What is a Rate Card?

Mary McMahon

A rate card is an informational document that provides data about advertising rates and placements for a publication. Publications that accept advertising usually have rate cards available for prospective advertisers to review. It is important to note that these rates are not necessarily firm, and it is often possible to get a discount. Rate cards usually reflect the maximum price for various advertising options.

Rate cards are used by newspaper to list classified ad prices.
Rate cards are used by newspaper to list classified ad prices.

Rate cards are available for magazines, newspapers, websites, and many other types of publications. A typical rate card includes the name of the organization and contact information for the advertising department. Then it provides a list of ad sizes and placements with corresponding prices. Ad placement in special supplements and at certain times may be more expensive, and this will be listed separately. The card also includes a note indicating the dates it is good for so that advertisers do not attempt to use an old rate card to get a better price on an ad placement.

Rate cards can also disclose advertising policies, including information about the file format used to send ads to the publication, whether or not the publication takes color ads, and so forth. This information is used by advertisers to decide whether or not the publication is a good fit for a given ad, and it serves as an opening negotiation in the process of arranging to place an ad. It is possible to buy a card from an organization that develops rate cards based on standard industry prices. This is a popular choice with new publications that are not sure about how they should structure their advertising pricing.

Typically, discounts are offered for volume placements, and an advertiser that wants to set up a recurring ad can receive a bulk discount. Likewise, publications may offer discounts if they have unfilled slots that they want to get ads into before going to press, and sometimes special discounts will be offered for certain editions of a publication. This discount information is usually not disclosed on a rate card but may be available from an advertising representative.

Because rate cards are freely available, many people like to compare rates for different publications before deciding where to place an ad. Considerations for ad placement include the size of the publication, number of subscribers, and demographic. This information is typically available by request, along with other data that an advertiser might find important in the decisionmaking process. Establishing a connection with a specific advertising representative can be a good idea as it will connect advertisers with special opportunities that may not be widely available.

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