Magazine Advertising

Ever since I finished reading the internet, the local Tower magazine rack has become my number one source of topical, reliable information.

Brooke and I decided to dissect some magazines. We wanted to discover how many of the pages contain actual articles, and how many pages are ads.

Newspapers and magazines sell advertising space. In most cases the ads are an entertaining addition to the magazine.

We picked up the November issue of Scientific American, Vogue, Sacramento News & Review, The New York Times, and Hustler. Actually, the issue of Hustler was dated January 2003. It had apparently come BACK THROUGH TIME to sell a few copies in November.

Vogue was by far the biggest magazine, weighing in at 500 pages.
Hustler is sold wrapped in a special plastic film. This helps protect it from harsh ozone and static discharge.

Hustler magazine was the most expensive magazine in our study, at $7.99. I couldn't wait to get a look at the attractive ads inside!

Brooke flipped though Vogue first. Fashion magazines have a reputation for being made up entirely of ads, so we were both interested to see if that reputation was justified.

Indeed, 316 of Vogue's pages were ads. This is a hell of a lot of ads, but it still leaves 184 pages of actual magazine. I was amazed. That's a lot of content for the $3.50 cover price.

Next she inspected Scientific American. A considerably thinner magazine, Scientific American had only 24¾ pages of advertising, and almost none of the ads were for perfume.




Sacramento News and Review was the only free publication in our group of magazines. Because it is forgoing newsstand revenue, I expected it to contain the greatest percentage of ads. I carefully marked every ad, and then compiled a total.

Including the "spicy personals", it contained 49¼ pages of advertising. This left only 30¾ pages of actual content. Those 30¾ pages of content are 100% free. 

Hustler, a 168 page magazine, had 52¼ pages of ads. The ads dovetail nicely with the contents of the magazine, featuring sexy women with expensive phone numbers.

Hustler magazine appeals strongly to men with a fetish for airbrushing.

The New York Times was the only daily publication we examined.

11½ of its 50 pages were advertising, including the "spicy personals". This was the lowest ratio of ads to actual content.

I read on the WRMEA website that a one page ad in the “A” section of The New York Times costs $126,882, so it is nice to know that they don't cram too many of them in there.


Scientific American definitely had the most graphics. Here is a picture of Brooke showing me a great illustration of a folded protein. 

According to Wooden Horse, advertising brings in two thirds of a magazine's income.

The advertising in magazines is easily targeted. You can predict what kind of person will be looking at them and advertise appropriate products within.  If you are selling Beagle Master® Dog Training Shock Collars, consider advertising in Gun Dog Magazine, If you are selling Sanskrit Chakra Charts, contact Magic Blend Magazine instead.

When the totals for each magazine were calculated, we had a nice chart, but I was disappointed that no mind-blowing information was revealed.

I suppose if there is one thing I learned, it was that some subjects lend themselves to advertising. People who read Vogue are probably going to be interested in fashion, which demands a constant supply of new products, and people that buy Hustler are probably going to be interested in the array of X-rated products.

Scientific American doesn't really have that set of products that it could effectively promote. CAT Scan Machines? Gas Chromatographs? Satellites?

The only hope I can see for the future of Scientific American is to start advertising the faux-scientific products from Vogue and Hustler: Age-defying Hydrolyzing cream and mate-attracting Pheromone sprays. They may need to change the name to Pseudo-Scientific American.


With the study complete, we tried to surreptitiously plant the magazines in Melanie and Amber's house.

They didn't have much trouble figuring out who was responsible.


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Last updated December 29, 2002.

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