August 17, 2011
Writing Advertorials Can Be a Lucrative Freelance Writing Niche By John K. Borchardt
Advertorials provide information about products or services but are written in the style of an objective magazine or newspaper article. Advertorials provide readers with descriptions of new products and technology, overviews of new developments in a certain industry or assessments of the impact of government programs and new regulations on their business. These can be just as journalistic as any other article. Those describing a single product and commissioned by the product manufacturer may be more advertising oriented in appearance and content. Most magazine advertorials are short, often a single page in length, 700 to 900 words. Newspaper editorials are often shorter than this.
Advertorials faded from the scene during the recession as companies cut advertising budgets. Now they are making a comeback. For example, the June 13, 2011 issue of Fortune Magazine had a seven page advertorial promoting the hiring of U.S. armed service veterans. Entitled "The War for Talent," this advertorial included three sidebars and a chart. A one-page advertorial about U.S. presidents who were golfers is in the same issue. It was sponsored by the Professional Golfers Association (PGA). The May 2011 issue of Workforce Management had an eight-page advertorial section containing four one-page advertorials. That's a sizable chunk of a 50-page magazine.
Trade magazines often published advertorials and are beginning to do so again. Companies often distribute advertorials through trade magazines to promote information sharing with customers, potential customers and suppliers. They may also do so to demonstrate thought leadership in particular fields. Until the current recession, advertorials promoting the advantages of establishing or expanding businesses in specific states and cities were common. With the improvement in business conditions, these are beginning to reappear.
Trade magazine advertorials are sometimes separately bound as a multi-page special supplement to the magazine. For example, Hart Energy Publications distributed more than 30,000 copies of my advertorial "Oilfield Chemicals: A Reference Guide" at the tradeshow associated with a recent Offshore Technology Conference that attracted approximately 70,000 attendees. The 28-page advertorial was also mailed to subscribers of E&P, an oil industry trade magazine, with the May issue. The text is written in the style of a trade magazine article. The goal of the publisher was to fill the pages of the supplement with advertising from companies whose products and services were mentioned in the article.
Such supplements are a major editorial effort. They are usually written by freelance writers because staff writers don't have the time to do so. For example, Fortune Magazine's advertorials are developed and produced by Time Inc. News & Sports Group Custom Publishing. This group specializes in developing multi- and single-sponsor special text-and-advertising sections.
Marketing your writing services
Normally one does not query magazine editors proposing subjects for advertorials. Instead, one sends letters of introduction to magazine editors, custom publishers, advertising departments of companies and organizations likely to sponsor advertorials. Letters of introduction are summaries of your writing skills and experience. Some companies hire advertising agencies to develop ideas for advertorials and hire writers to prepare them. Sending letters of introduction to advertising agencies in your area may also be worthwhile.
Exceptions to this rule are some magazines that include special advertising sections in their editorial calendars. These are most often trade magazines. You may wish to send a query letter to the appropriate editor four to six months ahead of their manuscript deadline. It is helpful to include mention of the topic and magazine issue in the subject line of your e-mail. For example, one might write, "Query for May Issue: Ceiling Fans Reduce Summer Energy Consumption." This communicates two important points. First you are familiar with the magazine's editorial calendar. Second, you are proposing to write an advertorial on the advertising focus of the May issue.
Perusing job boards is another option. For example, MediaBistro offers free access to their job boards. Most jobs listed are full-time but some are for freelancers. These include advertisements for advertorial writing assignments.
John Borchardt has written more than 1,400 articles published in magazines, newspapers and online. He is currently working on a new book, "Accelerating Innovation through Effect Laboratory Management." He writes a weekly blog running for "Laboratory Management Magazine" and frequently blogs for the American Chemical Society.
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