The Reading Habits of Marketers Are there some go-to publications that all marketers read? Well, no, not among the marketers I know.

Marketer Reading

A few weeks ago, I conducted a survey among some of my LinkedIn contacts. I wanted to create my target audience personas (as per inbound marketing methodology). To properly scope the professional habits, challenges and goals of my target markets, I wrote up a survey and asked those I know who fall into those markets to respond. This exercise helped with my goal, but it also gave me a lot of extra information and insight. Something I found particularly interesting is the reading habits of marketing professionals. The question asked was, “What are your favorite work-related blogs, magazines & publications?”

To be clear, in the context of my survey, marketing professionals fall into two groups: those who work in PR and marketing agencies, and those who work as Marketing Managers or Directors within companies. In the world of marketing, these are the two different “sides” of the industry, e.g. if someone leaves a company to join an agency, they’ve moved on to “the other side.”

What sparked my interest in the data are the discrepancies between what these two groups read. I expected all marketing professionals, no matter their “side,” to feed their intellect from the same sources. Turns out, they don’t.


Breakdown – The Marketers Surveyed

Before I go further, allow me to share a breakdown of info related to the respondents.

Of the Marketing Managers/Directors group, 11 people responded while 1 person skipped this question. Most work in the B2B and/or IT sectors. This group cited 21 different publications, 3 of which are social media sites. The overlaps (where more than 1 person cited a publication) are LinkedIn, Strategy and the Harvard Business Review.

Of the Marketing & PR Agency group, 7 people responded while 1 person skipped this question. Most work for customers in the IT or manufacturing sectors. This group cited 25 different publications, none of which are social media sites. The overlaps are the Hubspot marketing blog and Fast Company.


Findings – Who Reads What?

The nature of the publications read differs from one group to the other. Both consume business magazines and websites. In addition to that, Marketing Managers/Directors consult trade magazines, social media and analyst publication, while Agency Professionals also consult blogs and news outlets.

Both groups primarily consult business magazines. The runner up for Marketing Managers is trade magazine. For Agency Professionals, web sites.

Whereas Marketing Managers tend to read up about the industry they work in, Agency Professionals are much more likely to stay up to date with design, web and marketing news, as well as general interest news.

Below are some pie charts that demonstrate this data for those of you who prefer visuals.

Marketing Managers & Directors

Sources Spread for Marketing Managers & Directors


Marketing & PR Agency

Sources Spread for Marketing & PR Agency Professionals


Revelation – Differing Volume

What surprised me most was how much more Marketing & PR Agency professionals consume industry knowledge compared to their in-company counterparts. The ratio of respondents-per-publications-read for Agency Professionals is 1:3.5. That ratio for Marketing Managers/Directors is 1:1.9, and it falls to 1:0.6 if we do not take into account social media.

Of course, this data does not reflect the qualitative nature of marketing professionals’ reading habits. The survey also did not include any questions related to marketing books. Still, in addition to the quantitative data given, it’s interesting to compare the only two written comments I received from respondents, incidentally one from each group.

Marketing Manager/Director: “I’m subscribed to a whole load and always mean to read them when I have a moment, funnily enough this moment never comes around.”

Agency Professional: “There are so many…”


Conclusion – It’s All a Question of Context

I was discussing these findings over lunch the other day with another marketing professional. Louise Dion currently works as the Head of Communications at the Quebec Association of Optometrists, but was previously the Vice President of Corporate Communications and Operations in the Montreal office of Edelman Canada (Edelman being one of the world’s largest PR firms). When I mentioned how much more reading Marketing & PR Agency professionals appeared to do, she confirmed, but with a caveat.

Louise explained, “The challenge in PR is that you service clients from various fields, so must become well versed quickly in different industries to provide quality service. I read as much as I did before – this is a must to succeed, but now I focus on content related to the industry I work in.”

Reading, whether web sites, magazines or books, is important for marketing and communication professionals to stay on top of marketing trends as well as developments specific to the industry they work in. Still, it appears that the reading done by different marketing professionals is quite contextual. I assume this also changes over time as their career evolves and they take on different responsibilities… But that would be a subject for another survey!



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