Differences Between a Newsletter and a Magazine

What are the key differences between newsletters and magazines?

Magazine and newspaper boxes

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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 other timetable the publishers decide on.

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

Newsletters
  • Mostly includes articles about a key subject.

  • Written for targeted audience.

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

  • Brief: Usually only a few pages.

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

  • Written for a general audience.

  • Usually supported by mix of subscription and advertising.

  • Generally longer than newsletters.

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 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. 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.

Newsletters: Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • Targeted audiences allow for advanced discussion.

  • Versatile support platform.

  • Brief lengths allow for quicker turnaround.

Disadvantages
  • Limited distribution.

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

A newsletter usually has articles about one main subject, and may have multiple authors or may have only one author. They are written for a group of people with a common interest. Newsletters may contain more technical jargon or specialized language not readily understood by the general public.

Like magazines, newsletter are available by subscription to interested parties, or they may be 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. They are generally not more than 12-24 pages in length, and some may be only 1-2 pages. Newsletters may not require binding or might use saddle-stitching or simply a staple in the corner.

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

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.

Magazines: Pros and Cons

Advantages
  • 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. They are 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.

Magazines are generally available by subscription or from newsstands and are often heavily supported by advertising. Like newsletters, they come in a variety of sizes from digest to tabloid size, and 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. They also use saddle stitching or perfect binding, depending on the number of pages.