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The Cost of Print Advertising: a Guide for Managers

The range of available advertising mediums has grown and expanded over the years, but many businesses use print advertising to reach their customers. The costs of print advertising campaigns can vary across the various physical mediums, and there are ways to get the best return on investment for these advertisements.

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An overview of ad printing costs for businesses

When yourbusiness decides to adopt print media as a method of advertising,costs may vary depending on the medium you choose as well as factors like your location, the size of the ad, how long you want the ad to appear and more. Physical mediums of print advertising include the following:

  • Magazine
  • Newspaper
  • Direct mail
  • Billboards


The cost of advertising in magazines depends on the publication’s circulation and pricing. Each publication has its own rates, known as a ‘rate card.’ Local magazines’ rate cards are often much lower than those of national magazines. According to Entrepreneur.com, prices can fluctuate from approximately $250 for a small ad in a local magazine up to around $500,000 for placement in a national magazine. Placements in special sections or inside the covers tend to be charged a higher rate than random, “run-of-book” placement in both local and national magazines.

A magazine’s rate card determines prices based upon ad sizes and frequency of insertions. An insertion is one instance of the ad in one issue of the publication. So, if you have a contract that specifies six insertions over six months, your ad will appear in the magazine once per issue for six issues. Many publications give discounts for multiple insertions on one contract, but it’s at the publisher’s discretion.


Newspaper advertising costs depend on the size of its circulation, ad size, the day of the week and whether the ad is to be printed in color. The prices of newspaper adsare typically calculated on a per-column-inch basis, in which one column inch equals an inch of height in one column (one-sixth, or 1.9 inches) of a full page. However, some newspapers use modular pricing similar to that of magazine sizing.

Aside from size, pricing is calculated based upon whether or not your ad is printed in color.Color typically costs more than black-and-white due to the added cost of using four-color ink. As with magazines, your total price can fluctuate depending on the number of insertions you buy, and it is generally possible to get a multi-insertion discount. For daily newspapers, Sunday issues tend to cost more. For example, the Herald-Tribune Media Group charges $250-$400, depending on the area and its circulation numbers, and placement in special sections also cost extra.

Direct mail

Direct mail advertising is anything sent through the U.S. Postal Service to recipients’ homes with the purpose of getting them to make a purchase. With direct mail, you may need to purchase lists of potential customers’ home addresses in your target demographic or geographic location. These are called ‘qualified mailing lists’ and can cost anywhere from $50 to $20,000, depending on the size and level of detail of the list.

To determine the full price of these ads, you must also factorin the cost of materials, design services, printing and distribution for an anticipated 1-2% response rate. For that 1-2% response rate, about 30% of those can convert if you have effectivesalespeople and a great product.


Billboards are typically used to complement other types of advertising. Since the typical customer has only seconds to view your outdoor billboard, usually as they’re driving by, the billboard’s main function is to make you remember other media advertisements you’ve seen from the very same company. Costs associated with running ads on billboards can vary depending on location and population, from around $250 per month for more rural, less-traveled areas to up to $15,000 per month for billboards that can get many thousands of impressions, such as on a major highway in a metropolitan area, according to fitsmallbusiness.com

In addition to paying for the billboard rental, there are additional costs to consider, such as the vinyl to print on, a graphic designer and a printing company as well as the cost of installation.

Related:How to Grow Your Business

Crucial things to know

Consider the following tips to increase your ROI with print advertising:

1. Make it easy to notice

To gain maximum attention from readers, your newspaper or magazine ad should sharply contrast with the rest of the publication’s content. For example, if the publication presents its content as walls of text, an ad that is bright, bold and colorful is likely to get the attention of the reader and create a lasting impression that can lead to an increase in conversion. For direct mail, you can also aim for bright and bold colors to direct a recipient’s eye to that piece of mail. For billboards, consider the location you’re placing the ad in to determine what colors, styles and themes you may be able to use, such as city-specific colors or slogans.

2. Keep your branding consistent

Remain consistent with your company’s branding across mediums to maximize the effectiveness of your campaign. Whether it’s your logo, brand colors or your company’s standard hashtag, the print and digital aspects of your campaign must be unified under your branding.

3. Customize your offer to target demographics

If your campaign consists of both digital and print advertising, consider the demographic most likely to see each one. For example,you may target younger families with digital ads and empty-nesters or retirees with print ads. It’s more effective to customize your advertising for each medium to the demographic it matches to enjoy the most success.

Related:How to Hire a Marketing Manager

Ad printing FAQs

The following questions are commonly asked about print advertising:

How is the effectiveness of print advertising measured?

A couple of simple ways to measure print advertisement reach are as follows:

  • Monitor changes in website traffic:Asudden surge in site traffic could indicate that your print ad is directing people to your site. The best way to measure the success of your print advertising through traffic is to set up a separate landing page that is accessible only via a special branded URL, which you can reference in your ad.
  • Use unique promo codes:Issuing a unique promo code for each print advertising outlet you’re running can allow you to see how many sales directly resulted from each ad you placed in print media. Similarly, you can create a single point of contact for each campaign in the form of a dedicated email address or social media page.
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