Measuring print advertising

These past 2 months – March and April 2008 – I’ve been running an 1/4 page advertisement for Pixenate in .NET magazine.
So far the results have been disappointing to say the least.
I ran the following ad which contains a URL unique to the .NET magazine ad campaign…

The ad will run for another month but I don’t think I’ll be renewing the campaign.
I scanned the server logs for the past two months to count how many times the had been visited. This URL was only published in .NET magazine and is not used in any other ad campaign. The results have been disappointing to say the least.

There were a total of 3 visits in March, and just 1 single visit in April.

To put that in perspective: during the same period, 167,431 people visited (that’s unique visitors ) and there were 707,676 page views according to google analytics. This is about typical for any given 2-month period – there was no spike in traffic.

Given that a quarter page ad in .NET costs €695 per month, I can’t really see myself continuing with this campaign given such low visitor numbers. So far those 4 visitors have cost me almost €1,400 and the 3 month campaign will cost me €2,100 when it ends. I might add that none of those 4 visitors have converted to sales – but that’s hardly .NET’s fault. I must say I’m really surprised the numbers are so low – I expected at least a 3-digit number of visits with perhaps a handful of those converting to sales.

In case anyone thinks I’m assigning blame to .NET magazine or print advertising in general – I’m not. There are any number of reasons why the visitor numbers from the print ad are so low. Perhaps the ad wasn’t compelling enough. I think it would be interesting to run an ad with a special offer URL – perhaps offer a 10% discount to .NET readers when they visit the tracking URL. It’s quite possible that .NET readers simply visited omitting the ‘/info’ path. A special offer URL would ensure that readers interested in purchasing Pixenate would visit the tracking URL.

This was my first time running an ad in a print magazine so I’m interested in hearing stories from other Irish and UK internet companies who run print ads. Is my story typical or exceptional? I’d love to hear from people who’ve run successful print ad campaigns.

.NET magazine

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10 thoughts on “Measuring print advertising

  1. Robin says:

    Walter – see my 0.0008% Click-Through, you may have beaten it!

    Print to web doesn’t work as people won’t put down the magazine to go online. They’re reading a magazine to relax or commute etc.

    Online advertising is the way to go if you want click-throughs. Even better is to create a product that will advertise itself through word of mouth by creating tools for the people who talk (or type).

    I’m still of the believe that a macro ‘action’ tool that embeds into WordPress and automates watermarks and sizing and overlays would get you far more sign-ups than a print ad.

    Good lesson learnt for everyone here anyway. Web apps don’t advertise in print very well, pity it had to be you to discover it :-(

  2. Walter – looking at the ad – you haven’t given a hook to nab people. It’s purely informational. There’s no immediacy about it.

    To gain traffic direct from a print ad, you need to provide something – say a special offer as in “use this discount code .NET123 to get a free 2 month trail”. It’s not for nothing that most ads have discount codes/coupons or else “for limited time only” – see the Dell supplements that come with the Sunday newspapers – all their offers are “just about to run out the next week and wouldn’t you be so lucky to by at this price!”

    Additionally, and what lets your tracking down the most is that most web savy people wouldn’t bother to go the extra key presses and put in the /info, they’d go straight to the main site – so you’ve probably gained standard traffic from it.

    That’s my tuppence worth – print media is dying anyway – their time is up…

  3. frankp says:

    Not arguing with Robin here, because he’s probably right, but at the same time the ad is somewhat unfocussed IMHO.

    Would a more targetted – and as you say compelling – ad do better?

    If you could address a need specifically in the ad perhaps…

    Robins suggestion might be too niche, but as an example:
    WordPress Users!

    Images made easy with our plugin – all images resized and watermarked automatically.

    FREE to .NET readers for a limited time:

    Download now at
    quote offer ‘.NET PLUGIN’


    or something. That way you target specific people who might be interested rather than just have a blanket ‘we do image editing online’.

