Insert page counts affect advertiser ROI

Among the loudest and most frequent objections heard from advertisers and their agencies are: 1) the ROI on their advertising circulars is declining, 2) the decline is entirely due to the insertion cost of their circular, and 3) the only remedy is to lower their insert CPM. Obviously, if they are in fact measuring the true ROI of their circular – (and the CMO Survey suggests that they are not¹) – and it is in fact declining, then there are many factors that are influencing that outcome. Among the more obvious are changes in the competitive retail landscape, changes in shopper habits, and changes in the consumption and influence of media. But there is another subtle, objective factor that has a clear and measurable factor on the ROI of an insert program, and that is change in average program page count.

First, it’s important to recognize that newspaper insert pricing, unlike mail, is fairly flat across product sizes. This creates an extremely large difference in the effective page CPM for different size programs (figure 1), based on national average newspaper pricing by product size. Add to this a similar printing premium from smaller page counts, and it’s evident that smaller inserts potentially have a much steeper ROI hurdle. Clearly, additional insert pages generate more sales, but the effect is not linear and likely doesn’t offset the effective pricing premium.

So, if an advertiser’s average page counts are trending down, it stands to reason that fact alone could have an outsized influence on program ROI. With that in mind, we looked at the page count trends of 20 key national advertisers to determine the year-over-year percentage change in their programs for the four quarters ending Q3 2018. The results (figure 2) reveal that 13 of the 20 showed a decline – ranging as high as 33%.

Fewer promotional pages, coupled with declining distribution footprints, has to have a negative impact on the sales tied to insert programs – and on ROI.

Publishers have a responsibility to keep an eye on their value proposition, and to validate it through an honest dialogue with their advertising partners. But the unilateral default to pricing as the root cause and only remedy to the ROI question is demonstrably inaccurate, and we should push back vigorously with data.

¹CMO Survey, Duke University School of Business, 2018.



New features included in app update

As part of our commitment to delivering best-in-class products we have updated Market AI Planner and Quick Plan.

Key updates include:

  • Location label showing the address of your advertiser is now on the map. Simply choose “YES” under the label option.
  • New distribution reports, such as Site Allocation in Columns plus Full Distance, Reference and Distribution.
  • Download-friendly reference reports formatted for Excel
  • SPEED – Planner runs faster!

We listen to our clients. In response to the frequently requested improvements, we have updated Market AI Planner and Quick Plan, allowing you access to the newest versions of our apps.

Looking for location labels on your map?   You can now add location labels to your maps in Precision Planner and Quick Plan. Just choose “Yes” under the Label option, found on the Plan page in Precision Plan and on the Quick Plan page in Quick Plan.

A label showing the address of your advertiser will now be shown on the map.

Looking for site allocation in an easy to read format?    Within Precision Planner, go to Distribution Reports.  Using View dropdown, select Site Allocation (Columns).  Full detail is now available in columns.

Within the same tab, using View dropdown, select Full Distance, Reference and Distribution.

Full detail is now available in columns:  Zip; Distance from Store; Primary Reference and Value; Secondary Reference and Value

Looking for Reference Reports in an Excel format?

Within Precision Planner, select Reference Reports.  Previously, the selection provided bar graph information only.  Now you will see and can download an Excel format using View dropdown, Zone Reference; Zip Reference and Zip SubZip Reference (For Download).

This easy to read version can also be downloaded via Download – Crosstab.  Don’t forget to click on the information before you select Download – By doing this, you will have the Crosstab option for output.

SPEED!  In this world of online technology, faster is better.  We think so too!

Uncovering The Top 5 Insights In Your Market Insight Report

Each quarter you receive a Market Insight Report (MIR) in your online portal, which provides analytic dashboards that give you a top line view of your advertising data. The goal of these reports is to help uncover opportunities for performance improvement and growth. As our consulting group works with clients to provide analysis that improves results, we’ve developed a viewpoint on the best places to look for actionable insights. Here are our Top 5.

MIR Top 5 Insights for 10.24.18 CBI Newsletter

Mspark expansion raises competitive pressure for newspapers

This week, Mspark announced the acquisition of Preferred Mail Advertising, a West Virginia-based shared mail business. In less than 10 months, Mspark has now acquired four regional mailers, increasing their national footprint of owned distribution by nearly 10%.

Company Date Acquired Coverage Area Households
Market Select November 2016 Reading PA area 500,000
Stone Creek Media December 2016 Waco, Temple, Bryan TX 244,000
Valu-Direct May 2017 Albany NY/Burlington VT 460,000
Preferred Mail Advertising August 2017 WV, OH, KY 565,000

They’ve conveyed this expansion as part of their strategic growth plan, so it’s likely they’ll continue to identify opportunities to build out their national footprint of rural distribution. 

Mspark Distribution

In less than 10 months, Mspark has now acquired four regional mailers, increasing their national footprint of owned distribution by nearly 10%. This puts more pressure on newspapers to defend themselves against this new competition.

Average shared mail rate (blue) vs. average newspaper insertion rate. The red line shows the average cost of sending shared mail.

What does this this rapid expansion mean for newspapers?

While each of these companies had previously affiliation with Mspark as part of their extended network, becoming owned distribution activates several important advantages:

  • Full integration of Mspark’s marketing and analytical capabilities
  • Operational efficiencies that will improve the client experience
  • Post-program analysis to reinforce advertiser ROI
  • More leverage – relationship and pricing – with regional and national advertisers
  • The ability to standardize zoning, expand footprint, and increase frequency.

The final point was illustrated just a few months ago, when the Reading, PA, market was increased to weekly distribution, opening competition for a much wider group of key advertisers.

