Analyzing a Target Publication

After picking a publication to which you want to address your article, complete the following exercise. This can be merely a fill-in-the-blank document, but be as thorough as possible. This is worth 5% of your total grade and will be evaluated for thoroughness.

This activity will help you imagine who those readers are and what they expect to find in that publication. The activity guides you through a series of questions about the publication you have chosen to analyze. Answering these questions will help you understand who the audience of that publication is and what kinds of articles it contains. You will need the copy of your publication handy as you work through the questions.

Publication Information: Please include the title of the publication, and any other information to identify the publication you are analyzing.

1. Look at the table of contents of your publication. What kind of articles, departments and other features does this publication publish? (You may need to look at some of the departments and articles to determine what they include.)?

2. How long are the articles? If the features are generally of equal length, give an average. If the lengths vary widely, list the range of pages and number of articles in each range. To get an accurate count, flip through the magazine or browse the Web site to see if the articles are found on continuous pages or if they jump to pages later in the publication.

3. What topics are addressed in the articles, columns, letters to the editor, and so on? Type your list of topics below.

4. What seems to be the purpose(s) of this publication? (news, entertainment, scholarly research, instruction, etc.) Why do you think so?

Now let's take at look at the advertising in this publication. Since publications sell advertising based on who reads their magazine or Web site, the ads can tell us a great deal about the publication's audience. Does the publication contain advertising? What kind(s) of advertising does this publication contain: display, classified, both?

If not, the next five questions will not apply to your publication. You can skip these questions and go to Publication Information.

6. Approximately what proportion of the space is devoted to advertising? You can use a sample of 10 typical pages, and estimate the amount of each page which is devoted to advertising. Skim the whole publication, however, to see if advertising is reserved to particular sections or found throughout.

7. Who advertises in this publication? Skim the publication and create a list of categories, such as cars, books, etc. Then give a few examples of specific advertisers for each category, e.g. Microsoft, Ford, etc.

8. Based on the type of ads found in this publication, who is the target market for the ads? Answer in terms of demographics such as age, occupation, professional interests or affiliations, education, gender, income, etc.

9. Now we will gather some publishing information. If you are looking at a print publication, see if it lists a Web site within its opening pages or visit a Web search site (such as Google at and see if you can find a Web site for the publication. Many publications or organizations which publish magazines and journals have Web sites which include information about the publisher, its funding, and its history.

10. Who publishes this publication? Is the publisher a commercial enterprise, a scholarly or professional organization, a non-profit organization, an individual? Does the publisher own other media outlets or have other significant affiliations?

11. Where does the publication get its funding? From advertising, subscriptions, donations, etc?