By October 29, 2013

Men’s Health Magazine Is More Ads Than Content

I am not sure how long I’ve been a subscriber to Men’s Health, but it has been at least 10 years, probably closer to 15. I am pretty sure I started reading it while I was in Oregon, and that seems like several life times ago.

Anyway, Men’s Health has a lot of great content in it. It helped shape my attitudes about eating, what I eat, working out, and life.

They recently shipped their 25th anniversary issue, and I was struck by how often I was flipping through pages of ads to get to all that great content I’ve taken advantage of over the years.

I flipped one page.

Then another.

Then another.

Then I read a page, flipped it over, and there was another ad.

Flip. Flip. Flip.

How much of this issue was content, and how much was ads?

From left to right: full pages of content, pages with half content, half ads, full pages of ads

How I counted

  • I did not count the covers.
  • I did not count the subscription post cards.
  • I did count attached ads, typically for cologne.
  • I counted a page with content on both sides as a “full page of content.”
  • I counted a page with content on one side and an ad on the other as a “page with half content.”
  • I counted a page with ads on both sides as a “full page of ads.”
  • Sidebar ads (usually 3″ wide that ran all the way down a page) were not considered, so these pages wound up being counted as full pages of content or a page with half content. I had to throw Men’s Health a bone here.

By page count

27 full pages of content (26.2%)
49 pages of half content (47.6%)
27 full pages of ads (26.2%)

By page weight

Total magazine weight: 14.8 ounces
Total weight of full- and half-page content: 10 ounces
Total weight of full pages of content: 4.8 ounces
All weights include the cover, which is the heaviest part of the magazine.

I know that magazines make a lot of money on advertisements, and that they often use ads to drive down subscription costs so they get more subscribers, so that they can get better circulation numbers by which to sell more ads … but holy shit only about a fourth of the content is ad-free.

I wish I kept track of this stuff over time. I feel like my Men’s Health of yesteryear didn’t have so many ads, but maybe it’s the rose-colored tint of my Old Fart glasses as I age.

I wonder if Men’s Health offers an ad-free digital edition. I would be able to get to the good stuff and save a bunch of paper. I’m essentially throwing 52 pages of paper into the recycling bin every issue without looking at it for more than 1 second.

Would it be possible to turn a good enough profit if a digital ad-free version sold for $2 an issue? I think my paper subscription is about $6 a year. Men’s Health is published 10 times a year, so an extra $14 per year … wonder how many people would have to go ad-free to avoid all the waste.

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