In the nearly four years I’ve been writing this blog I did something last week that I’ve only done once before. Can you guess? Yes, you’re right, I paid money to advertise it. I advertised this time, as I did the last time about three years ago, in a magazine called The Oldie. On its website it describes itself as and very clearly states, that it is not a ‘retirement magazine’. As they have gone to great pains to make this point I made a mental note that branding anything as a ‘retirement’ something or other was not the way to increase sales. So writing a blog about retirement and expecting it to be hugely popular would seem, ambition-wise, to be significantly at odds. I always thought my modest readership was down to the fact that the retirement generation are not per se a generation that spends large portions of their lives on-line. Shame, in the context of my ambitions, but otherwise probably a good thing.
So where, if a person wants to waste their pension on advertising their wares, would that person choose to do so? I’m probably not the best person to pass any judgement about the number of magazines that cater for the, what do we call ourselves, the senior citizen? I tend to avoid any magazine aimed at people like me, as Groucho Marx might have said. Saga magazine, thanks but no thanks. So the only other one I know of is The Oldie. This last edition, the one featuring the advert for The Summerhouse Years (page 97, top right hand corner), is the 350th, so the longevity is good and so is the pedigree. The editor for many years was Richard Ingram a man from the same stable, at least in my mind, as Peter Cook and Ian Hislop of Private Eye and Alan Coren from the legendary Punch (which I think has ceased publication). There are many others no doubt but my aching brain can’t quite bring them to mind. So, yes, The Oldie has a long and honourable history. Just the place for my advert.
One of the bonuses of placing an advert, admittedly for considerably more than the price of the magazine itself, is that you get a ‘free’ copy. The second thing I did on receiving my ‘free’ copy was to look through the magazine (I like it but not enough to buy it on a regular basis). The first thing obviously was to seek out my advert and consider its visual impact, first on me and then on an unsuspecting world. It looks OK, not exactly startling, but decent enough. It’s basically the same image (of my summerhouse) that I used three years ago or however long ago it was. I’ve changed the wording from – psychologist writes about the secrets of a happy retirement or some such drivel, to a less ambitious – over 400 blogs about all aspects of retirement. Not exactly magic with the wording, but OK. I thought it important to keep the same image just in case anybody remembered it because it would give a sense of continuity, you know, help with the branding or whatever the course was I attended a couple of years ago. After all I haven’t done any other form of branding, at least as far as I know.
So as I was saying, the second thing I did was look through the magazine I’ve entrusted my brand to. What kind of articles / adverts / letters, etc. were contained between the covers (see above). The first section I cast my slightly nervous eye over (nervous in the sense that I had chosen to ‘identify’ my brand with this brand) was the letters pages. Nothing too glaring – a letter complaining about pizza deliveries to Eton and how was this preparing the boys to be men of empire and another complaining about hearing aids adverts that purported to offer ‘the holy grail’ of the business. I think meaning being able to hear in a noisy environment. The writer said it does not exist. Another one under the heading ‘a pedant writes’ complaining or commenting, take your pick, about Robbie Burns being misquoted – best laid schemes, not best laid plans. That sort of thing, most all of which were nicely written and tongue-in-cheek before anybody takes them too seriously. Many more in the same vein and plenty of witty cartoons like the one of a scaffold with a ramp up to it and the hangman saying, ‘Sheriff wants all the town structures to be wheelchair accessible’.
So nothing in the bits I’ve read to be embarrassed by indeed feeling quite proud of my choice. Probably just the kind of people I want as my readers will be reading The Oldie. I did have one shock when reading an article by somebody called The Gentle Author. He is a partially anonymous, (described in the article as ‘mysterious’) person (although I know who he is) who writes a blog called Spitalfields Life which, as it says, is ‘a blog that chronicles the life, past and present, of a corner of East London.’ My surprise was based on the fact that this person ran the course, at The Guardian, that first started me on all this blogging business, so I am grateful to him and no doubt, so are you. The article gave me nothing but pleasure to read even the part where he told us he writes a blog a day, 2,800 so far, intends to write 10,000 and then stop, it has 10,000 subscribers and another 30,000 who check the website every day. Stop it you’re making me … So even with a little green-eyed envy I was happy to think that my advert and The Gentle Author’s article nestled side by side between the same covers. Indeed I had chosen wisely. These were my kind of people.
Of course, this warm glow of belonging is all very nice but the key, the hard-nosed, question is does this strategy, i.e. paid advertising, increase and maintain one’s readership? Is it worth the money? Simple question, not quite such a simple answer. There does seem to have been an increase in the number of hits on my blog. Problem is I’m not sure exactly when the magazine is published and therefore whether there is a correlation between that increase and the publication date. It seems like there is, so without any greater analysis I’m going to pronounce the strategy a success. This does not mean I intend to repeat it, as the silver-tongued advertising account executive, as I think he is called, would have me do or, advertise in their sister magazine, History Today. On account of how their figures show they have the same age demographic or some such. It will be interesting to see if my increased figures are maintained. After all it’s all very well being a retirement sensation if you’re paying to be number 1 or page 4 on Google, but can you make it stick without the money? A person still has standards in retirement, you know.