The New York Observer reports that the Philadelphia Inquirer tried charging $60,000 to run an ad from the Jewish Values Network — the same money the New York Times would charge for a similar ad, only with many fewer readers to see it.
The official referee of newspaper circulation, Audited Media, lists the print circulation of the Times at 1,254,506 and the Inquirer at 362,752. With less than 1/3 the audience, it is perhaps surprising that the Inky thought it could command an equal page rate. (It should be noted that the Times rate of $60,000 for a full page is only for its “standby rate,” which means they won’t guarantee that it runs on the particular requested day, only that it runs.)
Confronted with this disparity, the Inquirer agreed to cut its price to $50,000 — still a way higher price-per-reader than the Times, a source with knowledge of the Jewish Values Network’s ad-buying practices told the Observer. The media firm countered with $30,000 — half the money for about a quarter as many readers. The Inquirer declined.
If you’ve ever wondered how much advertising costs in newspapers or on websites, let me tell you: not that much!
At least, it shouldn’t.
Granted, the ad in question contains some very controversial opinions on what’s going on in Gaza right now, but the price the Inquirer tried to charge – and charges for advertising in general – is absurd. Newspapers used to be able to charge a premium on advertising rates because theirs was one of if not the only game in town. 1992: Want to reach hundreds of thousands of people in Philadelphia with a written or printed ad? Well, you have basically three options… and two of them are owned by the same company. That’s not the case anymore. It’s not the case anywhere. There are hundreds or thousands of options to reach the very same people, in the very same markets, in better and more targeted ways. Again, this isn’t just a Philly thing.
So, what happens to newspaper advertising revenue? Well, setting aside declining circulation numbers (more on them in a minute), advertisers are less willing to pay those assaultive premiums. Besides increased competition and more targeted options, more modern ways of advertising (online, direct, search, or even cable) offer better ways to track results, which in turn show that OH MY GOD WE WERE DRASTICALLY OVERPAYING FOR NEWSPAPER ADVERTISING. And the Inquirer, obviously, still hasn’t received the memo (and I have little doubt that it’s still actually an inter-office memorandum they’re waiting for) that says they’re charging way too much. Asking $60k (or $50k– a bargain!) for an ad in a product that claims a circulation of 362k is completely ridiculous.
And let’s put that number – 362k – in perspective.
I used to sell advertising for the Inquirer (circa 2005-2007). I don’t remember what their circ was at the time, and that’s perhaps because we were told not to use that number. We were told to give advertisers the readership number, which is a dark magic figure given by some industry auditor – likely one with quite a bit of stake in the industry, you know, continuing to exist – that newspaper execs looked at in awe much the same way those squeaky aliens looked at theeee claawww in Toy Story… in awe. [I’m a fucking poet!] It accounts for the supposed multiple people who read each copy of the paper. For the Inquirer, the readership number was somewhere around 2.1 (2.1 people, on average, read each paper). For the Daily News, it was over 3. That’s right, we were supposed to tell advertisers with a straight face that more than three people read each copy of the Daily News, because it floats around on trains and in waiting rooms and such. Of course, both the circulation and readership figures conveniently assume that every person who reads a paper reads every page of the paper– a ridiculous idea, even if you’re talking about the inkiest of the ink-stained. In the real world, I’d guess that maybe 50% of [circulation number] actually see a given ad. So, using my educated guess, the Inquirer tried to charge $60k for an ad that would be seen by ~180k people. That’s a CPM (cost per-thousand impressions– standard advertising jargon) of $333(!). A decent CPM nowadays is about $10– for a highly visible, targeted ad. Even if you use the Inquirer’s actual circulation, the CPM is still an absurd $166. I’m not even doing the readership number, because it’s bullshit.
So here now comes my sales pitch: If there are any advertisers out there who want to reach Philly sports fans, mostly ones between the ages of 21 and 40, and don’t want to get GOUGED by Philly.com or CSN or wherever else, then I’ll charge you a $2.30 CPM for an above-the-fold ad. That’s $3,000 for one month of advertising to get 1.3 million impressions. And your ad will be seen by 300k unique visitors (according to Google Analytics). In other words: You’ll reach nearly as many people as there are copies of the Inquirer each day, for about 5% of the cost. Think about it. And then call me… actually, email me. It’s easier.