chapter 37

Use Print Ads

In the age of online advertising where you can calculate your return on investment to the penny, suggesting print advertising may seem quite unusual. Especially when magazines are getting extremely thin and newspapers are going out of business.

That’s exactly why we’re suggesting it.

If there has ever been a greater time for print advertising, it’s now. In other words, it’s a print advertiser’s market. Believe it or not, in many circumstances you can practically call the shots when it comes to negotiating rates.

Why Print Advertising?

Think print is dead? Think again. For many magazines and newspapers print advertising is less expensive than it was a decade ago. That’s simply because a lot of advertisers have moved most of their budget into online advertising.

Naturally, as the demand for ad space has diminished, so have advertising prices. This is not the case in every single instance, but by and large this is true across the print advertising world.

Depending on your niche and what print outlets are relevant to your business, this can be a goldmine of opportunity for you to not only get exposure to the right audience, but put a creative spin on how you want your brand to be recognized.

What Kind of Advertising Opportunities Should You Look For?

The smartest thing you can do is survey your customers and ask them what magazines and newspapers they read regularly. This will give you a strong indication of where you should advertise. But, most of you haven’t made a sale yet so you don’t have any customers, so here are a few things you can do to pinpoint the perfect publication for your business:

Start Locally

Not only will local publications be less expensive, but you can take advantage of the fact that you’re local as well. You can run ads that resonate with locals, whereas with national or international advertising, you just can’t get the same effect. 

Chart Readership vs. Cost

You’re going to want to chart which publications have the highest readership numbers along with their advertising cost. Determine which publications have the lowest cost corresponding with the highest readership numbers. Those are going to be the newspapers and magazines with the best bang for the buck. Of course you will have to also weigh which publications will be the best match for your business. The more niche specific and relevant the publication is to your business, the better the effect it will have.

For example, if you were debating whether to run an ad in the Wall Street Journal or Adventure Kayak Magazine (assuming you own an online kayaking store), you probably would want to advertise in Adventure Kayak Magazine since that’s what your target audience reads.

Check the Twittersphere

A great way to see if anyone actually reads the publications you’re thinking about advertising in is to see if anyone is tweeting their articles. Chances are these publications will have an online component, so you can do a Twitter search to see how often people talk about them. Another good thing to do is to check their Twitter follower count to see how popular they are.

In the example below, we’re going to see how frequently people talk about or link to “” (Thrasher is a skateboarding magazine). First we must navigate to to perform our search:

After entering the domain name in the exact phrase field, we hit enter and we get the following results:

We can see that people are talking about this magazine quite frequently (a few times an hour), so this is a good indication that a good amount of eyeballs read this magazine.

Some Tips for Diving into Print Advertising

  1. Plan for the long haul – The number one rule when it comes to print advertising is that you have to stick with it for a while. Don’t expect sales to come pouring after your first ad. It’s more about branding and generating demand over time.
  2. Create special promotion URLs – Create URLs that will help you track the effectiveness of your ads. These URLs will not give you an exact number of people who saw your ads, but they do give you a relative measure of how effective your ads are. 
  3. Don’t clutter your ad space  – One of the biggest habits of new entrepreneurs is to try to squeeze in as much information into their ad as possible in order to take advantage of every millimeter or real estate. Well it doesn’t work – and actually ruins the effectiveness of your ad. Instead advertise one promotion. Having a clear and concise offer will generally yield much better results. Otherwise you’re just going to confuse people.
  4. Don’t wait until the last minute to create your ad  – You should come up with your first draft a week before the deadline. Chances are you’re going to have to reformat your artwork or you may come up with an even better idea for a better ad. Give yourself some breathing room – you’ll thank yourself for it.
  5. Never pay full price – To find out the price of an advertisement in a magazine you go to their website and check the rate calendar in their media kit. There you will see something called “Rate Base” which is the guaranteed audited circulation, and then prices for varying sizes of ads depending on volume of buy. Big discounts go to advertisers who commit to 6-12 issues. Now you have to talk to a sales person to negotiate the rate. The first quote you get is called the “open rate,” and you can usually get them at least 30% lower than that. You should always negotiate a better rate, nobody expects you to pay what is listed on the website, or even their first quote. Listed price is $100,000 for a full-page ad, you can probably get them down to $50,000 for a one-off. We have negotiated to pay only 30% of the listed price before, so we can’t stress this enough: never pay full price.
  6. Don’t pay extra for color or bleed – So many advertisers don’t know this, but magazine ad departments are ripping everyone off with bleed charges, and charging extra for 2-color, 4-color, and more. These charges come from the days when it would actually cost more to print full bleed (they would lay ads out by hand) or in full color. Nowadays with printing technology it makes no difference, so never pay extra for color or bleed. 
  7. Negotiate position – While you’re negotiating rates you will need to consider where your ad will appear in the magazine or newspaper. This is an important conversation since you probably don’t want the last 30% of the publication. Be prepared to negotiate first 50% of the magazine, you will get more eyes and you will be placed among more reputable brands. 
  8. Beware of buying remnant ad space – If you call up an ad department shortly before they go to print you can often buy highly discounted ads. This can be a good strategy for some merchants, but others beware. When you buy remnant ad space you will not have a say on positioning and will likely end up at the back of the magazine. 

Remember, many great businesses were built on print advertisements. So don’t count them out just yet. The entry point into online advertising is extremely low, but advertising in the right print publications can add a lot of legitimacy to your business through increased brand recognition and trustworthiness which you should see translate into a boost in sales activity. Again, as we've mentioned throughout this chapter, there has never been a better time to pick up reasonably priced print ads. 

Next chapter

38. Sponsor an Event

3 min

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