Magalogs 101

So… what is a Magalog?

This ranks as the top question I get when people contact me through the Magalog Guy site. And quite a few times, the caller is thinking he wants a magalog before fully understanding what one is. He’s heard the word or has been told that a magalog worked wonders for another business. Naturally, he’s curious.

I’m not one to get too hung up on terminology. Part of my job is to listen to what you need, then we can put a label on it if we need to.

Successful Magalog Marketing CoverAs you’ve probably guessed, the word magalog is traditionally considered to be a cross between magazine and catalog. I say traditionally because the way words and names evolve over time, I have no doubt that someone has another origin for the word. But for now, magalog + catalog is good enough for us in the realm of direct marketing. (Note that some people use the word catazine instead of magalog.)

When I was interviewed for Print Professional Magazine, I gave my own definition that I thought direct marketers could relate to:

I tend to describe [a magalog] as a sales letter on steroids. Like many sales letters, a magalog will start with a ‘big idea’ or ‘promise’ headline, include graphics and charts, some sidebars and an order form to go along with the main body copy. But with the magalog, we’re usually creating something with a stronger visual appeal, much like you’d notice in a magazine or even a high-end newsletter.

Magalogs also remind me of theater actors who have to project and make bigger movements so people all the way in the back can see and hear. In this case, the magalog has to stand out from the other mail that people get and that’s why you often see bold headlines and large cover photos.

Of course, there’s no law that says we have to do things a fixed way. In fact, the magalog has a few variations including slim jims, issuelogs and bookalogs.

But the “sales letter on steroids” phrase seems to click with most direct marketers I talk to who are learning about magalogs for the first time.

At that point, the sky’s the limit… or more accurately, the budget is the limit.

We want the magalog to be something appealing to read. Obviously there will be sales copy, but a great copywriter is going to find nuggets of information to sprinkle throughout the magalog… info that people might actually want to share with other people.

In my prior career in a radio newsroom, it’s what we’d call the “Hey, Martha” story. You’ve probably heard that phrase before. You can read a bit more about that in my free book, Increase Sales & Build Deeper Connections. You’ll find more information about that book and how you can get a free copy in the Resources section of this site.

Designers take all that and put it into something that’s going to stand out when the recipient gets his or her mail.

Magalogs can sell a single product or service, or many. Most I’ve dealt with have been a single product, with the copy focused on creating the desire and supporting the claims that are being made.

Magalogs have no set size or page count, although 8.5 x 11 is a common size and 12-16 pages is a common page count. Once you start significantly changing those variables, the discussion moves into things like slim jims and bookalogs.

So… what is a Slim Jim?

If you do a search on slim jim, you’re hit with food and locksmith-related entries. For our purposes, though, a slim jim is part of the magalog family.

Slim Jim Shattered CoverWhere a magalog is traditionally about 8.5 x 11 inches, a slim jim is around 5.5 x 10. So the primary difference is that a slim jim is narrower than a magalog and can be shorter in height.

I have to fudge and say “around 5.5 x 10″ because printing and mailing costs can affect the size. Sometimes a change in the size can have a significant impact on those costs. That’s why I always recommend talking to a print broker if you don’t have a printer you trust to look out for you.

Because a slim jim is smaller than a magalog in physical size, it’s often larger in terms of page count. The smallest slim jim I’ve ever worked on was 24 pages.

That doesn’t mean a slim jim can’t have fewer pages. But if a company is wanting to test a magalog against a slim jim, obviously the smaller size of the slim jim will require more pages to hold the same amount of copy.

So why use a slim jim?

First, it gives you a different look. Don’t forget that part of the goal of any marketing piece is to stand out and be read. The slim jim format is different in size from magazines and traditional first-class mail. So it stands out.

Second, there can be a benefit in terms of printing and mailing compared to a typical magalog. There can be other variables involved in those costs. But it’s worth keeping that in mind when considering a magalog vs. a slim jim.

