What a fascinating email inbox I had on Friday, after my article about the great banner ad con trick. One reader told me that he cancelled most of his company’s banner ads when he arrived there, and put the budget into pay-per-click advertising. It contributed to enquiries doubling. “Salesmanship indeed”, he added. “Smoke and mirrors, yet they make me feel like I am leaving a cult. Am I going to burn in hell?” You’re not, sir.
But it was suggested by another reader that many of the banner ads out there on magazine publishers’ websites aren’t paid for anyway, and that part – or all – of the cost of the website is simply buried as a sales support cost for the publication. My correspondent said that when they discuss print advertising with many magazines, they’re offered a “package” of the print ads and online banner ads, even though they didn’t ask for the latter. If the price seems reasonable for the print ads alone, of course they take the online banner ads too. Internally, the magazine may allocate some of the revenue to the print title and the rest to the website, but that’s of no concern to the advertiser.
My response here would be that even if placing the banner ads is free, you still need to ensure that they’re worth more than the cost of creating them. Often they’re not even worth that. Quite a few magazine websites are rubbish, with precious little effort or budget put into them. As a consequence, they attract few visitors, as you’ll see from the clickthrough figures in your own website analytics. Half a dozen visits a year from such sites (worth what? £10? £20?) is not unusual.
And if the salesman claims the banner ads do have a value, then why not ask for the print ads alone and a further reduction in the cost? It’s worth a try. But it’s an interesting observation, and explains how the print publishers have been able to buy off the threat of independent online publications. The problem is, they’re buying it off with your money.