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Beware of Print Plans Based on CPM Analysis

There are many new media planners who have learned the importance of CPM (cost per thousand) when it comes to planning and buying digital media. CPM is a critical measure and point of negotiation when considering your digital buy.

CPM is also important in print analysis, but not until much later in the process, once you have examined the quality of the list the publication is sent to. Knowing that information is the first and most important step in your print analysis. You should always begin your media analysis with independent publication audits (BPA/ABC).

Why is it essential? Because it verifies the circulation records of a publication. With publisher-supplied data, there is no way to know if the information is accurate, so performing an audit is key.

First look at Quality. The quality of the publication list is revealed by looking at the: 1) percentage of people on the list who directly requested the publication; 2) percentage that’s been verified within the past year; and 3) percentage of the list addressed by name, title and company. This is the three-point quality check. It is essential that you begin your analysis with this measure. If a publication does not pass this quality test, do not consider it for your plan.

Now look at the other important criteria, including coverage of buyers and specifiers, editorial quality, independent readership documentation, marketing support, previous experience and results, and ad/editorial page ratio. And now it’s appropriate to consider CPM!

CPM is only meaningful when you are comparing quality publications. A publication with a weak list will always win the low CPM game.

If the publication you are looking at does not pass the three-point quality test, I would seriously recommend moving on to other choices. Deals that the lower-quality publications offer will result in a low CPM and look very attractive when compared to a higher-quality/higher-CPM magazine. An inexperienced media planner will honestly think the lowest CPM is the right choice because they are only evaluating publications based on this one criteria. Clients trust their media planners to recommend the best possible options and won’t know they are missing out on quality publications if a buy is based only on the lowest CPM.

You can be sure that the better-quality magazine is delivering your target audience because their list is maintained, their names are real and they invest in their brand. The lower-quality publication cannot substantiate its list: they cannot justify names that are three years old or not requested by the individual. This is a true case of getting what you pay for. If a planner makes decisions on CPM alone without considering the quality of the list, the client is simply missing out on reaching their targeted audience and wasting valuable media dollars.