Points of Pinterest: Marketing Magazines in the Digital Age

By Braden Alexander

The New Landscape of Magazine Marketing

The dust has begun to settle on the digital revolution and magazine makers can breathe a sigh of relief: this is not, in fact, the end of print media (yet). According to Magazines Canada’s Consumer Magazine Fact Book 20121, 71% of readers prefer print magazines to online magazines and 87% of those interested in reading magazines digitally still prefer a printed copy. What’s more, both student readers and those in households earning $100,000+ still vastly prefer print magazines to their digital counterparts. However, it may not be time for the industry to rest on its laurels just yet. The same study shows that Canadians have access to over 100 consumer magazines per capita, more than any other country in the world. And in the past ten years, the industry has seen a 34% increase in titles. In other words, more magazines are fighting for market share than ever before, and magazine makers are faced with the challenge of marketing their publications to an increasingly splintered audience.

It goes without saying that marketing magazines online is crucial, whether the publication itself is strictly print, digital-only, or a combination of both. For even if Canadians prefer reading magazines in print, they are spending more time online than users in any other country, according to the 2012 Canada Digital Future in Focus study2. And most of that time is spent on social media. So how are magazine marketers to take advantage of this trend? By leveraging the awesome power of social media’s hottest new star: Pinterest.

The Power of Pinterest

For those who don’t already know, Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard” where users can “pin” photos from any website to their own, customized Pinterest board. It’s a digital version of the scrapbook you used to tape magazine clippings to when you were twelve. Users pin photos of clothes they want to buy, DIY projects they intend to attempt, places they dream of visiting, and – interestingly – inspirational or hilarious quotes that resonate with them.

How to market magazines with pinterest


According to the website3, “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” But most importantly, users can browse the pinboards of other users, sharing and discovering new products and ideas easily. It’s this tool for discovery that makes Pinterest the one to watch.

According to CNN4, Pinterest is the “breakout social network of 2012.” Still in its first two years of operation, the site now sees over 10 million unique visitors per month, crossing the mark faster than Facebook did5. And all of this popularity actually translates to real economic impact. According to SocialMouths.com6, Pinterest drives more sales than any other network.

Marketers have myriad options for using online platforms to spead the word about their magazine and share their content. But that other social media juggernaut is starting to look less and less appealing. Facebook ad prices continue to climb while users are less and less engaged by the format. Those tiny Facebook ads are less likely to inspire what Darren Barefoot calls “heartbeat activities7.” On the other hand, when people use Pinterest, they’re in the mood to consume. According to a survey by Bizrate8, seven out of ten shoppers use Pinterest to get inspired about purchases.

How to market magazines using Pinterest

And the best part? Pinterest is completely free to use. You just have to know how to use it effectively.

How To Pin Properly

Before we get to the three main pinning tactics of this essay, you may want to consider some of Copyblogger’s Pinterest best practices9:

  • Connect your Pinterest account to Facebook and Twitter. This makes it easier for those who already follow your other networks to find you on Pinterest.
  • Use your magazine name on the Pinterest account (rather than your name).
  • Pin lots of content and do it steadily, rather than in huge bursts. Otherwise you run the risk of flooding your followers’ newsfeeds.

Business bloggers will tell you to host a contest or pin client testimonials10 as the best ways to leverage Pinterest as a marketing tool. And while these may work for some retailers (although I have my doubts), magazines are playing the editorial game. So do what you already do best: provide meaningful, engaging content tailored to your audience.

The Three Commandments of Pinterest Marketing for Magazines:

1. Contribute to a Community

The point of Pinterest is that people enjoy spending time on the site. So if you’re going to get users to follow your boards and share your content with their followers, you’re going to have to speak to them in a human way. No hard sells.

This should be easy for most magazines – it’s what you do already. Consider the community that you’re a part of – food, design, fashion, music – and use your pins to contribute to these community members’ lives. Offer best-of lists. Provide steps for a DIY. Post trends in your industry. Attaching a useful tidbit of information to a beautiful photo is the key to successful pinning.

