I have good news and bad news about print media ad costs. The good news is
that most print media actually have easy-to-read (albeit somewhat difficultto-
understand) rate cards that list the various costs for assorted ad sizes — a
welcome relief from the way radio advertising is negotiated
The bad news is that the rate card is nothing more than a starting point in
the media-negotiation and buying process, because newspapers, especially,
have created so many permutations of their basic (or open) rates that even a
professional media buyer has trouble deciphering them in order to come up
with the most frugal media buy. And after you discover the nuances of one
publication’s rates and myriad discounts, you can then call the next publication
and start all over again — no two publications’ rates and discounts are
alike. (I think they do this just to totally confuse you and to give their salespeople
a reason for being.)
After deciding where you’re going to put your ad, you need the help of a sales
rep, But before you go into a meeting with a rep, you need to know a few things
about how print ads are priced.
For example, somewhere in the mists of time, all newspapers made the diabolical
decision that no two advertising pricing schemes would ever be the
same. Newspapers and other publications generally price print ads by multiplying
the number of columns wide, by the number of inches high, by a dollar
amount for each column inch. For example, a quarter-page ad in most newspapers
is 3 columns wide by 11 inches high, which makes it a 33-column-inch
ad. So if the open rate for your local paper is $50 per column inch, you have
an ad that can cost you $1,650 for one insertion.
Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. Here are just a few of the seemingly
infinite variations possible to that simple pricing structure:
1, The initial $50 per-column-inch rate can change for numerous reasons,
because it’s the open rate (the rate paid by a new advertiser who runs an
ad only one time).
2 If you’re willing to commit to running your ad multiple times over a certain
time period, you can reduce the open rate by as much as 50 percent.
3 Newspapers and other publications often give discounts for new businesses,
minority-owned businesses, first-time advertisers, political advertisers, nonprofit
groups, and so on.
4 If you’re willing to commit to three ads per week, and if you’re also willing
to make a substantial dollar commitment over an extended time
period, you can dramatically reduce your rate per ad.
5 You may qualify for more than one of these discounts — for example, if
you’re willing to commit to a long-term buy and you’re also a nonprofit.
Usually, newspapers offer what they call pickup rates. A pickup rate is a discounted
rate newspapers give in return for running the same ad two or more
times in the same week. For instance, if your first ad runs in the Sunday
paper, your newspaper rep may quote you a pickup rate as follows: “Our
pickup rates are 20, 30, 40, then 50, 50, and 50.” That’s her way of saying that
if you run your ad a second time in the same week, you receive a 20-percent
discount; a third insertion in that week gets you a 30-percent discount; a
fourth insertion gets you a 40-percent discount; and for every time you run
the ad in that same week after that point, you receive a 50-percent discount.
And the discounts apply to all ads you run Clearly, the discounts definitely
have a way of adding up! The ad in my example earlier in this section, which
I priced at $1,650 for a single insertion, ends up costing $594 at the end of
one week if you run it multiple times — which gives you a discount of 64 percent!
Ad pricing is complicated, confusing, convoluted, and intimidating. The only
way you can be sure you’re getting the best rate possible is to tell your rep,
in no uncertain terms, “Give me all available rates.”