Don’t neglect the workhorses of publishing

The best location for your advertisements isn’t always where you might think. If you’re running a magazine advertising campaign, instinctively you might target the highest quality magazine in the market, on the assumption that it would be the one which most prospects would read. That’s true; but many of you will also have found that the advertising response from the best title isn’t always as good as you’d hoped. Why? Because the better the editorial quality, the more the adverts will get ignored. So you get more readers, but few notice your advert.

When I first started in publishing, my employer had some magazines which were only advertising. And they worked really well for their advertisers. The magazines wouldn’t have been picked up and opened by many people, but those who did always saw the adverts – because there wasn’t anything else to read. What’s more, the readers probably wanted to buy something, otherwise why else would they have opened a magazine without any editorial?

To prove it worked, the magazine only charged its advertisers for any enquiries they received. What was not to like?

What goes around, comes around. Few companies booking banner adverts online use more than two or three websites, and those sites are probably chosen for their quality, just like magazines. Yet when we run Google “Display Network” advertising campaigns on the web for clients, which can run on hundreds of websites you’ve never heard of, the best response doesn’t necessarily come from the highest quality sites. You can guess why. On the really good editorial sites, readers aren’t looking for adverts.

But when search engines send people to sites where the content is a bit light, the adverts become much more prominent. And just like our advertising-only journal from the 1980s, Google “Display Network” advertising only incurs a cost when it gets a response. The progression is, it’s now easy to test out thousands of websites.

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