Your own magazine content is a great source for pins, but remember to pin from plenty of other sources as well. You want to offer your editorial eye to your followers, showing them new images and ideas you know they’ll love and find useful. As Copyblogger says: “Become an information curator for your niche. Gather the newest and best resources on your boards. Become a trusted source of information on Pinterest, and your following will grow by leaps and bounds.”

Also, remember to like, comment, and repin your followers’ content as much as possible. If someone asks a question on one of your pins, answer it! Social networks are about being social.

2. Be a Follower

According to Net Tuesday Vancouver’s presentation on the science of Facebook pages for nonprofits11, people are most likely to respond to images with text on them. A quick scan of Pinterest will show you this meme is extremely popular right now. So follow the trend and create your own image with text. Just be sure to stay true to the tone of your magazine.

If your magazine is on the cheeky side, try a funny meme. If your magazine is more serious, go for an inspirational quote.

How to market your magazine using Pinterest

How to market your magazine using Pinterest

The point is to tap into what’s already popular on the internet – these things tend to come in waves. Of course, a straight copy will never be effective. As Barefoot asserts, “safe is risky and risky is safe.” Take an internet trend and use it in an original way to spread your message or market your magazine’s content. Use a form that the internet loves and do something surprising with it.

3. Stay True to Yourself

This may be the most important commandment of them all. You are a magazine: act like one. Take an editorial approach to your Pinterest activities. For instance:

  • Board Names: Pinterest will provide you default titles for your pinboards, things like “Style” and “For The Home.” Rename these something creative and original. (My style board is called “Walk, Walk, Fashion, Baby.”) The name of your board gets shared along with every image you pin to it, and attractive board names will garner more followers. It’s also a great way to introduce new audiences to the tone of your magazine.
  • Pin Descriptions: Each pin requires its own description. This is just another great place to say something interesting. It’s good ethos to credit the photo, but beyond that, try describing the photo in the same way you would caption one in your magazine.
  • Original Content: Farm your magazine’s content to be a source of original content out there on the web. It will help your account stand out and, eventually, will build your reputation as a trendsetter, rather than a trend follower. You can even recycle some of your archived photos. Try throwing a cute quote on an old photo, or link to a collection of photos from your very first issue. If you’re a shelter or lifestyle mag, go Martha Stewart with your photos wherever it’s appropriate. Little colour-coordinated vignettes are like crack for pinners.
  • Promote Your People: Just like you do in your magazine, use Pinterest to showcase the work of writers, artists, and photographers whose work you admire. Not only is it good will, it will inspire them to repin your stuff for their followers as well.

Moving Forward, Pins In Hand

It’s time to get on board (ha!) with Pinterest, because it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere any time soon. As Cohen demonstrates8, the site’s user base age demographics echo those of the overall Internet population.

How to use pinterest to market your magazine

And as CNN points out4 via Elad Gil, Pinterest has tapped into three important web trends: sharing content is becoming easier, social sites are becoming more image-based, and social networks are now being organized by topics of interest, rather than specific networks of people. The beauty of Pinterest is that it capitalizes heavily on all three of these trends – and so should you.

Best of all – any marketing people out there will love this one – all Pinterest activity is completely measurable. You can easily see which of your pins resonate with people by typing “http://pinterest.com/source/yoursitehere/”. Use this feature to test the popularity of, say, new feature ideas or photographers. Jon Reed12 suggests using sites like Reachli (formerly known as Pinerly) or PinReach to track your repins and likes automatically.

Remember that Pinterest is new, so experiment with new tactics as you go. And try not to take any of it too seriously. No doubt the next hot social media trend is just around the corner.


