Selling Your Publication
Your Products: ROP
Selling Your Publication
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So let's talk about the types of products that a print publication typically sells. Years ago, there weren't as many products to sell. However, as advertisers wanted to reach a more targeted audience and ad directors wanted to reach their department's revenue goals, newspapers have responded by providing advertisers with all sorts of different places in which to advertise. Most likely, you'll be responsible for selling your advertisers into at least a few of these.

Your primary product is most likely called ROP, meaning "run of paper" or "run of press" and consists of the main section of the newspaper, with the exclusion of the classified section. In ROP, an advertiser can run pretty much whatever size he wants and is a great place for an advertiser since almost every reader reads this section.

It may be interesting to know that, contrary to what many people think, the amount of news appearing in ROP has little to do with how much news is actually happening or how important it is. The size of the publication is determined based on how much advertising was sold for that issue. Ads are then placed on the pages first, usually the larger ones at the bottom of the page and the smaller ones on top of them. Then the editorial department fills in around the ads with their content.

Obviously, this is not true of every page. The front page, for example, is off limits to ads in most cases, although it's very common for newspapers in the U.K. to have ad positions available on their front pages. Sometimes, page two is kept free of ads also, as well as the editorial page, that is, the page containing an opinion from the editor as well as letters to the editor.

As for the other pages, you're going to find that advertisers have the incorrect idea that certain positions in the newspaper will enhance the readership of the ad. While an ad from a brokerage house might get more business people seeing the ad if it's on the page that displays stock quotes, very rarely do special positions make a big difference in response, at least based on the studies we've seen. Studies have shown that people enter the newspaper at all different places–sports, comics, certain favorite columns, the classifieds, as well as the front. Studies have also shown that people scan over every page about the same way, sizing each up for anything interesting.

Still, some advertisers are obsessed with being in what they consider a better position. It's like they all belong to a cult that perpetuates the myth that only some positions are good. However they hear about it, you'll find some advertisers will insist on being on the upper right hand page or on page three or both, as if that's the only place people will ever look.

Some newspapers take advantage of this unusual demand by charging a premium, usually up to about 25% extra, to accommodate this request. Many newspapers who accept positioning requests and charge a fee for special positioning still don't guarantee the ad will make it there. These newspapers take the request, do their best, and if they can get the ad in the requested position, then they charge them. If the newspaper doesn't, then the advertiser still gets charged for the ad, just not the placement fee. But in general, when an advertiser is willing to pay for positioning, the newspaper will make sure they get it.

If an advertiser asks for a position but doesn't want to pay for it--which is usually the case--most newspapers will do their best to make the advertiser happy as long as there's no one else requesting that position. But with the hundreds of ads that are going into your newspaper, most likely a few other advertisers have requested the same thing, so never guarantee placement.

I once had an advertiser who tried to find a way around this problem by making his buying the ad contingent on us getting him the requested position. He said "Look, I know you can't guarantee that I get page three, and that's OK, I understand you have a lot of other requests for it. But if you find you can't get me page three, just don't run the ad." In a case like this, you've got to be firm and tell the advertiser that although you'll do the best you can, you can't accept an ad with that qualification since placement doesn't occur until after all the ads are reserved and past the cancellation or "kill" date. You might also want to share your views on placement as well as suggest that they pay for placement if they really think it makes a difference.

ROP ads will contain color from time to time and you've got to be careful selling this as well. If your printing presses can even handle color, there's usually a limit to how many pages can actually have color on them and even what colors can go on what page.

Unfortunately, it's hard to know what pages are available for color since it can change with each issue. This means that the advertiser's favorite position might not be a page that color can go on, so they might not be able to get both color and a position they want. Also, prepare yourself for color errors which occasionally happen where no color or the wrong color appears in your ad. Don't let this discourage you from selling color however. It can make a big difference in response (40%-60% if done right) and it is almost always worth the extra money as long as the advertiser is already running a good sized ad. You can learn more about the cost of color in the section on rate cards.

Besides ROP, the other big section is classified. Almost everything that applies to ROP applies to classified, although since classified is more of a directory, most positioning requests are limited to within the category the advertiser is running.

Next: The Classifieds