The decline of ad revenue is one of the magazine industry’s greatest concerns. It is also one of the reasons that the whole “print is dead” concept came about; if you are not making ad dollars, and subscriptions are harder to come by, how does a magazine make money?
The answer to the question lies in resolving a huge industry assumption. Traditional ad dollars, meaning the sale of ad spaces in a magazine, are lower. They are not gone. Further, internal ads are not the only ads available for a print magazine. Cover wraps, for example, are a great alternative, and also one of the few sources of print advertising revenue that has increased in recent years.
What is a cover wrap?
Cover wraps differ from traditional magazine ads, so not everyone knows what a cover wrap is. Think of it as a 4-page cover, completely composed of ads, that runs over the actual cover. For saddle-stitch magazines, this means a 4-page signature placed on top of the regular cover. For perfect bound magazines, the cover would be the cover and spine, and the “real” cover would be two inserts placed inside of the cover wrap.
In most cases, a single advertiser purchases the whole 4-page wrap, or two advertisers split the wrap. In the case of two buyers, one usually buys the front and cover, the other buys the back cover.
There is also the option for a front-only cover wrap, where an additional sheet, sometimes made from a different paper, is placed on top of the front cover. This is more complicated to produce, but still a viable option.
Why are cover wraps working when other ads are not?
The first thing to address is that print ads are working, just not as well as they used to. Cover wraps happen to be performing well at this time, more so than other print ads. With that said, why are they working when other print ads are not?
- Not every print for an issue needs a cover wrap. A publisher can sell a cover to a specific segment of the readership. Publishers can sell multiple cover wraps for the same print issue. If an advertiser wants to target a specific list within a readership, that is a premium opportunity. Sell it as such.
- A magazine’s value to the reader is not its ads, but its content. So rather than disrupting the reader, cover wraps immediately affiliate the ad with the content, and give the reader the chance to experience the ad prior to consuming the content. This also affiliates the ad with the brand more than an internal ad, because of the magazine branding and cover page elements, and almost hides the ad in the form of editorial content.
- They can be used for self-promotion. By directly affiliating with the content and brand of the magazine, the chance of engagement is much higher. Using cover wraps for subscription renewals, corporate updates, or to promote the release of new titles through existing titles are all functional options.
- Cover wraps can be an alternative to an internal ad, or an upsell opportunity. If an advertiser is already buying a cover ad, it is easier to sell a discounted internal ad to them as well. It may not be as large of margins, but selling two ads helps offset that.
- An advertiser can run a campaign across multiple publications at once using cover wraps. Advertisers want the most bang for their buck, so being able to generate one main campaign cover wrap, and work with multiple titles would allow them to run the same ad to multiple markets and readerships at the same time.
What are the limitations of cover wraps?
Cover wraps are additional pages being added to a publication. Regardless of how many issues include a cover wrap, there are additional print costs associated with cover wraps. The weight of each print with a cover wrap also increases, thus increasing shipping costs. The ads sold in a cover wraps often offset these costs, but the publisher needs to do research and price the ads appropriately to ensure an ROI.
Branding also comes into play. Even though there is still a real cover underneath the cover wrap, what readers see first is the wrap. A magazine’s brand must be strong enough to ensure the reader knows, even with the ad on the cover, what magazine it is. The wrap is unsuccessful otherwise, and hurt the magazine’s brand in general.
Lastly, cover wraps, when used for targeted segments of a readership, reach only general groups. Digital advertising gives advertisers the means to define incredibly specific audiences, like “farm owners in Indiana with a preference for comic books.” In comparison to those digital audiences, print audiences target generic groups. That applies to the struggles of print versus digital advertising in general though, not just cover wraps.
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