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Remnant Space

Buying Remnant Newspaper Ad Space at 80% Off List! Continued…

Like two day old fish or a seat in an airplane when the door closes, ad space in newspapers is perishable. Once the newspaper heads towards the pressroom the unsold ad space can no longer generate revenue and a house ad is used as a placeholder so a big white space isn’t shown.

As the unsold newspaper space heads towards these final unprofitable moments, most publishers take what they can get for the remnant leftover ad space, knowing if it remains unsold and the paper actually goes on press, they get nothing.

At this critical point in time most offers, even heavily discounted offers, look lip-smacking good to struggling publishers.

Presto: Found revenue for the publishers, great discounts for advertisers!  Welcome to Remnant Space Advertising Deals.

Remnant space, also called stand-by space, advertising can be a great, consistent ad-buy for advertisers throughout the year.

Remnant space ads run at a discount of between 70% to  93% discount OFF list rates,
and sometimes sell for even greater discounts.

Especially at low-demand periods like late summer and pre- and post-Christmas (most direct-selling ad offers are not gift oriented, so while product space ads are up, direct marketing ads are down) ad space discounts are at their highest discount rate as publishers have additional ad space to fill throughout their publications.

Standby space or remnant space ads in newspapers may be placed through several national placement sources specializing in remnant space buys.

Most newspaper remnant space is sold by rep firms dedicated to just selling standby space at discount. Since they do this all the time they get the best prices, and consistently great deals come from publishers. I assist several clients by overseeing their newsprint remnant space buys as it’s a seedy business and my clients need someone who can make smart recommendations of the right papers, the right markets, at the right prices and the right timing – and someone they can trust.  While buying one or two ads at remnant pricing is easy, it can be very tough to manage a whole remnant space campaign correctly.  Especially a national remnant space campaign run over time.  I’ve worked with some clients for years so I’ve seen it – experienced it – first hand.

There is ALWAYS space available somewhere.

At one time or another all newspapers face the problem of pages with white space left over at the last minute. The reasons range from stories that are cut or pulled last minute, or not quite ready at press time, to a bad credit check on that new client who sounded so legit on the phone when he reserved the advertising space.

In addition, advertisers pulling out at the last minute and last-second glitches in production make room for your warmly-welcomed, on-hand remnant space ads.

Last second advertisers pulling out their ad make printers and composition editors drink heavily. So having a few ads of various sizes “on the shelf” that editors can go to and strip-in at the last second before the magazine or newspaper goes on press is a welcome reprieve.

Remnant Space Buying Details

Remnant space ads I’ve purchase for my clients over the years are in blocks of selected circulations of newspapers, loosely outlined by either geographic boundaries (states, cities) or by selected target individual newspapers groups where my client would like to run ads.

Further demographics may be targeted by purchasing press runs in urban, suburban, or rural papers.  This can make a huge difference especially in direct response advertising.

Larger daily papers may be specified in the insertion order, as can smaller news weeklies.

Additionally in some papers, both traditional and direct response ads can be requested to run in selected “sections” – IF you negotiate correctly.  Ads can be imposed to run in the main news, the business or local sections, or in the TV section for papers that still have that. You must request this up-front when booking advertising.

Be very aware: you don’t get good position in the newspaper or magazine unless you negotiate it UP FRONT, before you place your remnant space ad.

If the ad space opens up in the front of the magazine or newspaper, since your ad space is placed on the cheap, the publisher will bump a more profitable advertiser who plays list price for their ad insertion into the better spot, and your ad will wind up in the back.  You can negotiate this out when you are placing your ad – it’s impossible to negotiate this when you’ve already said OK, run the ad.

While most – if not all – magazines are now printed in full color (so you’ll need a color ad), newspapers still remain primarily black and white vehicles. Exceptions occur, but this isn’t the way to bet.

Black and white ads: still the newspaper norm.  Your remnant space ad will look great and fit right in, in Black and White.

 Just like the predominance of the ads you saw in TV Guide when you were a kid – black and white ads are still effective in newspaper media.

Even when the newspaper is printed in color, the predominance of black and white other ads in newsprint, and the B&W of the restrained editorial typography defines a vehicle where black and white ads are OK.

This works to the advantage of the direct marketer where good old black and white ad composition can be less costly. This can keep the creative cost for writing and laying-out an ad to a reasonable cost level. But don’t go cheap.  For example: I generally charge about $2,500 for a quarter page black and white ad: writing, design and layout.  It takes me about 20 hours to compose a tight ad.  More technical ads – highly articulated ad, or highly graphically charged advertisement cost more.

