Selecting the right type matters. If you want to sell more, it’s important that your readers can read what you have to say. Magazine articles don’t sell, but it’s in the magazine’s interest to attract as many readers as possible. Magazines sell whatever is in their articles, but if readers don’t read them, they won’t be satisfied in the long run.
If the article’s laid out like the one in the picture, you can be sure that readership ratings are going to be low. Twice as many people would read the same article if it was published on white background in black type. This fact has been proven for so many times in direct marketing. Good old David Ogilvy says on p. 21 of his book Ogilvy on Advertising!:
“I recently counted 49 advertisements set in reverse (white type on black background) in one issue of a magazine, many years after research demonstrated reverse is difficult to read”. Drayton Bird claims the same; everyone who knows something about direct marketing says the same.
You know that I know something about direct marketing. I’ve read plenty of books and articles on the topic, and we conducted over 150 direct marketing tests last year. I attended numerous lectures on the subject at the biggest annual publishing event in the world – the Folio: Show (http://www.folioshow.com) which attracts magazine professionals from around the world. Reverse type reduces readership ratings. Period. No exceptions. By the way, if you work in magazine publishing, you should attend the Folio Show at least once every five years.
We all agree on this – reverse type reduces readership ratings. This kind of type is good for shorter passages of text, perhaps a headline, but certainly not for the whole text. All of you who read the marketing guru’s diary know better. And if you’re ever in the situation to decide on a text layout, remember this entry. It seems that designers aren’t taught that at school. Marketing gurus teach you that. To get this kind of knowledge you need to attend expensive lectures, or simply read books which are much cheaper. You just have to work a bit harder.
But why do these things still happen? Because those who design don’t read and don’t attend seminars; they copy their colleagues who likewise don’t read, and they improvise. Because magazine professionals don’t depend on readership ratings as much as – for example – catalogue sales professionals. You won’t find such layout in a Neckermann mail-order catalogue because they care how much they sell. They know that white type on black background is difficult to read – if readers don’t read, they aren’t going to buy either. Ultimately, weaker sales spell less profit and hungry children at home.