Pitching the Perfect Image: A Look at Top Publishers' Image Sizes

August 3, 2015

There’s no denying the power of visuals -- including at least one image in your post can double your shares while also helping your audience retain more information than with text alone.

This is especially true in the PR and media world. When pitching a story, many more PR pros are including images and infographics in the hope of getting a hit. 

Though there are many things to consider when designing an image for a campaign, one crucial thing often falls by the wayside: optimizing the image for the width of the site you're pitching. Editors don't want to make their readers have to struggle to understand your image, so if your design is too wide or narrow for the site you're pitching, you could easily be rejected.

With that in mind, Fractl and BuzzStream looked at the main or featured body tag images for 35 of the top publishers to determine the most popular widths. We also looked at any larger layouts and pop-ups to determine a maximum width for each publisher when available.

We’ll walk you through four insights below that will help eliminate some of the guesswork during your next design phase.

1) More than 90% of publishers support a featured image size of 600 pixels or larger.

Although there is no one-size-fits-all formula for publisher image sizes, 91% of publishers offer a featured image that is 600 pixels wide or larger. In fact, the sweet spot tends to be between 600 and 800 pixels, with more than 80% of publishers’ main image widths falling into this category. Additional analysis revealed:

  • The median width for main image sizes is 644 pixels.
  • When combined with maximum image widths, more than 95% of publishers can support a width of 600 pixels.
  • Only 14% of publishers’ main images are 800 pixels or larger while fewer than 10% of main images are fewer than 600 pixels.

In practice, this means that you should produce an asset that is at least 600 pixels wide in order to maximize placements with multiple publishers.

However, there are certain design situations -- such as an infographic that requires tiny labels -- that will call for a larger width; so keep in mind that more than 70% of major publishers can still embed images 800 pixels wide or larger without any additional cropping.

2) More than 65% of publishers offer a maximum width of 900 pixels or more.

Although most publishers’ main image widths fall between 600 pixels and 800 pixels, a majority offers additional layouts that can accommodate images larger than 900 pixels. This is great news from a design perspective because it means there is an opportunity to create larger assets that might require more nuanced details. Further analysis revealed:

  • Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Rolling Stone, and NBC News offer the largest publishable width: 1920 pixels.
  • Although the median width for main images is 644 pixels, the median width for the largest type of images on the publication is 940 pixels -- more than a 37% difference.
  • With a maximum width of 1920 pixels and a main image width of 636 pixels, Lifehacker and Gizmodo have the greatest differential at 1284 pixels.
  • Only four publishers -- The Economist, Fox News, CBS News, and Us Magazine -- offer a maximum image width fewer than 700 pixels.

Considering the natural syndication levels of the publishers that offer some of the smallest images (three of the publishers actually only offer one image size across the board) designers should remember that the text needs to be legible, especially with an asset under 600 pixels.

Looking for an easy way to ensure clarity? Work with some of these smaller sizes during the initial design phase.

3) Six publishers offer a maximum width that is exactly the same width as their main page image.

Piggybacking on the last thought above, 17% of publishers offer a maximum width that is exactly the same as their main page width. In order from smallest to largest -- ranging from 595 pixels to 840 pixels -- these publishers include:

  • The Economist
  • Fox News
  • CBS News
  • MTV
  • CNET
  • Fortune

From a promotional standpoint, although this means that these publishers offer little flexibility, it doesn’t mean they should be avoided entirely.

In order to increase your chances of a placement while also optimizing your outreach efforts, make sure that any exclusives you offer these publishers include an asset that meets their standards exactly. If not, your exclusive pitch time is better spent elsewhere -- save these outlets for syndication instead.  

4) NPR offers the largest main image width at 948 pixels (which is as large as two images from CBS News).

One publisher that stood out from the rest in terms of the size of its hostable assets was NPR. The publisher offers the largest main image at 948 pixels -- nearly 70% larger than Us Magazine. And out of all 35 publishers, its maximum width is only 680 pixels fewer than the largest size available. Other publishers that place an emphasis on large assets:

  • Business Insider offers a main image width of 800 pixels with a maximum width of 1000 pixels -- a difference of only 200 pixels.
  • The difference between Forbes’ main image and the maximum image is fewer than 165 pixels, with the main image being more than 800 pixels wide.

When we compared these publishers by niche, Gizmodo was the most tech-focused publisher to offer the largest maximum width size, GQ offered the largest for fashion, and NBC News offered the largest size for general news as well as the largest maximum width for all 35 publishers.

Whether your design focuses more on aesthetic or function, your production team should consider the different dimensions of publishers' sites. Take a look at the graphic below, which allows you to easily compare one publisher to another. Although publishers’ sites will continue to evolve -- along with the image sizes they offer -- this is a great reference for your initial production stages. 

publishering_body_size_images.png

Study by Fractl and BuzzStream.

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