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Should Every Marketer Read the National Enquirer?

February 5th, 2007 by Bob Bly

In today’s issue of AWAI’s e-newsletter, The Golden Thread, my friend Will Newman wrote an article on how to be a better copywriter.

One of Will’s pieces of advice was to read the National Enquirer.

This is old advice for copywriters: Milt Pierce, from whom I took a copywriting class in 1983, told us: “Read the National Enquirer.”

The idea is that, to be a good copywriter, you have to understand how the “common man” thinks … and that’s who reads the Enquirer.

But … and here’s a confession … I don’t spend a lot of time reading the National Enquirer — even though they once did a 2-page feature article about me (but that’s another story).

I mean, one of my specialties is writing DM copy to sell enterprise software … and I don’t think many of my readers (IT professionals) are reading the Enquirer.

I also write a lot of copy to sell high-end trading services, courses, and systems … and I am not sure how many traders turn to the Enquirer. So instead I read the Wall Street Journal.

How about you?

Do you read the National Enquirer to get a good feel for your market?

Or do you think that’s aiming a little too low?


This entry was posted on Monday, February 5th, 2007 at 5:32 pm and is filed under Direct Marketing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

39 responses about “Should Every Marketer Read the National Enquirer?”

  1. SpongeBob Fan said:

    Do you think Will Newman currently reads The Enquirer, or was he passing advice along? The reason I ask is because I used to read … and greatly enjoy! … The Enquirer, but it has really changed. A fun down-market read (compared to the WSJ!) became something, something worse.

    I think the advice is reasonable. It’s always good to remind myself that people hardly ever buy for all those “noble” reasons. But I’m not sure The Enquirer is the publication to catch glimpses in.

    (For your purposes, Bob, it’s almost certainly useless.)

  2. Chris Lake said:

    For consumer sales I think it does make sense to read the popular publications and watch the TV that fit the demographic in order to get the ring of the language that the audience is hearing. For business consumers, I would look to the trade magazines for the industry and maybe read a few issues of BusinessWeek, Forbes, Inc., etc., whatever fits the demographic best.

    Maybe I’m a snob but it seems like the checkout stand rags have gone downhill the past few years, at least in terms of their headlines. Cosmo still proves the power of cleavage though.

  3. Copywriting Services said:

    Hi Bob,

    While “Subscribe to National Enquirer” as you rightly pointed out is a very old axiom in the copywriter’s world, I read somewhere that “subscribing” to it is a major mistake.

    The trick is to buy it from the newsstands.

    May be someone can verify this,

    Edward Santosh

  4. Kelly Robbins said:

    Another reason for all of us to read the National Enquirer occasionally is to learn from them. Particularly writing headlines. I would bet a large amount of their sales are from people standing in line at the grocery store and the headline grabs their attention.

    I have recommended clients who are having a hard time coming up with names or titles for something read it. For most of us browsing through something as different or as sensational as the National Enquirer puts us in a different mind-set and can help generate ideas.


  5. Richard Armstrong said:

    Skimming the headlines in the checkout line should suffice. The advice has less to do with the National Enquirer in particular than it does with a general warning not to let yourself get out of touch with what your audience reads, watches, listens to, thinks. In other words, don’t get too snobby and don’t assume your audience shares your personal taste. This advice was taken to heart by the late, great Gene Schwartz, who was not only one of the most accomplished collectors of modern art in the country … but also the proud author of the headline “RUB YOUR BELLY AWAY!”

  6. Ali Manson said:

    Hi Bob,

    This question has no right or wrong answer.

    It really does depend on the projects you typically write and whether you think (or the market suggests) that there is financial merit for your client in doing what you are suggesting.

    The National Enquirer is not the stock nonsense rag that’s read here in the UK, but then again, we have more than enough gossip mags and toilet tabloids to keep our brains inactive for all eternity…

  7. David Morgan, Copywriter said:

    It’s all about targeting the audience.

    If it’s the so-called “average” American you’re after, the National Enquirer might provide not only a sample of diction and syntax that your reader can connect to, but also some audacious headlines.

    But to actually SUBSCRIBE to the National Enquirer? C’mon…

  8. Dianna Huff said:

    I don’t read The National Enquirer. However, I now subscribe to InStyle magazine because one of my clients is in fashion/health b2c. (I don’t normally read fashion magazines except at the dentist office. If I had an extra $6400 I certainly wouldn’t “invest” it in a handbag.)

    I do read the Wall Street Journal every day. You can learn just as much about writing headlines from it as you can The National Enquirer. Plus, reading the WSJ keeps me informed — which is why my 401K is growing and not my handbag collection. 🙂

  9. Jonathan Kantor said:


    There has to be better examples of writing for the “common man” than to use the National Enquirer. To hold this scandalous rag up to some journalistic or literary standard is to lower the standards for all of us.

    There’s only two uses of the National Enquirer. Lining the bottom of bird cages, and house-breaking new born puppies.

  10. Bob Bly said:

    Jonathan: the “better example” Will cited in his article, correctly attributed to the late Eugene Schwartz, is to watch the blockbuster movies of the day.

  11. Suzanne Ryan said:

    Dan Kennedy’s book on sales letters recommends reading the ads in National Enquirer. That’s more of a cut to the chase.

  12. Brendan said:

    I do pick up a copy once in a while, but much more to add new samples to my swipe file of headlines than to research a market.

  13. Marji Morrow said:

    I do peruse the National Enquirer regularly but not for copy points. My business is all about selling scarves to consumers and one barometer of interest is what celebrities are wearing in their Enquirer photos. I’ve said that if we go too many weeks without a celebrity in a scarf then it will be time to change the business.

  14. said:

    I’m amazed at the amount of traffic the NI receives- it’s the trash everyone denies reading but does – gross yet mesmerising exaggeration

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    So what this National Inquirer will give the marketer? I would rather quit this marketing job and turn myself into investor. That is much more lucrative.

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