INTERACTIVE: BEHIND THE HYPE/INTERNET RATECARDS; Can Internet publications justify their ad ratecard prices?

Janet Izatt has discovered that there’s a discrepancy between the ratecards for Net and print publications

Janet Izatt has discovered that there’s a discrepancy between the

ratecards for Net and print publications

In the last year, there has been no shortage of publishers launching

Internet titles. But creating a ratecard for advertising in them looks

set to take considerably longer.

While ratecards for print titles are a fact of life, albeit often only

as a starting point to negotiations, there is no consistency to the

shape or substance of existing ratecards for the Internet.

A comparative study of advertising in Net and print titles by the

advertising agency, Chilcott Le Fvre, called the Future of Web

Publishing and due to be published on 31 January, estimates that ads in

Web titles can cost as much as 20 times more than those in comparable

print publications.

Chilcott Le Fevre’s interactive communications manager, Dr Nigel

Shardlow, says it is difficult to justify the large disparity between

the cost of advertising across a variety of Web titles, and between Web

publications and their print equivalents.

Part of the problem, he ackowledges, is that comparing the two forms of

media is fraught with difficulties. For the purposes of the study, Net

ads are costed according to the number of times a viewer accesses the

page they are on. But, without a tracking study, no-one knows how many

readers come face to face with a print ad.

Such problems make it difficult to assess the value for money of Web

ads, so most publishers prefer to steer clear of discussing ratecard

costs. Instead, they emphasise the importance of partnerships with


As most agencies point out, it is hard for publishers to push a ratecard

when there is a shortage of Internet circulation and readership data to

demonstrate what - and whether - target audiences can be delivered.

Still, this scepticism has not deterred some publishers from producing


The Electronic Telegraph charges pounds 25,000 for a seven-week package,

which includes strip ads, research, links to advertisers’ own sites and,

if required, help in assembling ads.

‘Yes, it’s expensive compared with other titles on the Internet, but we

are interested in people who are committed from the very beginning - and

putting up pounds 25,000 will certainly reflect their commitment,’ Pippa

Littler, the Telegraph’s strategic planner and ad manager for ET, says.

Conde Nast has two ratecards for GQ Online. The first is for an ad in a

traditional magazine-type environment, the second for advertisers that

want to ‘create a virtual shop’ (see box).

Conde Nast’s director of special projects, Colin Lansley, says the

prices are not linked to those of an ad in GQ magazine. ‘We have to look

at our cost-base and editorial input and do a meaningful profit and loss

report on what it costs to run the operation,’ Lansley says. ‘You have

to have the wisdom of Solomon.’

Stuart Snaith, publishing director of BBC Magazine’s Top Gear, hopes to

have a ratecard by Christmas. But, like Lansley, he says it is not as

important as exploring possibilities with advertisers.

News International, which is taking the Times and Sunday Times online in

mid-January, says it will steer clear of a ratecard until they are up

and running. ‘There are so many permutations of what we could do. We

want to talk to agencies and clients about their commitment and tailor

advertising packages for them, without being restricted by a ratecard,’

NI’s commercial manager, Simon Jones, says.

Jones adds that he wants to avoid what he calls the ET’s ‘inflexible

approach’ and look at creating a simplified ratecard. But how simple can

the ratecard be? And what will be the basis for determining the price?

There is little support from either agencies or publishers for a cost-

per-thousand-based ratecard, which is hardly surprising given the lack

of an auditing system to determine audience delivery.

‘CPT is a very conventional way of assessing mass markets, and people

have yet to prove that they can sell mass-market products on the

Internet,’ Ogilvy and Mather’s new-media manager, Saul Klein, says.

Klein favours a ‘payment by results’ system. And Littler agrees that

there should be a more direct response approach to pricing ads: ‘It is

an almost instinctive response of agencies to talk about CPT, but that’s

comparing apples with oranges. You are not talking about an ad in a

general site, but a very targeted site. We will get to the stage where,

for someone like Vauxhall, we can deliver female drivers under 30 and

male drivers between 35 and 40.’

But Stephen Preston, information technology and marketing director of

Yearling Communications, which publishes the InterNet-only title,

Interactive TV Guide, says Net ratecards should be as straightforward as

their print equivalents. ‘Talk about accesses and hits is irrelevant,’

Preston says. ‘We view Net ads as the same as in traditional media -

that is, in the traditional billboard approach. If I have a million hits

in a month, I can’t quantify it any more than, say, a magazine like the

Radio Times can with its sales. So why should I be any more accountable

than a traditional media owner?’

Despite the disparity of views about ratecards, publishers and agencies

agree on one point: the value of advertising on the Internet at the

moment is not so much what it can achieve for the advertiser but the

experience itself.


BBC Magazines: Top Gear

Approx pounds 5,000 a page

Conde Nast

pounds 765 to pounds 3,535 for run-of-screen ad in traditional magazine

environment; price depends on location. Also offers a ‘virtual shop’

package out of the magazine environment.

Electronic Telegraph

pounds 25,000, including strip ads, research, links to advertisers’ own

sites and help in assembling the ads.

Financial Times

Prime site on home page: pounds 2,500 per week. Other spots on home

page: pounds 7,500 per month. Indices and news-in-brief pages: pounds

5,000 per month. Technology page and top story pages: pounds 2,500 per


Future Publishing: FutureNet

pounds 3,500 per month for front page. pounds 1,100 per month for home

pages in individual magazines. pounds 300 for sponsors’ index. pounds

2,000 for index to each magazine sector.

Guardian Media Group: Go2

Recruitment ads are free for Guardian OnLine advertisers. The group is

currently seeking partnerships with display advertisers. No ratecard.

IPC Magazines: Planet Science

Recruitment ads run free when booked in the New Scientist. pounds 4,000

per month for standard display ads.

Yearling Communications: Interactive TV Guide

pounds 1,000 to pounds 1,500 per week for banner ads, with hypertext

links to advertisers’ own sites.


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