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Print Ads: A Bargain for Buyers

Take advantage of today's market with these tips.

If you're thinking about promoting your business through print advertising, you've picked a good time. Most newspapers and magazines are hungry for revenue (due to the economic downturn and the rise of online ad outlets) and they're anxious to land new advertisers.

According to the Newspaper Association of America, ad revenue at newspapers sank more than 14 percent last year, the biggest decline in 25 years. On the magazine side, ad revenue sank 7.8 percent last year, Publishers Information Bureau reports.

This is a buyer's market. Here are several strategies for getting the most value for your print ad dollars:

Haggle
Most newspapers and magazines aren't sticking strictly to their posted advertising rates, says Robert Smith, CEO of Illinois-based publicity firm Champion Media. The best time to get a deal is the day before the deadline. Ad sales staff will be ready to bargain then, knowing they'll be running unpaid public service ads or house ads for their own services if they don't fill all their space.

"At that point," Smith says, "if the normal rate is $6,000 and you get it for $2,000, they [the print outlet] still get something. You should negotiate back and forth, like you're buying a car."

Generally, print publications put out their largest issues in December, November and January, in that order. Summer is usually the leanest time for advertising, Smith notes. You can strengthen your hand if you ask for a discount in the off-season.

Another strategy: Request the rate for appearing 12 times a year, but prorated for only two or three months, says John Martorana, president of New Jersey-based Oxford Communications. If the ad succeeds you'll sign on for the full 12-issue run. Or ask for a free ad with the promise that you'll share your results data with the publication and consider signing a contract if your ad is productive.

"It's like a free lunch," Martorano says, "but you have to tell them how it tasted."

Per-Inquiry Deals
If you're unsure whether print is for you, try a per-inquiry deal, Smith says. Just like pay-per-click online, this means your ad is free if no one responds.

Get Extras
If the company won't budge on ad price, try asking for bonuses with your ad contract, says Martorana. If you're dealing with a big media chain, there may be empty billboards, bus boards or transit-station boards it might let you occupy while the company searches for a paying client.

Ask if you can expand your ad's impact with a freestanding insert or sticky note on the table of contents without upping your price. If the publication has a website, ask them to throw in online placement.

With local publications, some will have a reporter write an article about your business for the paper if you buy a certain number of ads, notes Rob Bedell, principal at Bedell Media Consulting in Santa Monica, Calif.

Known as "complimentary copy" or "advertorials" in the print world, these articles seem authoritative and usually end up quite flattering to the company.

There are other popular free upgrades to ask for, Bedell says, like adding color to your ad or getting better placement--ideally the lower or upper right-hand corners of a page.

Buy Regionally
Ever see an ad for your locally-owned pizza chain in a major national magazine? What you saw are regional ad buys; they place your ad in marquee publications within a particular market area, so prices are substantially lower.

Smith, of Champion Media, says regional buys lend cachet to a brand, as most readers don't realize you're only in their local edition.

Use an Ad Broker
Big communication firms subscribe to newsletters from advertising brokers, and you can too. Ad brokers buy in bulk and get better deals from publications, Smith says. They make a commission if you buy advertising through them, so there's no additional cost to you and they can find you fire-sale deals.

The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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