    I think in order to get any response you need to invoke ‘Oh, that’s interesting for me’ rather than just ‘oh that’s interesting’.

    Of course, I don’t have €2,100 to test out my little theory :P

  4. frankp says:

    Dammit shane, you beat me to it. :D

  5. sxoop says:

    @Shane – There was no discernible increase in traffic, though I agree with your other points.

  6. paulmwatson says:

    The reason is obvious, Walter. You didn’t use a scantily clad nubile model in your ad…

    Sorry to hear print ads are that bad. Many years ago when I used to buy printed computer magazines (PC Pro, .Net, Wired etc.) I never once responded to an ad. As mentioned above I read them away from a computer and none were compelling enough that I would remember a URL and enter it later.

    The only print ads that worked were general branding ones. Ones that put the company in the back of my head till a later date when someone asked “What make of TV should I buy?”

  7. Will Knott says:

    Just a general question, did your advert appear in the slush of ads at the back of the magazine, or next to an article relevant to Pixenate.
    It might be worth contacting the publishers again to see what their editorial calender is (they probably have one) to see if there are going to be covering something like online editing. If so you may be able to defer your next month until that issue.

  8. This topic has come up a few times at OpenCoffee. We had an advertising guy last week talking about it too. Conversions from print to web are almost non-existent according to him. It’s nothing to do with ad quality.

    We got a 1/3 page piece in the business section of the Irish Examiner with big photo and didn’t even see the tiniest blip in our traffic. Compare that to a one line mention on or TCUK!

    Same response yesterday from all the small Irish e-tailers at the round table forum I moderated for DCEB. Several of them had advertised in print and saw minimal increase in sales.

  9. Calvin Jones says:

    Hi Walter,

    Sorry to hear about the poor response.

    Have to agree with Paul that the lack of scantily clad models could well be a factor with the .net readership ;-). Not sure I’d agree with him that the only print ads that work are general branding ones though.

    It all depends on your medium, your audience and your goals. Targeted and focussed offline advertising can and does help drive online traffic. In the US in particular there’s a trend for offline advertising being harnessed to drive consumers online, where they can engage with a brand more effectively (Superbowl TV slots being a prime example).

    That said, given your target market for Pixenate (website owners who want to integrate image editing into their site) I wonder whether an offline campaign would ever really bear fruit.

    Sure the ad could be more targeted, more compelling, entice the reader to take action — as per some of the other suggestions — but if your audience is predisposed to sourcing products/services online (website owners / .net readers), chances are they’re going to look… online.

    I could be wrong, but if it was my money I wouldn’t spend any more testing different ad formats offline. Instead I’d focus on an online campaign, and invest time / energy / resources in split-testing / multivariate testing to fine tune my ad creative and landing page.

    Traffic is great — but its conversion that counts.

    Best of luck with it.



  10. Adam Koontz says:

    I have to agree with Calvin here for the most part. For online photo editing software, it stands to reason that online advertising would be a more appropriate medium. That being said, I don’t believe your efforts are all lost and you were smart to add this blog post. After all, I’m now aware of Pixenate as are the rest of us that have added comments or read this. I’ve even book-marked the site should I come across the need to integrate online photo editing into one of the sites we develop.

    The point is, for €2100 you’ve:

    a) Discovered a medium that doesn’t work for you.
    b) Got some great insight from marketing professionals.
    c) Turned a negative into a positive by seizing the opportunity to engage a captive audience (such as myself).

    One thing to keep in mind is that a medium that works well for one product or service may not work as well for another. You still need to apply some common sense and make an attempt to put yourself in your target consumer’s shoes.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t necessarily forget about print as a medium all-together. I would just take a different approach. For example, rather than advertising, maybe you could try a more editorial approach. Perhaps you could write or pay someone to write an article titled “Create Your Own Online Photo Editor with PHP and Pixenate”. That’s the sort of thing that could get a developer excited enough to actually want to login and check out your site.

    Happy marketing!


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