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The Rate Card
The Rate Card

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As we discussed in the ad layout part of this website, most ads are measured in column widths across and inches in depth. When a publication quotes you its rate, it's usually quoting the cost of a unit of advertising, that is, what a box one column wide and one inch deep costs. This one column by one inch ad size is usually called a column inch. The rate card will contain a price for a column inch, from which all other ad sizes can be calculated.

This most basic rate is called the "open" rate, also known as the "one time" rate. This is the usually charged to advertisers that would like to run only once and who don't otherwise qualify for a discount. We'll get into discounts in a moment, but for now, let's talk about how to calculate an ad size based on this basic or "open" rate.

For example, imagine that you've been given an ad that measures 2 columns wide by 6 inches deep ad. For shorthand, most U.S. newspapers call this ad a 2x6, columns always stated first and inches second. In the U.K., it's the reverse and called a 6x2.

So let's look at an example. If the rate card says that the "open" per column inch rate in the newspaper is $50, here's how to calculate it. First, you'll need to know how many of those one column by one inch units are in the 2x6. You do this by multiplying the columns and inches together.

So a 2 column by 6 inch ad would be a 12 column-inch ad. Similarly, a 3 column x 5 inch ad would be considered a 15 column-inch ad, a 5x16 would be an 80 column- inch ad, and so on.

Once you determine the total column inches of an ad, then you simply multiply it by the column inch rate found in your rate card. So, back to the 2x6, or 12 column- inch ad, you'd multiply the 12 by the rate. If the rate was $50 per column inch, then the cost of the ad would be 12 times $50 or $600. Similarly, a 3 col x 4 inch ad would also equal 12 column-inches and would cost the same as a 2x6. The 3x5 mentioned above would cost 15 x $50 or $750, and the 5x16 mentioned above would cost 80 X $50 or $4,000. So this is simple enough. We need to multiply the width in columns by the depth in inches, and then multiply that by the column-inch rate and you've got your total ad cost to run it once.

So what makes rate cards so complex and confusing? Well, publications like to encourage advertisers to run larger and/or more than once (which isn't always a bad idea) and so they offer discounts when an advertiser agrees to run more. That's why newspapers offer all sorts of discounts off that original "open" rate. And this is where it gets a bit complicated. These discounts commonly fall into two categories--volume and frequency, which we'll talk about next.

Next: Frequency discounts


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