How do you evaluate placing an advertisement in your local paper, or any printed medium for that matter? My guess is that more often than not price is the deciding factor, but do you consider value for your money? Do you know how many people you are reaching with your dollar? Do you know whether another newspaper could have reached more people for the same amount of money? Do you know whether the publication is right for your target market? As the person charged with making this decision for many of our clients, let me pass on some wisdom for making better informed print advertising decisions.

Before you say yes to any print advertising, ask 4 questions:
What is the distribution?
What is the circulation?
What is the readership?
What is the source of these figures?

Generally, distribution is all copies, including free copies, and circulation includes all paid-for copies. Readership is an estimate as to how many people read the publication – sometimes displayed as a percentage of the target audience.

If the answer to the 4th question is ‘we do our own research’, or ‘this is based on sales figures’, or ‘this is how many we deliver’ then you have no guarantee of the reliability of those figures.

Thankfully, there are organisations which independently review print distribution, circulation and readership data. Publishers participate in such surveying to verify their claims and ensure they portray the facts to media buying agencies and clients. Those that don’t participate, in my opinion, are doing so at their own risk.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is an independent body which regularly carries out distribution and circulation audits for participating publications. The ABC reports data four times per year in February, May, August and November, covering four audit periods, January to March, April to June, July to September and October to December.

Roy Morgan is charged with examining readership figures through their single source data. Single source data is collected over a 12 month period with a sample audience of around 55,000 Australian people, weighted against population data.

If you see any distribution, circulation or readership data on a media proposal, flyer, advertisement or the like – check the source. If it’s not one of the above research companies, chances are the data is not reliable.

Once you have reliable data at hand, perform some simple maths by creating cost per thousand figures (sometimes displayed as CPM). Grab the cost of the ad and divide it by the number of thousand people you could possibly reach with it, and you then have a point of comparison with other publications. If one costs $500 and reaches 50,000 people ( CPM of $10) , and one costs $600 but reaches 70,000 people ( CPM of $8.55), then the value for money choice is certainly the second publication. Sometimes, the cheapest price is not always the most effective.

Unfortunately it is difficult for the average punter to receive access to the audited data. It does cost money to subscribe, and in the case of Roy Morgan, costs a lot of money. Thankfully, we do have access to this data for you as part of our media buying service – contact me for more information.

My point? Next time you’re thinking of print advertising, let the data, not the price, guide your decisions.