Oprah Winfrey used a slim jim for one of her promotions. I displayed a few pages from that slim jim in my Boosting Response and Revenue with Magalogs webinar. You’ll find a link to that webinar at the end of this article.

While the Oprah slim jim wasn’t my design, if you’re interested in seeing a full slim jim, not just a few pages, you can see one I did for a client on my Issuu site.

While it would be the designer’s challenge and not yours, you should be aware of how a slim jim affects order forms and longer sidebars. On the sample from Issuu, take a look at the order form on page 23. It’s packed! The challenge for your copywriter will be to keep the content to a minimum.

Also, check out page 16, one of many examples where we can’t take the term “sidebar” literally. While that slim jim does have some examples of content that is “on the side,” the significant sidebars like you see on page 16 are dropped strategically in the middle of the copy. Otherwise, as true sidebars, they’d cross pages which is something we didn’t want.

Again, that’s the challenge for your designer and copywriter, not you. But as always, I like you to know what’s happening behind the scenes whenever possible.

So… what is a Bookalog?

A bookalog is a variation of a magalog. As you might guess from the name, the bookalog is much like a small, paperback book.

Insider Code Bookalog CoverAs with magalogs, bookalog sizes vary, but 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches is pretty common.

For page count, it can be all over the map. I’ve seen one that was over 70 pages. And like magalogs, bookalogs tend to be done in page increments of four… 24, 28, 32, 36, etc.

The style can vary as well. Some are just as colorful as a traditional magalog. Others are just like a fiction or non-fiction book with no graphics and a single, black color for the text.

For the binding, bookalogs can be saddle-stitched (stapled in the spine) or perfect-bound which is the same as the paperback books you buy at the bookstore. The page count will help determine what type of binding you’ll need.

Like others formats in the magalog family, bookalogs have their place.

Because bookalogs tend to have more pages, they have a bit more weight which helps them stand out in the pile of mail you get each day. I’ve talked about this numerous times in relation to magalogs, but simply the fact that a bookalog looks different from the rest of your mail gives it an extra glance when other marketing mail in the pile is being ignored.

There can also be a perception of higher value with a bookalog because, generally speaking, we place a higher value on books. And, it’s not every day someone is marketing to you in the mail through a book. Again, it stands out.

Some people use the bookalog format for long copy that’s currently converting well for them online. Realizing that not everyone is online or will stumble across them online, they want to reach “offline” prospects as well.

If the copy has been working well as a traditional printed sales letter, they might try the bookalog format as a test. If the style is remaining basically the same as the sales letter, and we’re not adding lots of new graphics or colors, the bookalog can be a more affordable format to test compared to a traditional magalog, at least in terms of the design cost.

Health and financial topics have been the biggest focus of bookalogs. But just like magalogs are now being used in all sorts of new arenas, bookalogs may follow that trend.

One area where I think a bookalog could be a strong consideration is coaches/consultants/trainers who offer higher-end workshops or seminars.

The bookalog format could be a mini book filled with business- or success-building ideas, but with a strong sales component leading people to sign-up for those workshops or seminars.

A bookalog might also be used to provide multiple samples of books that a company markets.

So… what is an Issuelog?

Market Advisor Issuelog CoverWe’ll keep this short as you already know most of what you need to know about the magalog family.

An issuelog is simply a magalog that looks more like an issue of a newsletter than a magazine.

As you might expect, one use of an issuelog is to promote subscriptions to high-end newsletters.

An issuelog may even have more of a newspaper feel in terms of using less expensive paper. That’s usually different from a magalog where, when possible and appropriate, we’d like to use better-quality paper so colors and graphics look as sharp as possible.

Free Magalog Webinar

Magalog Marketing WebinarI’ve had the pleasure to speak about magalogs in many different forums. One such forum is a webinar and I’ve put that online for you to see. It’s in four parts and totals about an hour.

Boosting Response and Revenue with Maglaogs – Part 1

Boosting Response and Revenue with Maglaogs – Part 2

Boosting Response and Revenue with Maglaogs – Part 3

Boosting Response and Revenue with Maglaogs – Part 4