Pros and Cons of Distributing Your Publication for Free 

Whether you’ve just started your publication or have been publishing it for decades, distribution is the most important but often the most overlooked portion of magazine execution. While the most timeconsuming part of production might be finding the right content, wrangling advertising sales, and designing layouts, the most critical – and often difficult – part is targeting your ideal market and getting your content in front of that marketIt requires establishing your publication’s goals, such as what you’re trying to accomplish, how many people you’d like to receive your message, and where those potential people exist 

Before we discuss the pros and cons of distribution, it’s important to understand that readership and circulation are not the same. Just because you print and circulate 10,000 copies doesn’t mean you have 10,000 readers. Readership is the number of people who read your publication; circulation refers to how and where your publication is distributed. It’s an important distinction in your distribution efforts.  

Pro: You can use your publication to find more members or subscribers.  

Offer one free issue with an inserted registration form. Allowing your prospective members or subscribers to get a sneak peak at potential benefits is a big plus. We helped the American Bonanza Society with a three-month trial-membership program by using their monthly magazine as a snapshot into membership by experiencing one of the association’s top benefits. The results yielded a 40.47 percent average trial membership conversion! 

Pro: Consider offering a digital version of your publication. 

Posting your publication online opens the gates to a whole new world. You’re able to target a specific audience by sharing your content, optimizing SEO, and testing pay-per-click. In addition, you can offer digital advertising optionscreating a new non-dues revenue source. Using paywalls, you can also determine how many articles prospective subscribers get for free before attempting to convert them to paying subscribers or members. 

Con: And then there is the waste factor…  

If you’re printing more than you’re actually distributing, well, you’re wasting money – not to mention not leaving a great environmental footprint. Talk with your printer about what they do in house regarding paper or plate recycling, and how (or if) they will help recycle any unused issues in inventory.  

Con: And then there is the transition from “free” to “paying customer…” 

If it isn’t enough that you have to spend some time understanding the audience in which you want to distribute free copies, there is converting them from a prospect to a paying subscriber. You have to develop not only a strategy to distribute by increasing your circulation, additionally, you’ll need to come up with more valuable content to push reader to make a purchase decision. With the right messaging, value proposition, and call to action, you’re sure to captivate your audience.  

Having difficulty increasing the number of readers of your publication? Let’s go back to the drawing board and come up with a few solid strategies to increase circulation in order to reach more potential readers. We have the prospective lists and you have the content. Don’t wait – keep your publication from bleeding on your bottom line by connecting with our team today. 

Article written by:

McKenzie Decker

Marketing Manager