What The Heck Is A Media Kit And Why Do I Need One?
A Guide To The Mandatory Rate Cards, Media Kits, And Mockups
You have all your planning for your new magazine set up and ready to go. You've eloquently addressed every imaginable scenario and situation in your brilliant business plan. Surely success is finally within your grasp. In all that thorough and comprehensive planning have you included a media kit and mockup?
A media kit is a very snazzy, bespoke folder containing your rate card and lots of custom-cut thick glossy pages portraying the sheer sizzle of your new periodical, if not the actual steak. A mockup is the steak. It sometimes refers to a full sample "hypothetical" issue which is produced at the very beginning of the sales process, but in most cases with smaller publishers it's just a full-scale, full-colour sample cover only.
Let's address the steps to magnificent media kit and mockup paradise. First, your rate card:
Your rate card will make or break your publishing enterprise. Setting your rates too high will increase advertiser resistance and result in lots of filler pages where the ads should have been. Setting your rates too low will bankrupt you faster than an SEC investigation. The key figure that most advertisers look at first is the 4C page rate. The 4C page rate is the cost you have on your rate card for a four-colour full-page ad on a frequency of 1x. CPM is cost per thousand readers. The way that's calculated is:
Passalong - How many people will read each issue
Total Distribution - How many copies will actually be distributed into people's hands (not just printed).
You take the Total Distribution, let's say
And multiply that by the Passalong, let's also say
2.5 readers per copy
And you get
Now you take your rate card's four-colour full-page ad on a frequency of 1x, for example
$25,000 per page
Divide that into the impressions (by the thousands)
$25,000 / 500
Your CPM is $50.
A media kit is absolutely critical in getting any interest whatsoever from ad agencies. You might be able to sell a local Ma & Pa retailer just on salesmanship and a rate card, but the real money comes from the agencies and you've got to really impress them with a killer kit in order to get their interest. The folder has to be custom made and printed with logo, cover, etc. Not the kind of folder that you buy at Staples. The inserts have to be custom-cut, usually feature several lacquers, coatings, bells, whistles, etc. It's all about impressing people. Otherwise, it's not worth the bother.
I think I've done over 50 media kits lifetime. Some worked, some didn't. That's what happens in this biz. There's always the chance that you'll succeed or that you'll fall flat on your face. I knew one guy who inherited $2.3 million from his daddy, so he decided he was gonna be a publisher. I warned him to implement his truly bizarro business plan differently. He told me that I was crazy. He got three issues out and ran out of cash. Last I heard he was working at a valet parking lot.
There are salespeople who can sell Tucson timeshares to polar bears. If you're lucky enough to have one of those on your staff, then you might be able to get a few sales on a media kit alone. However, just tossing around a media kit is not going to be sufficient to convince most people to put their money into a publication that they've never seen. There is an incredible amount of inertia for advertisers to go into Issue #1. I know of publishers who give away ALL the ads in Issue #1 just to show the advertisers how great it looks and then try to get them to pay for Issue #2. Publishing is a huge money game.
There have been media kits and mockups that have cost well over $250,000. Believe me, it's easy to spend the money if: 1) you have it to spend and 2) you're trying to blow the socks off the jaded national ad agencies. The amount of money that flies around national advertising would buy you a few countries: A full page ad can easily cost $50,000 or more!
National advertisers go through ad agencies. These ad agencies in the USA are almost exclusively in NY, LA and Chicago. If you call up one of them and pitch them your mag you won't get past the receptionist. Selling ads to national ad agencies may be the single toughest job in America, comparable only to pitching screenplays to Hollywood studios. I've done both so I know from experience and the flat nose that comes by having the door slammed in your face for decades. You have to already be a reputable, successful publisher with established distribution in all 50 states before the agencies will even think about returning your calls.
You'll find that advertisers have a profound fear of being the first ones onto a bandwagon and your sales rep will find it a real slog since most people will want to see an issue before they sign an insertion order. Sometimes a really hot media kit and mockup can work wonders, but it's still no substitute for an actual issue. And I've seen many a basic, low end media kit/mockup production run cost well over $10,000 and pull in zero advance sales.
There are of course lots of sneaky tricks that new publishers use to launch new magazines. Some of them can get you into real trouble with the advertisers since they'll see you're scamming them, and others have a fair chance of being pulled off if you play your cards right. The most famous one is to do a POD run of a couple of hundred, throw a big fancy launch party, and make the advertisers believe that the issue is already being distributed (wink wink). Like I said, it can get you into trouble, but you'd be surprised how many times it's pulled off successfully. Make no qualms about it, this is nothing short of ripping off the advertisers by scamming them into thinking that the issue has been distributed when it hasn't. Keep in mind that it's extremely immoral, unethical and may even be illegal, depending on what your local DA thinks. Just keep the booze flowing and you might pull it off. Oh, and don't tell anyone that I suggested this!
Publishing is a dog eat dog business full of sharks who just love to eat up dogs, cats, tunas, whales but most of all, newbie wannabe publishers. The bottom line to having a truly realistic shot at launching a new magazine in this oversaturated market is to plunk as much cash as you can stomach into a media kit and then get the best salespeople you can find to put together a campaign for you... unless you're the type of high roller who can call the entire magazine budget (which will always be higher than you thought) just another gamble on a Vegas craps table.