Works Cited:

  1. http://www.magazinescanada.ca/uploads/File/AdServices/FactBook/ConsumerFactbook2012_En.pdf
  2. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/technology/tech-news/canada-tops-globe-in-internet-usage/article551593/
  3. http://pinterest.com/about/
  4. http://articles.cnn.com/2012-02-06/tech/tech_web_pinterest-website-cashmore_1_sites-social-networks-early-adopters?_s=PM:TECH
  5. http://techcrunch.com/2012/02/07/pinterest-monthly-uniques/
  6. http://socialmouths.com/blog/2012/05/22/pinterest-drives-more-online-sales/
  7. http://www.nettuesday.ca/2011/09/darren-barefoot-on-word-of-mouth-marketing-slides-and-video/
  8. http://heidicohen.com/pinterest-drives-sales-research/
  9. http://www.copyblogger.com/pinterest-marketing/
  10. http://www.openforum.com/articles/7-ways-to-use-pinterest-in-your-marketing/
  11. http://www.nettuesday.ca/2012/07/the-science-of-facebook-pages-for-nonprofits/
  12. http://www.publishingtalk.eu/marketing/how-to-promote-your-books-with-pinterest/


  1. I can’t wait to see what Pinterest looks like a few years from now. It’s not just that it’s an interesting take on social sharing and marketing, but the speed that people adopted it is unprecedented.

    I completely agree with your point about the value of Pinterest as a marketing tool, but I’m skeptical about how much effort businesses should be putting into it. It’s such a new and, as of yet, unproven technology. It’s great because it’s new still, but when will something better come along? Already it has had huge influence on web design in general, and it’s only a matter of time before new interpretations start popping out.

    Mashable put out a great infographic in August:


    They bring up some good points about the love/hate relationship people have with Pinterest, including the usual “time suck” argument. The numbers still speak for themselves though–Pinterest continues to grow.

    Something about Pinterest was speaking to a void online. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that, for a lot of people, the rapid adoption had a lot to do with the non-committal signup. Hardly anyone can be bothered with a 5-page signup; we have enough logins to remember. The ability to login with your existing Facebook or Twitter account is perfect for the can’t-be-bothered crowd. It’s to the point, and gets users straight to the point they want to be at: sharing and discovering.

    It is interesting to hear that Canadians are spending more time online than any other country. I wonder what it is…our jobs? Geography? The long winters? I am surprised by the age demographics using Twitter, as well. I would have suspected a much younger audience, considering the visual-heavy design and the abundance of hipster content, but I guess that is what makes it so user friendly and accessible. It would be nice to see some more data about which groups use Pinterest most actively, but I can’t find any solid numbers online.

    Great essay, Braden! I’m a notorious burst pinner, but I promise to try to spread ’em out a little from now on!

  2. I agree with Angelina that this is a great summary of what Pinterest can do for a magazine, and I appreciate your tips for how best to use it. I always think of the 80-20 rule that Monique and others have talked about when it comes to social media interaction (promote other people’s stuff 80% of the time, promote your own stuff 20% of the time). This rule makes so much sense from a good ethos, good social community member point of view, but I have found that it is hard to communicate that to businesses that are first trying to use social media (to increase sales, increase readership, etc).

    Perhaps it is something that I am particularly sensitive to, but my fear is always that the social media I use on behalf of a business (like (Cult)ure Magazine or Great Lakes United) will fall into that “grown ups trying to talk to the kids” category that I see in so many of the promoted posts that appear on Facebook. It is awkward and off-putting, and I think that more damage than good can be done by institutions that wade into these technologies without an understanding of the community or best-practices they seek to engage.

    I like the approach you talk about in this article where a magazine should use Pinterest to first engage in the conversation that exists, and then work on becoming a trend leader by having that authentic, curated content that will attract the kind of reader who wants to interact with your content anyways.

    Great article!


  3. Good list of tips and great comments Angelina and Lauren. As an extension of Angelina’s question about the business value, Mashable has another article out with some stats showing that for some magazines Pinterest is a leading driver of traffic to their site. So that suggests acquisition of new readers and retention of their interest, plus the opportunity to as Seth Godin says to turn a stranger into a friend and a friend into a customer.


    The question or challenge Pinterest raises is one of attribution. The tools make it easy to share but what does that mean for copyright holders? For a magazine, if you want to share your content, what licenses do you have to have from staff photographers or freelancers? And, how diligent are you in the way that you share other people’s content?

    We can’t assume as marketers that because content is online that it’s free to share, even if the tools make it seem freely available to share.

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