“How to deal with colour separations” is by far the most common search term used by visitors to this Blog from Google. Most of these visitors find a post that I wrote about five years ago on the subject called ‘beating the colour separation trap’.

So I thought I would revisit the issue. Since last time I covered the subject I’ve noticed that the number of colour separation requests I receive has decreased. The number of press releases I issue hasn’t gone down and neither has the range of media I work with changed. So I suspect that the practice of charging for colour separations has decreased.

Furthermore, very few clients put aside a budget for colour separations at all now. My personal view is that advertising is a better way to support a magazine than buying colour separations. So I tend to advise clients to spend that money on planned advertising rather than buying ‘colour’.

Note that I refer to this as ‘supporting magazines’ not marketing. My feeling is that the only real reason to buy colour separations or one off, ad-hoc adverts is to curry favour with the publication. If you are genuinely seeking to market yourself via advertising, you are much better off working closely with the titles in question to create a planned schedule using a respectable budget, incorporating online and offline techniques. And I’m totally in favour of this. Just don’t expect to place one advert and get a mountain of responses straight away.

Of course, since my last post, magazines have developed other ways of generating income. Many of them now charge to add written content to their Web sites, to add images to written content or to publish video.

My problem with this is that they are creating a barrier that successful journalists need to get around. Video content for example is ideal for online news coverage, but if you have to pay to submit it, fewer PRs will focus on it compared to the number producing written content.

So what’s the answer? Well, it’s the same as it was five years ago when I wrote my original post. Create a marketing budget and divide it between the techniques you want to use (PR, advertising, SEO, direct marketing, trade shows, etc, etc). Then spend that marketing budget in a planned way, re-assessing it periodically to see if it’s working. There could be a space in that for buying colour separations regularly, but my feeling is that most magazines would prefer you to buy display advertising instead. And it might well be more effective.

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