Beware of Print Plans Based on CPM Analysis

March 28, 2013

By Robin Farewell, Partner, Media Director at Eric Mower + Associates Group B2B

Many new media planners have learned the importance of cost per thousand, or CPM, when planning and buying digital media. CPM is a critical measure and point of negotiation when considering your digital buy.

CPM also is important in print analysis, but not until you have examined the quality of the publication list. Knowing the quality of that list is the first step in your print analysis. Always begin your analysis by using publication audits that verify the circulation records of a publication. There is no way to know if publisher-supplied data is accurate, so performing an audit is key.

First, look at the quality of the publication list, revealed by looking at paragraphs that state percentage of direct request, percentage of verified in one year and percentage of the list addressed by name, title and company. This is the three-point quality check.

Begin your analysis with this measure. If a publication does not pass this quality test, do not consider it for your plan.

Then compare only the publications that have passed the quality check. Look at other criteria, including coverage of buyers and specifiers. Consider editorial quality and independent readership documentation, as well as marketing support, previous experience and the ratio of ads to editorial content.

Only analyze CPM when you are comparing quality publication against quality publication. A publication with a weak list will always win the low CPM game.

If a publication does not pass this three-point quality test, move on to other choices. Low-quality publications that offer low prices may sound great, especially when budgets are tight. But this is where CPM-only analysis can go awry.

An inexperienced media planner may think the lowest CPM is the right choice. But they are only evaluating publications based on one criterion. Clients trust media planners to recommend the best options and won’t know they are missing out on quality publications.

You can be sure that a better quality magazine will deliver your target audience because their list is maintained. The names are real, and the publishers invest in their brand.

If a planner makes decisions on CPM alone without considering the quality of the list, the client is simply missing their targeted audience and wasting valuable media dollars.

Robin Farewell is media director for Eric Mower + Associates Group B2B, an integrated marketing communications agency. You can reach her at


"Beware of Print Plans Based on CPM Analysis." Robin Farewell, Partner, Media Director at Eric Mower + Associates Group B2B. BMA Buzz. 3/28/13.