6 Ballot Themes Perfect for City and Regional Magazines

by Liz Huff Second Street

Food & Dining

Everyone loves food. But even more than that, everyone’s got a restaurant they are passionate about. Whether it’s a niche category like the Best Burger in Belleville or Best New Restaurant or a broad ballot covering all the restaurants in your community, food and dining ballots are always a win with every audience.

One of the most popular stories of the St. Louis Magazine comes from their ballot judging the best restaurants in the city. The magazine sets it up with over a dozen categories including the best newcomer, fried chicken, fast casual, and best family fave. More than 14,000 votes were cast to determine the best dishes in the city.


Whether it’s featuring the top nurses and doctors, local 40-Under-40, your favorite fire fighters, or even Top Workplaces, ballots highlighting professionals in your community will always be a favorite with your readers. Not only can the entrants turn into great content for your next issue, but it lends itself to big winner’s events – and that means revenue.

In honor of National Nurses Week in May, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran their Celebrate Nurses ballot. The paper sold the title sponsorship to a local hospital – specifically their college of nursing. More than 2,600 votes were cast and the hospital added over 1,150 addresses to their email database.

Healthcare Ballot


Top Happy Hour Spots, Favorite Coffee Barista, and Best Wineries in Madison County are just a few drink-themed ballots to consider for your publication. If there’s one thing people are more passionate about than food, it’s their favorite drinks, favorite spots to grab a drink, and favorite bartenders.

A top bartender ballot was a winning idea for sponsor Cazadores Tequila. Looking for a campaign to drive brand awareness, station WKLB-FM created a ballot featuring videos of local bartenders mixing a Cazadores drink. The contest brought in $35,000 in revenue, 2,200+ visits to the ballot’s site, and the average user stayed on the WKLB ballot site for over 24 minutes.

Family Favorites

There are a lot of businesses and activities in your community that cater directly to families. There’s a big difference between the best restaurant and the best family restaurant. Whether you want to know the top pediatricians, the best birthday party venue, or even which restaurant has the best kids’ menu, family-oriented ballots can drive in a ton of participation from your readers.

The Boston Parents Paper’s annual Family Favorite ballot is a hit with the magazine’s readers. The ballot includes a dozen categories from Food and Health to Camps and and Enrichment Programs. Last year, the ballot received nearly 10,000 votes from over 6,000 unique participants. The results are featured in the July issue of the magazine making it a must-have publication for any winner, nominee, or local parent interested in the best things for their kids.


Best of Weddings ballots are one of our all-time favorites, not to mention it’s one of our biggest revenue generators. There are so many unique, non-traditional advertisers in the wedding industry that a ballot is the perfect way to drive in this new revenue. Plus, we often see these ballots naturally connected with big events or fantastic special issues.

Pittsburgh Magazine created this stunning wedding ballot for their readers. With nearly a dozen categories including Salons, Caterers, and Photographers, this contest was a great way to target hundreds of businesses for advertising opportunities within their ballot, on their site, and in their follow-up special issue.


Ballots centered around school and education can appeal to a wide audience. While great at bringing in a younger demographic of school-age children, these ballots excel at roping in the audience of parents, relatives, and alumni. Whether it’s you’re asking readers to vote on the top schools and educational resources or share their favorite high school athletes, these are a win in every community.

Looking for a way to jumpstart their new sports-themed newsletter, Sauk Valley Media put together an Athlete of the Week ballot to help drum up interest and excitement. Their ballot helped fuel their newsletter content, and by including a simple email opt-in on the registration form, their ballot grew their newsletter list by 2,900% in eight weeks.

When it comes to creating content to drive people to your site and repurpose into print issues, a ballot can be a game-changer. These versatile tools not only provide your readers an opportunity to weigh-in on their favorite topics, but it gives your magazine a unique glimpse into what’s most important to them.

As a publisher who’s always on the hunt for new ways to make your magazine stand out amongst your competitors. Ballots will give you a leg-up, so you can create content that’s unique and sets you apart from all the rest.

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