Are ‘exclusives’ worth it?

Time and again, this question comes up when talking to our users and other architects and designers: ‘What is an exclusive, and is it worth it?’. So we thought it would be useful to revisit our post from last year.

Article Highlights:


If you’ve ever dealt with print media, chances are you’ve heard the term ‘exclusive’, even if you’ve never been asked for one yourself.

An ‘exclusive’ is an agreement between yourself and a publication that guarantees the publication first right to publish and/or an exclusion period before others can publish your project. So in other words, you’re giving the publication unique content for a set period of time. That’s quite valuable in today’s internet world where your project could ‘go viral’ online, hitting hundreds of websites. As such, an exclusive should be carefully considered.

Generally, exclusives are the domain of print media, and more specifically magazines, however some websites will also ask for exclusive first-publish rights. The question you should ask is ‘Is this worth it?’

Here are several things to consider:

How many people will see it?

As a general rule, exclusives make more sense when the publication has a large audience, but also one that’s harder to otherwise reach and valuable to you. For most architects this value will equate to a local audience with a high proportion of their ideal clients.

Some publications will have audited numbers which explain their audience size. You can ask the journalist or editor if they can provide these numbers and/or audience locations.

Who will see it?

One of the most important criteria for helping you to judge whether an exclusive is valuable to you is whether or not it will drive more clients to you.

If you publish in an industry publication, chances are you’ll have many of your colleagues throwing great kudos your way, but ultimately your future clients may never see it. Go for publications that will have the best readership for your practice.

If you’ve just designed a corporate headquarters for a large banking firm, an exclusive story in a glossy high-end business magazine with a readership of 1000 of the world’s top CEOs would be far more valuable than an architecture journal that goes to 10,000 architects.

Think about the kinds people who will actually see your project, not just the number.

What’s the offer?

Beyond readership and circulation, the publication might want to offer you some specific benefits in return for exclusive publication rights. This is where you can get more value from your project.

Some publications will simply offer you ‘a feature’. You should ask for more details to help you decide if it’s worth it to you.

Are there dangers for you and your practice?

Being asked for exclusive coverage in a magazine can help you to better tell the story of your project in a longer-format article, so there are some clear benefits.

However, you should think carefully about an exclusive when it could be detrimental to further stories on your project.

One example would be a ‘time-sensitive’ project, such as a pop-up bar, or the opening of a restaurant. If you were to agree to a 6-month exclusive period with a magazine (rare, but not unheard of), by the time you’re able to publish elsewhere, others may have lost interest.

Another example would be a new practice looking for extra work. Waiting four months before you can publish your first project online could mean four months without new work coming in.

Again, you should weigh this against the audience size and type to decide if it’s worth it for you.


Our Exclusivity Checklist

  • How many (more) people will see your project?
  • Are your future clients going to see it?
  • What is the exact date of publication?
  • When can you publish elsewhere?
  • How many words/pages/images will be published?
  • Where will the story appear in the publication?
  • Where will it appear in associated media channels (social media etc.)?
  • Will the publication link back to your website?

Some other things to take into account

  1. Online Publications: Online likes to be first, but it isn’t the most important thing to them. Taking an exclusive offer with a magazine generally won’t preclude the right project from being published extensively online and in other media.
  2. Wait for it: You don’t need to ask for an exclusive. Generally you will be approached for an exclusive by a publication, so you don’t need to offer exclusive publication unless asked.
  3. Be clear: Make sure the date of publication is very clear (get it in an email) and also be clear with the publication that if your project doesn’t appear where/when they have said, you reserve the right to publish elsewhere.
  4. Sometimes things change: Be aware that the world of magazines is a fluid and complex one. Sometimes a feature will be dropped to make room for an advertiser, or to give other features more breathing room. This means that your project could get ‘bumped’ to a future issue, even when you have an exclusive agreement. This is just part of the territory, and is something you should take into account as a possibility.
  5. Flexibility: A lot of architecture and design publications understand that your project might have audiences outside of theirs, and will often be happy for the project to be featured elsewhere even when an exclusive has been agreed. Always check with the publication to get a list of places you can/can’t publish.

When asking yourself if an exclusive agreement is worth it to you and your practice, remember why getting published is so important.

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