Keep in mind that great design, great copywriting – in color or black and white – takes time and effort. A higher level of writing and editing, and a higher design level take more time. You can’t stuff 10 hours of design into a 5 hour block.  Don’t hold back on the creativity.

Allow extra design time to make a black and white ad jump out from the page. And allow extra copywriting time to make sure your copy is succinct, your offer sizzles — and the bottom line is your ad makes the reader want to pick up the phone and Call Now!

Don’t go for the cheapest creative you can buy as poorly conceived, poorly written or poorly designed ads definitely draw less response (whether in color or black and white.)  Some exceptions are around – I’ve seen some ugly or poorly written ads that I thought seemed to suck run for years.  Sometimes ugly works, but that’s not where to bet.

Magazines offer Remnant Space

Besides newspapers, most magazines offer remnant prices at one point or another. You’d be surprised at some of the famous, huge national magazines offering 70%, 80%, 90% off their list rates. I’d list these but I’m pretty sure none of the magazines would like their names associated with the severely discounted ad prices, and some of them feature my writing. Cough, Cough… Cou…Forbes…gh. Cough…  But I can tell you it’s ALWAYS good to ask for remnant space pricing. Always.

Testing different demographics and strategies in Remnant Space Advertising:  

Testing is a defining key factor in successful newspaper advertising.

Media buys can be national in scope, but you can also buy newspaper remnant space across a platform of specific smaller demographics.

For example, you can specify that you’d like a million circulation in LA Times, in the hopes your offer will work for a strong urban demographic.

Or, you can test a dozen smaller papers from urban to suburban to rural to see which ones elicit the highest response to your offer, if you track your results carefully.

You can purchase space in selected states or “test cities” that are known to be more responsive to new products and offers; or combine ad placement with product testing and price testing for product launches in retail stores.

Additionally, advertisers generally get a good choice of geographic markets.

Initial testing for remnant space should be broad, with tight tracking of both calls per thousand dollars spent, calls per thousand circulation reached, and publications having the best response. The closing ratio for these figures will offer insight as to which types of demographic works best for your offer.

Specific newspaper sections may be purchased such as the movie pages or the business section. Just because you specify it doesn’t mean you’ll get it. Since it’s remnant space, there are no guarantees that your ad will be running in a particular paper or in a particular section, or on a particular date.

While publishers won’t guarantee the run, if they can place your standby ad where you request, they will.

Publishers want your campaign to be successful too – so you’ll come back!  There is usually a two or three week window given to newspapers to feature your ad. At the end of this period, if the ad doesn’t run the contract is canceled, and if you still want your ad to be offered, you’ll need to create a new insertion order.

Both the distribution bureaus and the newspapers try to accommodate their advertisers. As with any advertising medium, all the players would like the ad to be successful: if the ad is successful and the marketer makes money, both the ad-space distributor and the newspapers enjoy the revenue from the advertiser’s longer insertion schedules.

When I ran remnant space ad campaigns for clients I got a printout of names of papers where the ad appeared and referencing the section where the ad was run, along with the newspaper’s circulation. I used these figures for tracking and analyzing the results.  They were paired with call center reports to see how the ad was pulling.

Reports then identify more profitable market segments where we have received response, and we perform ROI analysis. When all the figures were in from the initial placement testing, back-end analysis is performed: it’s either an autopsy or a celebration,  The geeky marketing side of me came out and I then figured out a more focused comprehensive plan to direct further placements of remnant space ads.

I don’t run many campaigns much any more (semi-retired) but still handle a select few clients.  After all these years I’m still pretty familiar with – and connected heavily – with the remnant community.  If I can help answer any questions or make any recommendations, please let me know.  The ad distribution industry can be a scary place with lots – and lots of ways, people and places to go awry.

Successful stand-by ads may run for years. I’ve seen small ads grow from tiny remnant space placements in tiny circulations in papers here and there to huge press runs – millions of placements… each week.

Continue reading…   The Secrets of How To Create a Successful Newspaper Ad

Jeffrey Dobkin

Jeffrey Dobkin

Bio —
Jeffrey Dobkin creates highly responsive traditional and direct response print ads for both newspapers and magazines. He is the author of 5 books on direct marketing, and two on humor. Mr. Dobkin is a direct marketing writer whose specialty is creating effective direct response ads, letters; and direct mail. To speak with Mr. Dobkin or for samples of his work call 610/642-1000. Visit him at his favorite website: