Marketing Mondays: The November Issue

Say you've decided to take out a small classified or display ad in an art magazine to promote an event. Or perhaps you or your gallery are thinking about purchasing a full-page for your solo show. If you've priced them, you know that ads are not cheap. A classified in an art magazine can run a couple hundred dollars; full page, front-of-book placement can run $7000 or $8000 (or more, sometimes much more, for the inside front or back cover, the outside back cover or other prime placement in the front of the book).

Ever wonder how many people you’re reaching for the price you're paying? As a potential advertiser, you have the right to request and receive that information from the publisher.

Image from Matthew Keegan, who writes about the state of publishing here


The rest of us need only to look at the back of the book.

Every fall, usually in the November issue, all magazines that are sent through the mail are required by the postal service to publish the names of the editor and managing editor, the name of the corporation that owns the publication—and the number of issues printed at the last monthly print run, as well as the number of subscribers. It’s a federal code called the
39 USC 3685. (Bimonthly or quarterly publications publish these figures in the issue closest to November.)

Publishers don’t like to publish this information because it takes up valuable ad space in their magazine. Small publishers really don’t like it because it reveals just how few copies of their magazine are actually printed and distributed. The information is usually on one of the last few pages, printed in the smallest legible point size. I know this because I supported myself for 20 years with jobs in publishing.

So how many people read art magazines? The number is well under 100,000 for a national publication—closer to 60,000 or 40,000 a month, or even 25,000. The figure is even smaller for regional or really specfic niche titles. Ad rates are tied to readership figures so higher readership brings in higher ad rates, but it's publishing's little secret that everyone fudges the figures.

Granted, the art world is different from the world at large. We don’t need to reach a People, Vogue, or Reader's Digest audience; those print figures are in the millions. (And ads are in the high six figures; though it's been a while since I was privy to those figures so I could be way off now.) We need only reach our much smaller cohort of dealers, critics, curators, collectors and artists.

Given the economic climate, some might argue that ads are more important than ever. Others might take a different route--a catalog, for instance, which remains a viable document long after the print run is over; or a good website with regular postcard mailings. All of these are good options, and in this post I'm not arguing for one over the other.

My point is simply this: It's November. Now that you know what to look for, check out the numbers in the back of the book.


Anonymous said...

Well, if an ad helps your gallery show get considered for a blurb-review in the back of an art mag, it seems tempting to pay up. I've always been suspicious that the typically bland art-mag reviews are a function of not pissing off advertisers.

Joanne Mattera said...

That's a whole other issue from the numbers--one that, frankly, I don't wish to get involved in because I do show and want to get reviewed. I will say this: any artist or dealer who takes out an ad in the expectation of getting a review is going to be disappointed most of the time.

Stephanie Sachs said...

Over the summer I created a catalog for myself and it has done a lot to help my career.
The trick to keeping the costs down is being able to do the graphics yourself. I am not a graphic designer so I kept to one font and used Microsoft Publisher.
(I know totally uncool but it worked.)
For $1200 I ordered 750, 24 page catalogs delivered to my house. (They actually sent me 900)
I sent out over 300 to collectors, galleries and friends. (That was expensive at over $1.20 a piece in postage)
At my show in September two collectors who received the catalog purchased paintings and at this point 2/3 of the paintings in the catalog are sold. I am going to be in a group show this month and it was nice to send a box of catalogs to the gallery.
There is a feeling from people when you hand them the catalog that you are legitimate. Collectible.
Hope to do one every year.

nemastoma said...

I am not an artist, but my late husband was. I've started to "publish" some catalogues of his artworks using, but there are several of such Print on Demand publishers, such as, available. A Word template can be downloaded, and the entire publication process is easy - really "Publication for Dummies". It is free to publish any book one wishes. One only pays to actually get one or more copies shipped home. An ISBN can be added ($125 per book, or you can buy 10 ISBNs for $350 and share them, making it $35 per book). The book will be listed for free on or for $75 it will be marketed in a suite of online bookstores (listed at I've been very happy with the quality of the jpeg reproductions, e.g. You can select your own pubisher's name.

I then used the same Word files I used for, deleted the page breaks, and uploaded each file, and a cover image, for free on the Amazon Kindle site ( for an example how the ebook shows up, just type: Eugene Martin, and the book listings will pop up in Amazon, both the soft cover and the kindle versions). I don't own a kindle, but I downloaded all of Eugene's kindle listings on my iphone where they show up in color. Very nifty.

There are so many opportunities for publication these days, with many basically free. But the trick for a book to become widely accessible is the purchase of an ISBN. The rest is taken care of with the purchase of a $75 distribution package. Complete strangers have actually bought copies of both the soft cover and kindle versions. Pretty amazing.

