Taking Out Ads

A recent client project required purchasing ad space in local papers. I haven’t bought ad space in more years than I care to recall, but I was startled at the cost. For example, one four column, 10.5″ ad, full color, single run, cost me not quite $650. A premium charge of $147 is included in that amount for full color. As all other local papers were similarly priced, I doubt I was cheated per se. Instead, for an industry supposedly under fire, I’m left wondering why they persist with this pricing model.

I wish I had a better understanding of the true cost of newspaper publication. If anyone knows, please share. Although, I suspect Alexander Hamilton had the right of it:

It is the advertiser who provides the paper for the subscriber. It is not to be disputed, that the publisher of a newspaper in this country, without a very exhaustive advertising support, would receive less reward for his labor than the humblest mechanic. (link)

Beyond newspapers, printing appears to be a nickel and dime operation. Package deals are rare (in my experience) and the basics that are covered don’t always offer flexibility and ala carte services add up fast. I think I’m most struck by how little this particular service has changed, comparatively speaking, since Gutenberg first contrived his press. Consider how the Internet has changed since its early days. I think it safe to say that the printing press, while improving quality and options, hasn’t perhaps seen the same advances. In fairness, however, I’ve failed to take into consideration that while the cost for bytes goes down, the cost for ink and paper goes up.

This post feels a bit jumbled, but I’m contemplating this intersection between old and new, between tangible and digital. I have a hard time reading for long periods on a computer screen, and everyone by now is well acquainted with my book love affair, but the flexibility offered by a digital world is enticing. I can create amazing things on screen that costs me time and pennies to publish to the world that would costs me thousands if printed. However, has this huge gap made us less appreciative of the amazing things we see people producing?

I started writing baffled by the cost of advertising, morphed into some random thoughts on newspapers, and ended up talking about the connection between old and new media. Now, imagine what it would cost to print this piece in a newspaper and how far in advance I’d need to submit for publication. It’s been mentioned frequently by others more well-versed than I, but how are newspapers planning to survive during the next 100 years?



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November 2007
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