through national magazines whether they are wedding related or fashion related because they are heavily ad driven and I just don’t relate to them personally. What’s happened though, is because a small business owner cannot afford a reasonable ad in a national publication, it’s really streamlined the process for a small, regional publication like Atlanta Occasions because we can keep our costs low and our ad rates even lower and to fill the marketing needs of our local wedding vendors. We’re not trying to replace people like Martha Stewart or The Knot, we’re simply complimenting their placement in the market with local content and local vendors at a cost that doesn’t break the bank AND doesn’t consume our magazines with ads, ads, ads!

    I’d say though.. Conde Nast prints A LOT of bridal publications and when you cover that much territory, you need a lot of advertisers. So yes, their overhead probably is that high. So glad ours is not!

    Most of those ads are fashion related and are a huge help when picking out dresses. One of the first things I did as a new bride-to-be was head to Barnes and Noble and buy $50 worth of bridal magazines and cut out my dress choices. Oh the things us girls will do. ;-)

    Keep the good topics coming!

  14. Tanya Malott says:

    I am not sure if this is still true today, but my understanding is that Bride’s is Conde Nast’s MOST PROFITABLE magazine. Glamour or Self has the largest circulation, and Vogue is the jewel in the crown and the Holy Grail for designers, photographers, and related talent, but not a big money maker.

    But they just closed Modern Bride and Elegant Bride (among many other titles), which seemed redundant anyway.

    According to Wikipedia: “In late September 2009, Conde Nast was forced to cut 25% of their budget—citing decrease in advertising sales. The cut comes amid a failing print media industry that is struggling with a transition to a digital business model.”

    Unfortunately it is a reality of the publishing business that the purchase price does not support the product, and so advertising is a necessary component of the equation.

    Back when circulation meant something, magazines could charge a premium for advertising space. That has changed so much in a decade. Increasingly it is clicks, eyeballs and links that mean something (the new ‘circulation’), and yes, advertisers will follow the eyeballs in an effort to reach the biggest, or the most specific, target audience. The sheer amount of blogs out there means there are plenty of new advertising outlets for vendors, but the blogs that gather the largest audience will naturally be able to command the highest prices for their space. Style Me Pretty is probably a contender in that arena. But what do I know??

  15. jacin says:

    this is so true. this is the reason i stopped buying magazines and turned to the internet, and that’s when i found SMP. brides want to see inspiration, ideas, pretty things, motivational images… things to keep them excited and keep them moving. not advertisements for 45 wedding dress shops, etc.

    and as for the blogs – personally, i get several requests for sponsored posts and ads on my site and i won’t go near them unless they’re something i agree with, to maintain the integrity of my blog, and to keep my readers interested, not feeling like they’re leafing through those advertisements in the magazines!

    thank you for continuing to be a leader in this electronic world.

  16. Jakki Millo says:

    WOW! I’m so glad someone pointed this out. We held a bride focus group two years ago asking them how many ads they want to see in a magazine and they said NO MORE THAN 4 VENDORS IN EACH CATEGORY! That’s why when we publish our BRIDAL WORKBOOKS (www.bridalworkbook.com) we only allow 4 vendors in each category to put an ad in it…and ONLY vendors that we approve.

    I truly thank you for this information as it hits home exactly what brides have been saying FOREVER. Great job! Love your blog by the way. :)

  17. Anny says:

    woow, i think sometimes i should to use Brides Magazine to ads my wedding ideas site.. thanks for the info

  18. I would like to advertise in the Bridal magazine

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