Calculating and comparing newspaper advertising costs can quickly get complicated. Once you’ve tracked down a newspaper advertising rates card, you’re then faced with the delightful challenge of making sense of it all. There’s no “one size fits all” to make our lives easy. Instead, newspaper advertising costs depend on a number of factors, some of which you might find surprising. To answer the question, “How much does it cost?”, the answer would be: “It all depends.”
8 factors that affect newspaper advertising costs (within the one publication) are:
- type of ad
- day of the week
- section or lift-out
- page position within a section
- left hand side VS right hand side
- colour VS black and white
- annual spend/expenditure commitment
In this article, I’ll discuss the 8 factors that determine newspaper advertising costs in Australia. I’ll also provide an example of how much it would cost to place a display ad in The Courier Mail (a Queensland newspaper). As you’ll see, newspaper advertising costs can quickly add up. If you’re on a tight budget, as many of us are these days, knowing what most affects the cost, allows you to cut back where you can.
#1 Type of Ad – Display VS Classifieds VS Inserts
The first factor that decides the cost of a newspaper advertisement, is the type of ad. Most Australian newspapers offer a number of different types. Display advertisements appear throughout a newspaper, and may use colours, illustrations, photographs, or fancy lettering to attract the reader’s attention. These provide a great deal of creative control over the content of the ad, without being limited to just text. They also aren’t grouped according to classification, unlike classified ads. Display advertisements are typically charged at a rate per single column centimetre. In other words, the height in centimetres and width in columns determines the cost of the advertising space. On the other hand, classified ads are typically charged based on ‘lineage’ or per line.
Another form of advertising offered by most major newspapers are ‘inserts’ – separate advertisements that are placed inside the newspaper, and can have more than one page. Inserts are usually charged at a rate of per 1000 per number of pages. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to limit our discussion to display advertisements.
#2 Size Matters
The second factor that contributes to the cost of newspaper advertising, is size. As mentioned above, display advertisements costs are calculated based on their height in centimetres, and width in columns. Most newspapers have their own standard sized advertising spaces, which your ad needs to fit into. Some newspapers offer non-standard sized spaces, such as a ‘U’ shaped ad around the edges of an open paper, but be prepared to pay a higher price for irregular sizes and shapes.
Let’s look at the standard sizes available in The Courier Mail, as an example.
- “Small Page Strip”, 6cm high by 7 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day (based on a Mon-Fri Casual rate of $AU58.51) is $AU2457.42.
- “Medium Page Strip”, 8cm high by 7 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU3276.56.
- “Quarter Page Strip”, 10cm high by 7 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU4095.70.
- “Horizontal Half Page”, 20cm high by 7 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU8191.40.
- “Full Page”, 38 cm high by 7 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU15563.66.
- “Vertical Half Page”, 38cm high by 4 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU8893.52.
- “Vertical Third Page”, 38cm high by 3 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU6670.14.
- “Vertical Quarter Page”, 38cm high by 2 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU4446.76.
- “Portrait Half Page”, 28cm high by 5 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU8191.40.
- “Portrait Third Page”, 20cm high by 4 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU4680.80.
- “Portrait Quarter Page”, 20cm high by 3 columns wide, the minimum casual cost per day is $AU3510.60.
Here you can see that the cost of a standard size display ad can range from at least $2457.42 per day for a small page strip, and up to at least $15563.66 per day for a full page advertisement. That’s an awful lot of money to invest in a single page, that will only be published on one day. Most of us simply don’t have that kind of cash to throw around, so you’d really need to know what you were doing. This example demonstrates how much the size of a display advertisement affects the price.
#3 Day of the Week
The third factor that contributes to the cost of a newspaper advertisement is the day of the week on which the advertisement is published. Typically, newspaper circulation is greatest on the weekends, and so the advertising rates for major Australian newspapers are adjusted accordingly. In our example of The Courier Mail, the rates are cheaper on a weekday, more expensive on a Saturday, and most expensive on a Sunday. For the most basic display ads, Saturday ads are 25% dearer than Monday – Friday ads, and Sunday ads are almost 90% dearer than Monday – Friday ads.
