Do advertisers fully benefit from human readership of print media?

Submitted by: Ulbe Jelluma 13/07/2016

Today’s advertising and media world is dominated with news and developments about digital media. Given the technological developments, the ease of use and measurability, brand owners and agencies spend time on understanding and using online media in the media mix. However non-human traffic might influence the effectiveness of the advertiser’s budget.


I’d like to take you through a simplified process of media planning. Media planning is about selecting the most appropriate audience for a brand among many different channels. This is based upon quantitative and qualitative measures. How many people of the audience read, watch, view or listen to a channel? And how many of these people fit to the style or personality of the advertised brand? A critical aspect is also whether the channel fits the campaign objective of for example generating traffic to a website or store, supporting the brand imagery or creating awareness. 

Media audiences descriptions can be derived from syndicated research or dedicated research. Besides this data about readership and social demographics, print media also provide circulation figures. Of course almost all print titles are read by more than 1 person resulting in higher readership figures that the total circulation. And we’re pretty sure the readers are human beings. 

That might sound weird, but in the case of online media there is quite some non-human traffic. Traffic that is generated by robots. As these robots influence the total number of visitors of for example a website, it would seem that this website is very popular. More popular websites will demand for higher cost of ad space. Advertisers wanting to advertise on these websites are therefore paying not only for human traffic but also for non-human traffic. Some estimate the impact of non-human traffic up to 50 per cent of total traffic for some sites. A recent report from the US Association of National Advertising (ANA) shows figures ranging from 3 - 37 per cent.

This is a list of the most important media owners per media revenues like advertising. Alphabet, the holding company of Google, ranks on top and also other online companies like Facebook and Baidu are among the Top 10.

Print media can only address real people, people that buy a magazine or newspaper, receive a mailing or their retailer’s magazine at home. Advertising rates or database cost are based upon the numbers of printed copies, the actual readership or on the size of the database. Effectiveness data relate therefore to an existing target audience. This might become a more important criteria in future media planning.