Differences Between a Newsletter and a Magazine

Magazine and newspaper boxes

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Magazines and newsletters are both serials or periodicals — publications that are published on a regular, recurring schedule for an indefinite period of time. That schedule could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or whatever its publishers decide.

Most readers will pick up a publication and immediately decide for themselves whether it is a newsletter or a magazine. In general, the differences between newsletters and magazines come down to how they are written, who they are written for, and how they are distributed. Additionally, most newsletters and magazines provide visual clues as to their identity.

Common Differences Between Magazines and Newsletters

  • Content: A magazine usually has articles, stories, or pictures on multiple subjects (or multiple subjects on a particular overall theme) by multiple authors. A newsletter usually has articles about one main subject, and may have multiple authors or may have only one author.
  • Audience: A magazine is written for the general public with minimum technical jargon or specialized language. Typically even special interest magazines are written with a general audience in mind. A newsletter is written for a group of people with a common interest. It may contain more technical jargon or specialized language not readily understood by the general public.
  • Distribution: A magazine is available by subscription or from newsstands and is often heavily supported by advertising. A newsletter is available by subscription to interested parties or distributed to members of an organization. It is supported primarily by subscriptions, organizational membership fees (club dues), or paid for by the publishing authority (such as an employee newsletter or a marketing newsletter).

Additional Differences

Some localities and organizations have their own specific definitions for magazines and newsletters based on readership, distribution, length, or format, regardless of what the publication calls itself. Here are some of the criteria that might be useful in deciding if a publication is a magazine or a newsletter.

  • Size: Magazines come in a variety of sizes from digest to tabloid size. Newsletters do as well, although letter size is a typical newsletter format.
  • Length: Most magazines are significantly longer than a newsletter, from a few dozen pages to a few hundred. Newsletters are not generally more than 12-24 pages in length and some may be only 1-2 pages.
  • Binding: Magazines typically use saddle stitching or perfect binding depending on the number of pages. Newsletters may not require binding or might use saddle-stitching or simply a staple in the corner.
  • Layout: The most common, significant visual difference between a magazine and a newsletter is the cover. Magazines usually have a cover that includes the name of the publication, graphics, and perhaps headlines or teasers about what is inside that issue. Newsletters typically have the nameplate and one or more articles right on the front, with no separate cover.
  • Color/Printing: There is no rule that newsletters can't be printed 4-color on glossy paper or that magazines have to be; however, newsletters are more likely to be black and white or spot color publications while magazines are frequently full-color glossies.
  • Print or pixels: Traditionally, magazines and newsletters were both print publications and most remain so. However, email newsletters are common, especially as a publication in support of a website. Print periodicals may also have an electronic version, usually in PDF format. There are also some periodicals that are available only in PDF electronic versions, not in print. With electronic publications, there are no obvious visual clues from the layout and type of printing. The content and audience become the main criteria for determining if the publication is a magazine or a newsletter.