How should newspapers respond to the competitive threat?

Applying data-driven analysis to understanding your value proposition, your pricing competitiveness, and specific client opportunities and vulnerabilities will help you proactively defend your existing business, and develop aggressive strategies to win new business. Our business intelligence tools deliver the actionable insights that empower successful competitive strategy, and the distribution planning and analytical tools that translate those insights into winning campaigns.

Maintaining your product as a robust shopping marketplace is a key element of your value to readers. Let us help you develop strategies that protect and grow your insert business.

Increase revenue and volume with Precision Optimize<

To help newspapers increase volume and revenue from their current advertisers, we’ve created a new tool called Precision Optimize. An add-on to our MarketAI software, Optimize allows a newspaper to easily upsell an advertiser by showing highly targeted zones and publications in which they are not currently distributing.

All you need to get started is a current insertion order or buying profile for an advertiser. With just a few clicks, our software will exclude those zones from the total available distribution (all publications from a newspaper including paid, TMC, Sunday Select, digital, etc.) and will recommend additional zones to purchase based on relevant demographic data.

Click through the slideshow below to see how easy it is to Optimize a campaign for an advertiser. Call 636-534-4496 or email to learn more.

The Changing Role of Retail Stores

e-Marketer, March 2017

As times change for retail, industry professionals expect traditional stores will be replaced with newer models.

A new report from Avanade, a provider of digital cloud services, and EKN Research found that while nearly 80% of retailer professionals worldwide currently believe traditional sales are the primary business function of stores, that will change in the next two to three years. Read more…

Making data analytics work for you – instead of the other way around

McKinsey Quarterly, October 2016

Does your data have a purpose? If not, you’re spinning your wheels. Here’s how to discover one and then translate it into action.

The data-analytics revolution now under way has the potential to transform how companies organize, operate, manage talent, and create value. That’s starting to happen in a few companies—typically ones that are reaping major rewards from their data—but it’s far from the norm. There’s a simple reason: CEOs and other top executives, the only people who can drive the broader business changes needed to fully exploit advanced analytics, tend to avoid getting dragged into the esoteric “weeds.” On one level, this is understandable. The complexity of the methodologies, the increasing importance of machine learning, and the sheer scale of the data sets make it tempting for senior leaders to “leave it to the experts.” But that’s also a mistake. Advanced data analytics is a quintessential business matter. That means the CEO and other top executives must be able to clearly articulate its purpose and then translate it into action—not just in an analytics department, but throughout the organization where the insights will be used. Read more…

Does your sales team have relevant content at their fingertips?

e-Marketer, September 28, 2016

Well-produced and -managed marketing content sets up awareness, creates demand and enables sales. According to September research, more than half of business-to-business (B2B) decision-makers said their sales enablement strategy can be improved upon by serving hyperrelevant content at the right time, and by making it easier to find. Read more…

New Amazon data from Wall Street should terrify retail stores 

Business Insider, September 8, 2016

Amazon’s reach has grown so fast in the US that American consumers could soon find it pointless to take the trip to physical stores.  Read more…


The Ad Industry’s Focus on Fraud Has Intensified

e-Marketer, September 2, 2016

In spite of the great advances made in the fight against ad fraud, the practice is still costing US digital display advertisers billions of dollars. An April 2016 survey from MyersBizNet shows just how top of mind these topics are. Read more…

Hispanic Consumer Influence Reaches New Heights in the U.S.

Nielsen, August 31, 2016

The multi-faceted Hispanic consumer is widely recognized as a cornerstone of any growth initiative for virtually all U.S. industries, and for good reason.

Most US Publishers Rely on Both Ad Support, Subscriptions

e-Marketer, August 24, 2016

Though publishers have traditionally relied on advertising to monetize their content, ad blockers have certainly changed the way they approach their monetization strategies now. In fact, many have since moved beyond traditional advertising, and have begun incorporating subscriptions as well. May 2016 research revealed that more than three-quarters of US publishers use a combination of both. Read more…

Why More than a Quarter of US Internet Users Block Ads 

e-Marketer, August 11, 2016

Advertisers (and publishers) are placing more and more ads on the web.  But with this buildup comes the consequence of burdening consumers.  According to July 2016 research, more than one-quarter of US internet users claim they have used an ad blocker on their desktop or laptop.  Read more…

Early bet on ‘other’ revenue pays of at the Dallas Morning News, August 2, 2016

Jim Moroney was a John the Baptist of the newspaper industry five years ago when he suggested that the then-tiny “other” revenue category could grow to cover print losses.  The Dallas Morning News publisher and A.H. Belo Chairman and CEO then practiced what he preached, aggressively buying up digital marketing and advertising companies around town and expanding commercial printing operations.  Read more…

Digital coupon use growing, but old-fashioned paper still king

Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2016

As more and more shopping moves online, the humble paper coupon is proving oddly resilient.

Companies are sending out more digital coupons and a greater share of shoppers are using them, but paper still dominates the coupon world. In 2015, there were more than 289 billion print coupons distributed compared with just 6 billion printed or clipped digital offers, according to a report from Kantar Media. Even millennials reported using paper coupons as often or very nearly as often as older shoppers, Valassis, the company behind the RedPlum coupon circular, said in a 2016 report.  Read more…

Study reveals advertising with newspapers triples ad campaign effectiveness

TheDrum, July 13, 2016

Advertisers who are cutting back on newspaper advertising are missing a beat. This is the message of a new study, conducted by effectiveness consultancy Benchmarketing for Newsworks, which claims that advertising with newspapers increases overall revenue return on investment by three times.  Read more…