Hey niche publishers–can you relate to this? Someone calls, saying they want to “partner” with you. Except a partnership involves give and take from both parties and that is not remotely what this caller wants. To them, “partner” means, “I want in on all the cool things your magazine is doing, plus benefit from you but I don’t want to have to pay for or do anything.”

Argh! I get calls like this all time, even though now it’s for event sponsorships vs my own magazine. I mostly try to avoid these callers. But then I remember one of my past posts about taking the call, you never know.

So sometimes I will stick with the caller and try to explore any possibilities for mutual benefit. 

If someone calls about a partnership and it seems too good to be true–it probably is. And expertise and effort aren’t always equal. Partnerships require a careful examination on both sides to determine if it’s a good fit. It’s just not that easy.

I have no doubt that City & Regional publishers get requests like this all the time!

There is an upside.

Is there an upside to getting hit up to partner every time you turn around? Are there some true success stories about partnerships? We consulted veteran publisher (and all-around great guy) Todd Lemke, of Omaha magazine, to find out how he handles these callers.

Todd: “It’s a compliment that they want to partner but it doesn’t pay the bills.

City and Regional magazines have stock answers for people wanting to “partner”. (1) is sponsorship (2) is shared cost (3) is no but.

(1) Sponsorship is the most obvious but I believe the trick is to cover most hard expenses with “partners” at some sponsorship level.
(2) Shared Cost means a true partner would share the risk, the work, and the reward.  So this usually works best on a new project.  On an existing project that is already proven then the risk isn’t a factor so the reward should not be shared.  So this only leaves the work.  Which could save you labor hours and time.
(3) No but …..you can trade me for something of value like (a) their membership list (b) advertising (c) an all-inclusive vacation (d) product (e) specialized skills.  You get the idea trade value for value.

In the magazine world, we often are asked to do a story on an individual business or non-profit or launch.  I believe this is where the roots of Native Advertising or Content Marketing originated.

So you could say “Sure we can do your one source story in a really engaging, impactful editorial piece, but we want you to pay for the space and have us label it as Sponsored so we can protect the relationship “trust” of our readers.”

Obviously we all have our favorite non-profit causes that we want to help with a partnership, just remember to ask for an “in-kind gift letter” with the value of the partnership/ad/labor for tax purposes.”




More about Carl: Carl Landau is Grand Poobah of Niche Media. In his past life, he launched 5 successful niche magazines. He is a media/event guru, SF Giants fan, podcast host and part-time blogger. Carl’s 15 minutes of fame took place in the mid-eighties when he launched his famous, “Buy an Ad, Get a Cat” ad campaign. He has long since patched things up with the SPCA.


More about Todd: Omaha magazine began with Todd Lemke in 1983. Over the subsequent 35 years, additional staff in operations, sales, editorial, and design have joined the publishing family and they now publish seven titles. Their mission is to serve the community of Omaha with the best city magazine(s) possible.



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