230577572_bc1b05cf8b_mWhen thinking about a print advertising campaign, the most important thing we want to consider is due diligence before any ads are placed. We believe strongly that the circulation of a publication should be closely analyzed and compared to competitive publications. We usually monitor new print publications for a year or so to make sure they are getting stronger instead of weaker over their first few issues. We like to examine the editorial quality carefully and we like to see if our clients’ competitors are advertising in the publication (and how often).

Even with all of this work on the front end, sometimes situations change at publications to the point where pulling the program needs to be considered strongly. How do you know when you’ve reached that point, however? As Larry says, “Nobody is going to brag that they advertised in the last issue of a publication.” How can that fate be avoided?

We usually monitor several factors and if we start seeing certain warning signs, we advise our clients that it may be time to cancel the remainder of the program. Here are usual signs that a publication is in trouble.

Decreasing folio: If a publication continues to consistently lose pages issue to issue, that usually is a signal that the publication is struggling. Most publications have a preferred advertising to editorial ratio. Fewer ads means less editorial which yields fewer total pages.

Lower quality stock: This is a subtle one, but we take a very tactile approach to monitoring publications. If a publication downgrades the quality of its paper, particularly from a heavy, glossy paper to a very thin, translucent paper, we start tracking it with more care.

Offers on ad space that are too good to be true: Sometimes a publication will contact us and say, “Hey, we have a full page ad spot that just opened up and we really want to fill it. We’re willing to offer it to your client at a 50% discount.” This is a major warning sign in our minds. While sometimes it’s possible a company simply canceled an order, if a publication continuously encounters this situation, there is something wrong. We have seen many publications move from offering highly discounted space to going out of business shortly thereafter. There are even cases where publications will run your ad even though you did not order it. This is designed to fill up the magazine with advertising and create the impression that the magazine is healthier than it actually is.

Changes in publisher position or editorial staff: Another red flag with print publications are shifts in personnel, particularly when a long-term editor or publisher leaves a publication. Again, sometimes this happens with a perfectly healthy publication, but when we see key personnel flee en masse, we keep our eyes and ears open for other trouble.

Printing mistakes or failure to run ads: Finally, we judge a print publication based on how effectively they are running their operation. If we place an order and the ad does not appear in that issue, or if an ad appears incorrectly because of a printing error, we take that very seriously. We are upfront with our clients that the quality of the publication seems to be slipping, and we assure them we will keep them posted after events like this occur.

Just like with planning your ad insertions, you do not want to pull print ads impulsively. A single mistake will happen now and then. Some issues will be thinner than others, especially July or December issues. Sometimes people leave because they are retiring or are starting new jobs elsewhere. These warning signs are factors that should be monitored and tracked carefully over the span of months. They can be informative, but they should not be viewed as scare tactics.

If you are advertising in print publications, we hope this helps you get a more firm grasp on how those publications can be monitored effectively. If you have any questions, just let us know!

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