This pattern may vary though, depending on the circulation of a particular publication. For instance, The Age is most expensive on a Saturday. To illustrate how much of a difference it makes – a small page strip ad in The Courier Mail on a weekday would be at least $2457.42, and the exact same ad run on a Sunday would be at least $4637.64.
#4 Different Sections or Lift-Outs
Most newspapers are divided into different sections and many have lift-outs – and this is the fourth factor that determines newspaper advertising costs. Different sections attract different readers and different volumes of readers, and so the advertising rates are adjusted to reflect this. For example, an advertisement placed in the CareerOne (Employment) lift-out in The Courier Mail, costs 2% more than the general section. The rates for CareerOne, also vary depending on the day of the week, as mentioned above. Some examples of other sections that may have different rates include: Adult Services, Funeral Notices, Real Estate, and Business.
#5 Page Position Within a Section
The next factor that can significantly affect the price of a newspaper ad, is the page number on which the ad appears, within a certain section. The most expensive part of the paper is typically the front section, which might include the first 10 or so pages, and is referred to as the “early general news” or EGN for short. In our example of The Courier Mail, page 2 in the EGN section attracts a 60% loading. Similarly, the first 11 pages have at least a 50% markup. This type of loading is common practice across Australian news publications. Now let’s say we wanted to place a small page strip ad in The Courier Mail on a weekday, on page 3 in EGN, the cost would be at least $4054.74.
The first few pages and back pages of other key sections of the paper, such as Business, also attract a higher loading. For The Courier Mail, the very back page attracts a 65% markup. You can see how the page position of an advertisement can have a substantial influence on the price.
#6 Left Hand Side VS Right Hand Side
The next factor is also related to position of the ad, but relates to which side of an open newspaper the ad appears in. You might be surprised to know that, in some publications, an ad that appears on the right hand side of an open paper, will cost more than one that appears on the left hand side. This is to do with the way readers actually read a newspaper, and where their attention is focused. This factor may also be tied to the page position of an ad, and which section it appears in. For example, in The Courier Mail, for ads on pages 12 to 21, a right-hand side ad costs 5% more than a left-hand side ad.
#7 Colour VS Black and White
Another factor that substantially affects the price of a newspaper advertisement, is whether the ad features colour, and how many colours. Colour ads are more expensive than monochrome or black and white ads. Some newspapers may distinguish between multi-colour advertisements and those that only feature one added colour (called “spot colour”). For example, The Courier Mail charges 30% more for multi-colour display ads, and 20% more for ‘spot’ colour display ads. Remember, that this is combined with any positional loading.
So let’s say we wanted our small page strip ad in full colour in The Courier Mail on a weekday, on page 3, that would be calculated as: $2457.42 + 30% colour loading = $3194.65 + 65% positional loading for page 3 = $5271.17
You can see here how the cost of our ad has more than doubled after we’ve factored in the colour, and position of the ad.
#8 Annual Spend/Expenditure Commitment
Now here’s a factor that also affects the price of your newspaper ad, but this time it’s a decrease, with a catch, of course. If you have the budget, and are prepared to commit to spending a certain amount annually, usually by entering into a 12 month contract, then you may be entitled to a discount. However, the discount depends on how much you’re prepared to spend. For example, to qualify for a 4% discount on The Courier Mail’s advertising rates, you need to spend at least $38500 per year. If you’re a small business owner, chances are you’re not working with this kind of budget, so bye-bye discount.
Just in case you’re curious, businesses that annually spend at least $2.3 million with the Courier Mail, receive a 13% discount. In my opinion, this form of discounting simply highlights how biased mainstream advertising is towards big business. Where’s the discount for all the struggling small businesses? But that’s another story.
To sum up, those 8 factors again, and how they’ll affect the cost of your ad:
- type of ad – display VS classifieds VS inserts – rates based on different measurement units
- size – pay more for bigger ads
- day of the week – weekends are more expensive
- section or lift-out – early general news (EGN) is more expensive
- page position within a section – front pages and back pages cost more
- left hand side VS right hand side – RHS is dearer
- colour VS black and white – pay more for full colour
- annual spend/expenditure commitment – get a discount if you spend up big
Now that you know what affects the price of a newspaper advertisement, you’re better prepared to decide where and how you want to spend your advertising dollar. If newspaper advertising seems beyond your budget, then it might be worth considering more cost-effective alternatives, such as online advertising.