Mobile navigation


Free distribution: 5 minutes with… Dan Collins

People have returned to offices, but work patterns have changed. This means that free distribution in town centres has had to change too. We grab five minutes with Magazine Heroes’ Dan Collins to see where the opportunities now lie.

By Dan Collins

Free distribution: 5 minutes with… Dan Collins

Q: How has the free distribution sector evolved since the pandemic?

A: The pandemic was hard for the free distribution sector, especially those that relied on brand to hand or placement in offices and high footfall areas. The regular forms of distribution that we were used to had to adapt. There was still a thirst for products, we just had to find the audience.

We therefore evolved and worked with different forms of distribution such as working with online retailers and sending brands out with products, postcode analysis distribution, working closer with supermarkets, stands in high footfall areas and smaller distributions in more local areas where people were now working from home.

We had to go out and find the readers, follow their working and leisure patterns and match that to the distribution. The work that we did during the pandemic still informs the work we do now, and in many cases, we still run some of the newer forms of distribution. Free distribution must be more targeted, more efficient, more cost effective than ever before. Things will not go back to how they were – this is the new normal.

Q: Post-covid, how have working patterns changed and how has this affected publishers’ distribution strategies?

A: Five days in the office is now a distant memory; employees have more flexibility in their working patterns and therefore publishers need to establish the travel patterns of their target market and not just presume every day is the same. Cities are busy and nearly back to normal – TFL has reported that Fridays are back to pre-covid levels – but confidence from publishers and advertisers has not yet followed this trend (but it’s getting there!).

Being clever with your copies is the way to go; follow your audience, be available in city centres - but also more locally for those working at home. Be available in an office or at a tube station, but also in a coffee shop or at a supermarket. A different approach could be to look to online retailers who will reach your target audience.

Whilst the morning commute is still busy – if you are to catch as many people as possible with brand to hand, it’s now best if you cover shifts across the day which then accounts for flexible working too. Things are constantly changing – distribution is more fluid and adaptable than before the pandemic; you need to be able to move the product with your audience

Q: For publishers targeting London’s tourists, what advice do you give them?

A: THE TOURISTS ARE BACK! London is bursting! New hotels are opening and are reporting high occupancy levels, and this summer - even in the rain - tourist spots were booming.

My advice for targeting London’s tourists would be:

  • Get to know the hotels or a supplier that does
  • You can’t just distribute products in tourist areas – you may need agreements and licenses
  • Consider working with Tourist Information Centres
  • Travel and watch where the tourists are going
  • Partner with tourism providers or those that can initiate this
  • Make key alliances with busy tourist attractions

Tourists are always hungry for information and even though we live in a digital age, many still prefer printed material when touring. Look for suppliers that can get you to the heart of tourism centres either via stands in attractions, copies in hotels, cafes and bars or brand to hand in the heart of London.

Q: Why should publishers consider free distribution?

A: Commuters are back, shoppers are back, and tourists are back. Footfall may be slightly different but there is an audience waiting to get their hands on your publications. For paid-for products, free distribution is a great sampling opportunity as long as there is also a strong call to action – you can promote both subscription and retail sales whilst getting your product in readers’ hands. Free distribution can also be used as part of an advertising partnership – it is a win-win for your publication and the advertiser, forming a close partnership with high profile activations in high footfall areas. All free distribution can be audited and is ABC compliant. In many cases, you should be able to ask for PODS, tracking and photos.

Q: What are the key dos and don’ts for free distribution success?


  1. Consider distribution right from the conception of the magazine.
  2. Know your audience.
  3. Work with a range of suppliers who all have different specialities.
  4. Don’t presume that just because a product is free, an audience will want it.
  5. Treat a free product as you would a retail product
  6. The cheapest is cheap for a reason.

Q: What’s in the pipeline from Magazine Heroes?

A: We will be continuing to help publishers with new launches, ABC audits and advice. We have also been working on developing prize draws and data collection for clients. 2022 saw us work across Europe and we hope to continue venturing outside the UK going forward. It is also important to find new and innovative ways to get publications into people’s hands - we are forever on the lookout for new distribution avenues. We have seen a growth of targeted, niche magazines that speak to selected audiences, and we are constantly thinking how we can get their great work to a wider audience – finding where that audience is, and understanding what would hook them into becoming a regular reader.

About us

Magazine Heroes provide a cost-effective solution to your circulation needs. We are an independent consultancy that can manage your paid or free circulation, distribute your products, advise on distribution strategy, manage your subscription marketing and sample your products. We are happy to work on both small and large products and have experience working across the UK and internationally.



Tel: 07889 985312