Best Practices for Buying Print Ads Today

Best Practices for Buying Print Ads Today

Having worked at Interweave press right around 2006-2009 I got to sit on the selling side of the table and I learned a lot about print advertising that I think can help crafty business owners still looking to dabble in print. In this blog post,  I will review a couple of topics including ROI, placement, pricing, the size of your ad and how to evaluate an opportunity.

ROI on Print

Print is impossible to get exact numbers on the return for your investment. WIth a good call to action ad, you can put in a coupon code, a landing page or a dedicated phone number. Otherwise, you’re really not going to get an exact measurement. If you are running generic, branding ads, think of them as such– a good way to get the word out about your brand.


You can request placement, but ideally, the bigger ads on longer contracts go in the front of the magazine. Gutter (on the inside where the fold is) is not preferred as outside, right-facing is. Make sure you’re not near your competitor and request that of your ad rep. The earlier you buy, the better your placement. I used to do my layouts myself and I’d place the best customers first and fill in the rest as the magazine came to a close. Also look for special features that might let you buy smaller spaces that are cooperatively shared but in the front of the mag as those can be an affordable way to get good placement.

Pay to play?

Let’s talk about whether you have to buy an ad to get editorial. The answer is that not all editorial is tied to advertising, but most advertisers will get editorial. At Interweave, editors did have a run sheet that showed the top advertisers and we had regular meetings to discuss who our loyal supporters were so it’s no shock for me to tell you this had an impact. When the team is pulling in yarns for projects, if they could use an advertiser as the source, they would. So, if you’re an advertiser and you’re NOT seeing any form of editorial at all, it’s worth a conversation with your ad rep. On the other hand, if you’re only running a $1000 annual program, don’t expect much play. You have to be spending much more for those kinds of relationships.

Size of ad

In my opinion, there is definitely a  perception of your biz that correlates to the size of an ad. If you have advertised a while and want to drop in size to save some money, consider a ⅓ island which can be hard to pair with other ads so those typically are orphans on a page. Second, choose a ⅓ outside vertical or go for a  ¼ top right facing. I’d say it’s better to do a bigger ad in most subscriber-based pubs than to do 1/8th and spread out too thin among special issues (otherwise called SIP’s). Also be mindful of the season if there is one. There were simply fewer readers of the summer issue of Knits than in the Fall so if you have to pick and choose issues, focus on the cold-weather issues with the greatest number of readers.


I was at liberty to negotiate the price of ads. I loved advertisers who signed up from Oct-Dec for the following year and gave me a full frequency contract. In other words, they got the lowest price per ad for frequency. Not all ads had to be exactly the same size either, so if I had someone on a budget, I could sell them a mix of sizes. Another secret was referred to as remnant pricing. Kinda like the carpet store, if there were little pieces of the mag left over, I could sell those for less. Often this was within the week of going to press. I often could discount up to 50% off the rack rate. For this reason, it can pay off to know exactly the week that a magazine is going to press. For advertisers who could provide ready ad copy, they got a deal. Letting your rep know you’re interested in these as well can help you snag one.


Special seasonal issues are typically newsstand-only like Harry Potter Knits or Knitted Accessories. Most of the time, an advertiser had to go into the SIP’s in order to get the lowest cost/ highest frequency pricing. Too often, I would see advertisers choose titles in order to reach the frequency and completely ignore whether that title was a good fit for their target market. Remember, an 80% off sale on something you don’t need is not really a deal. You’ve just wasted 20% of your money.  You’re better off paying more per ad and sticking with the subscriber based, highly targeted publications that reach your intended customer.

How to evaluate an opportunity:

Before you buy any ad, ask a few questions.

*How many copies are distributed? More than that, however, you want to know how many are actually sold or sent to subscribers, not how many are printed. You also can ask how many are paid vs. given away for free. When determining which publications to choose, do the math on the cost per eyeball.

*How long does the publication live on the shelves? Sometimes the SIP’s can be out there a long time which gives you more bang for your buck but they have much smaller distribution or might be newsstand only. Take this into consideration.

*Is there a digital component to this particular title? A lot of times a free “e-book” version can extend the value of your buy.

*Who is reading this magazine? Make sure the readership matches the demographicsc of the intended customer avatar

Leanne Pressly
1 Comment
  • Kitty Pearl
    Posted at 14:58h, 20 April Reply

    Excellent news, thanks!
    I’ve tried to ask a lot of these questions from ad reps, but didn’t have the right terminology, and they didn’t have time to educate me. This will be very useful:)

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