Effects of Print Ad Placement on Readership

Does placement have an effect on how well an ad will perform in print? Consider how you read through a magazine: you either flip through it casually from back to front/front to back or you read through it thoroughly, taking in each article, ad and editorial. With the first scenario, it is unlikely an ad will catch this reader’s eye, unless it’s an astounding back cover ad. The second scenario, however, provides better insight into placement.

Ads are placed by table of contents, covers, other ads, editorials and articles. Your ad may or may not relate to the content of these elements, but does that matter? Does placing your ad next to one of these elements determine how well the ad will perform?

Starch Advertising Research found that ads do indeed perform differently depending on where they are placed. The following shows the differences in ad placement performance on readership:


Table of Contents

Believe it or not, ads placed next to the table of contents perform the best of any placement in a magazine.  Starch’s study found that there was an 8% difference between readership of ads next to the table of contents versus ads next to editorial, cover stories or any article in general for that matter.


Editorials and Articles

Readers are 51% more likely to read ads placed next to editorials versus 46% likely to read ads next to other ads. The study showed that the type of editorial that ads are placed next to doesn’t have much effect on readership, unless of course it is next to the table of contents. This includes articles related to the ad wherein readership was no different for that of an unrelated article.


Front vs. Back

The study found ads placed in the front are read more often than ads in the back. It did not, however, find any significant differences between the left or right hand pages. This confirms the first point that ads placed by the table of contents perform better overall compared to other placements.


Now that you know where to place your ad, how do you measure that ad’s exposure to readers?


In analyzing the audience of magazines, ROI-related analyses looked at average or single-issue net audience (a more detailed description concerning readership and circulation is provided in the link). But if you think about the magazines you have read, you have probably read through one issue several different times and/or someone else in your household has flipped through it. This means that the old method of measuring magazine readership may be ineffective because with one subscription you may have one, two or five readers.


GfK MRI and The Martin Agency partnered to develop a more accurate way in which to analyze audience impressions for magazines by using average-page-exposure (APX) and audience accumulation to more accurately represent gross impressions per issue.  GfK and Martin Agency developed this more accurate representation of readership impressions through survey responses that included: percent of pages read, reading days and number of different issues read and other various metrics related to individual magazine audiences. This study demonstrated the following:

  • reach accumulates early in an issue
  • reach for weekly publications accumulates more quickly than a monthly publication
  • impressions continue despite reach decaying


What does this mean for your print ad analysis?

As we have covered before, analyzing your print advertising is a continuous battle before, during and after your ad placement. The initial analysis you do before placing your ad (i.e. researching demographics, circulation, ad placement, etc.) has as much effect on your analysis as determining the impression your ad had on readers. Combining the studies above will ensure you maximize your analytical techniques when reviewing how well your ad faired.