Eric Rhoads said...

Great Advice.

I'd like to ad one thing:
Don't be seduced by numbers alone. Its all too common for publications to inflate numbers with people who cannot BUY the product you're selling. Its the old classic question... would you rather have a bus load of school teachers pull up and go in your gallery.... or a person in a Bentley who can actually afford to buy.

All pubs are not equal. Some reach high end audiences of collectors while others have used wholesale techniques so they can claim big audiences.

Eric Rhoads

Philip Koch said...

Though it is very satisfying to see one's art in national magazines, I'm not sure it's the best way to go for most artists. Unless you have a big budget, you can't buy ad space often enough to generate the momentum you're seeking. I've been fortunate to have been able to buy ads in Fine Art Connoisseur for example and have had the good fortune to have an ad placed in it for me by a museum holding a show of my work this year. It was great to see, but very hard to measure the direct results of this.

For most of us mortals, doing the basics (mailing postcards, email newsletters, and a webstie, plus good old fashioned going out and meeting people) has a great return for the dollar.

Eric Rhoads said...

Since I own Fine Art Connoisseur... I'll chime in.
First you are right. You can do a lot of self generated direct marketing. Problem is that its junk mail to some, whereas a vehicle, like a magazine is a requested item and is therefore being read/seen. The bigger issue is that you can only reach people you have in your data base. You should do these things, but spreading your reach with a wide net can be helpful.

Last, regardig measurement of results the science and art of advertising is all about what you say. what you show. I can have one advertiser in an issue get 6 calls on a painting and another will get none. It also has to do with do they know you, trust you (thats all a branding issue which is why time and repetition work in your favor).

Eric Rhoads

Anonymous said...

Interesting. I compared ArtNews 2007 to 2009; average paid circulation dropped by about 12.5%.


Joanne Mattera said...

Thanks, All, for these great coments.

Eric and Philip,
A lot of the advertising bang comes from the galleries' collector base. I work with one gallery that advertises regularly in one of the national magazines. Like Eric says, that's repetition. One year the ad sold the painting; I mean, a California collector bought it from the picture! If collectors have a good relationship with their dealers, those stories are probably not uncommon.

Good observation! All the magazines are down in advertising, which means they're down in overall page size. Most publications are down in subscription and readership, too (just as museum membership is probably down, as are most other cultural subscriptions). Now it would be interesting to see how the ad rates compare from this year to last.

Nemastoma and Stephanie,
Your entrepreneurial spirit is inspuring. And thanks, N, for the tip on the ISBN number. Right you are!

Eva said...

Today I went into Rich's Cigar and looked into the back pages of Art News and Art Forum... Interesting perspective! Art Forum is like talking to the select 40 thousand of the world ....

Stephanie Sachs said...

Wonder how many of those 40 thousand actually read Art Forum.

Joanne Mattera said...

They may read it but do they understand it?

Eva said...

Yes.... years ago (1989) a German art dealer told me that the ads were all that mattered. No one actually read much of it.

(...So maybe the lesson here is that indeed paying for an ad is worth it...? ;)

Joanne Mattera said...

People still look at the ads, no question. But a lot has happened in 20 years. Our visibility online via websites, blogs, Facebook, email announcements; and our ability to desktop publish have given artists and dealers many more options of reaching the public--and a specific segment of the public as well. I think of it as selecting the right color for the composition.

Stephanie Sachs said...

LOL I fall into both categories I can rarely finish or understand any of those articles.
Take out the artists and art students and I wonder how many of those 40,000 are collectors. The kind galleries drool over. After taking out the big boys, Rubel and Broad etc. how many art lovers collect 200+ works of art? Are we talking a few thousand people internationally?

Chris Rywalt said...

Just today in the mail -- the actual paper mail carried by a guy in blue pants -- I got a card from Google offering me $100 towards placing ads on AdWords.

I'm considering it, although not so much for my art as my art writing. It's free except for the effort involved in figuring out the system and putting something together to put up and so forth.

I know this post is about magazine ads. Joanne, did you cover online ads in another post or is that forthcoming? I'm sure you've already thought of it.

Joanne Mattera said...


I haven't thought about online ads. I don't know anything about them. Since I worked in publishing for a number of years, I feel qualified to talk about it, but online advedrtising is another bag of tea entirely.

Self promotion is essential if we as artists, writers, dealers and others are to get word out about what we do. I expect that as blogs and other online ventures continue to become part of how we view art, then online ads will become an essential part of the cyber landscape.