Differences Between a Newsletter and a Magazine

What are the key differences between newsletters and magazines?

Magazines and newsletters are both periodicals—publications published on a regular, recurring schedule for an indefinite period of time. That schedule could be weekly, monthly, quarterly, or whatever timetable the publisher chooses.

In general, the difference between newsletters and magazines comes down to how the periodicals are written, who the articles are written for, and how the publications are distributed. Additionally, most newsletters and magazines provide visual clues as to their identity.

Newsletter vs. Magazine
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Overall Findings

Newsletters
  • Mostly includes articles about a key subject.

  • Written for a targeted audience.

  • Supported by a mix of subscription, membership dues, or publishing authority.

  • Brief and usually only a few pages.

Magazines
  • Content covers a range of subjects, styles, and media types.

  • Written for a general audience.

  • Usually supported by a mix of subscription and advertising.

  • Generally longer than newsletters.

Some localities and organizations have 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 distinguishing between a magazine and a newsletter.

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. Some periodicals 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.

Newsletters: Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • Targeted audiences allow for advanced discussion.

  • A versatile support platform.

  • The brief length allows for a quick turnaround.

Disadvantages
  • Limited distribution.

  • More text-heavy and less glossy than print magazines.

A newsletter usually has articles about one main subject. It may have multiple authors or only one author. Newsletters are written for a group of people with a common interest. Newsletters may contain technical jargon or specialized language that isn't readily understood by the general public.

Like magazines, newsletters are available by subscription to interested parties or distributed to members of an organization. Newsletters are supported primarily by subscriptions, organizational membership fees (club dues), or paid for by a publishing authority‚ such as an employee newsletter or a marketing newsletter.

Newsletters come in a variety of sizes, although letter size is a typical newsletter format. Newsletters are generally not more than 12 to 24 pages in length, and some may be only one or two pages. Newsletters may not require binding, might use saddle-stitching, or may have a staple in the corner.

Newsletters typically have the nameplate and one or more articles on the front, with no separate cover.

There is no rule that newsletters can't be printed in four colors 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.

Magazines: Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • A flexible balance of text and graphics.

  • Supported by subscriptions, advertising, or both.

Disadvantages
  • More expensive to produce.

  • More general audience demands for generalized discussion.

A magazine usually has articles, stories, or pictures on multiple subjects (or multiple subjects on a particular overall theme) by multiple authors. Magazines are written for the general public with minimum technical jargon or specialized language. Typically, special interest magazines are written with a general audience in mind.

Magazines are generally available by subscription or from newsstands and are often heavily supported by advertising. Like newsletters, magazines come in various sizes, from digest to tabloid size. Magazines are significantly longer than newsletters—from a few dozen pages to a few hundred.

The most common, significant visual difference between a magazine and a newsletter is the cover. Unlike newsletters, magazines usually have a cover that includes the name of the publication, graphics, and perhaps headlines or teasers about what is inside that issue. Magazines also use saddle stitching or perfect binding, depending on the number of pages.

Final Verdict: Newsletters Are Specific, Magazines Are General

There may be a lot of overlap between magazines and newsletters. However, newsletters are usually better for smaller, targeted audiences, while magazines fit a larger, general-interest audience. People who are work on newsletters know their audience and aim to provide text-heavy content that caters to their interests. Meanwhile, magazines tend to have a wider circulation with less focus on text or specific themes and topics.