Why most media kits stink

So what are you getting for all those big ad dollars, anyway?

All the advertising you see on TV, radio, papers or online is carefully planned as a war game, and one key step in that conception is to review media outlets by their “media kits.” These 4-10 page documents are the personal résumés of magazines, TV networks or newspapers. As you’d expect, they talk about content, who reads them, and what ads cost.

For decades media kits bragged about “impressions” — how many people they reach. And then a funny thing happened. Internet advertising was born and started talking about results.

The table above is just one illustration from ValueClick, an online ad network that collects 13,500 web sites and runs banner ads across them with behavioral targeting or retargeting. Media planners who work with such ad networks can predict, in detail, not only impressions but clicks through to the site, conversion rates, leads and sales.

This type of information is incredibly useful in media planning, yet old-school media avoids it … and in fact has become defensive about what data it does reveal. Newspapers have begun trying to mask circulation declines with newfangled metrics that combine paper readers with web traffic. Radio networks and industry groups dispute new Portable People Meters that monitor an exact signal from radio stations to define exact audiences. Essence magazine claims more than 7.8 million “readers” with a print circulation just over 1 million, in a mental trick known as “pass-along readership.” Uh-huh.

It’s too bad old media is running and hiding. If instead they helped advertisers forecast real results, they might win a bigger slice of the ad pie.

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