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Born Again: What Digital Magazine Advertising Rates Look Like

Digital magazine advertising rates are often varied, hidden, and a-changin’

“Mad Men” may have died, but in the digital age, advertising’s been born again. In fact with a 21st century propensity for growing new tentacles, the conventional ad is evolving into a new lifeform of Star Ship Enterprise proportions, boldly going where no man (or woman) has gone before.

First, no matter how platforms change, ad-driven media has been around at least since the French newspaper La Presse figured out that advertising allowed it to lower its price, extend its readership and increase profitability. That was in 1836, and so it continues in the digital age.

Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? How much would you pay for that information? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE instead, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.

According to our latest study, Americans will spend more than $1.3 billion on digital magazines this year alone.

While still a relatively nascent industry, digital magazine readership numbers continue to rise. And while the legions of card-carrying print readers still outnumber the digitally decided, the former’s numbers face an annual decline.

As a digital publisher you knew that, and perhaps also know that prospective digital magazine advertisers view space in your digital publication as a creatively manipulated portal into their product or service.

That said, with each new platform comes the question advertisers face of exactly how and where to advertise.

Should ads be native, graphic or interactive when possible?

Should they be one channel ads or bundled to skew print, tablet and mobile device readers as well?

And what about ad size and dimension, location, performance and market demand: How do these impact cost?

In short, in a sea of specifications, speculation and sapience, how do you, as a niche publisher, know what to charge?

Clearly leviathan media groups (Conde Nast; Time Inc.; Hearst; Meredith) charge near-Superbowl-type ad prices for their pages.

Digital (and print) magazine ad costs in People magazine, for example, are based on placement in regular issues, features issues, People’s Sexiest Man Alive and Best of 2015 and other special editions.

Rates in most digital (and other) publications run the gamut from full page, 2/3 page, 1/2 page, 1/3 page, 1/6 page, 1/8 page, cover, back cover, inside cover, inside back cover, web banner; also the number of times it is slated to run (usually 1 to 24 times).

Of the roughly 30 magazines I investigated, the majority did not post their ad rates online, however we did get to peek at a few.

Guerrero Howe, a Chicago-based niche and custom publisher whose media includes American Builders Quarterly, Advantage, Sync, Profile and Hispanic Executive, offers a 15 percent off value package incentive for bundling print and digital magazine advertising, as do many others.

For $13,600, a Print and Digital Value Package from Guerrero Howe includes a full page print ad + iPad edition ad + unlimited website banner.  For $8,288, you can get their Digital Value Package which includes an iPad Edition Ad + unlimited website banner + e-Newsletter Banner for one month.

Rodale’s Men’s Health is the #1 performer on newsstands, and has the #1 paid price by subscribers. That stat comes directly from their ad spec sheet. Men’s Health also offers digital packages, with specific instructions that publishers never had to list before. For example, video. Here’s a list of parameters you’ll need to stack up to if you want to include an ad in a Men’s Health digital editon:

  • Length: 30 seconds or less
  •  h.264 encoded .mp4 file
  • 1024×768 (4:3 aspect ratio) – If the original video was sized in 1920×1080 format, it should be center cut for the iPad (for 4:3 aspect ratio).
  • 30 MB or smaller

That’s a bit more intensive than a guideline of, “accepted file format: PDF.”

Of the magazines that did post ad rates, many did not discern between print and digital. This left me to question if the rates were the same, something about which I went back and forth dozens of times — only because with other publications that had more info available, there was a decided price differential between print and digital.

With all of this, according to research from Digiday, while rate cards may set the standard, agencies tend not to pay full rate. Package deals, upfront commitments and volume discounts can drive down costs, and agencies may expect this in negotiating space and ad format.

Much like the 11th hour unsold airline seat or a hotel room still vacant at 9 p.m., unsold digital ad space becomes uncharted sales territory the closer to publication things get.

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