Saturday, March 7, 2015

Time Magazine to Sell Programmatic Print Ads

Joe Kukura reports:

The automated technology of programmatic advertising has crippled the print magazine publishing business in recent years. Advertisers have pulled their dollars away from paper magazines and instead invested in online auctions that sell ads to certain types of visitors on websites. But the biggest magazine publisher in the US has decided that 'If you can't beat them, join them.' Time Inc. has a scheme to bring data-driven programmatic ad delivery into their suite of popular but struggling print publications like Time, Sports Illustrated, People and InStyle.

The concept of programmatic print advertising at first sounds impossible. After all, digital ad platforms have the ability to dynamically assess Web browsing history and other complex factors. A magazine is just paper and staples (or glue, if it's the big annual swimsuit issue). But Time Inc. does possess some subscriber data, and if they can leverage it effectively, this could be the most promising development for print media of the last decade.

Time Inc. announced Programmatic Print in a press release, saying the platform would "make print audience segments available in the digital programmatic marketplace. These segments, including Women, Men, Lifestyle, Luxury, Business/Finance and Rapid Scale, provide valuable audiences ranging in size from 5 million to 89 million readers and span 18 of Time Inc.’s leading US-based print brands."

(The term 'rapid scale' refers to the category of magazines that go out weekly instead of monthly, allowing more immediate advertising opportunities.)

In other words, advertisers buy the ads online as they would for digital ads. They set desired prices to reach certain demographic segments, and then a computerized auction format determines the highest bidder whose ads will run. Then Time Inc. goes to work with their subscriber data to make sure those ads get in front of the desired demographic segments. The advertiser does not even know in which publication their advertisements run.


  1. Hey, if it works, more power to 'em. I stopped subscribing to Time several years ago when it became apparent that it was just another unofficial DNC newsletter.

  2. I have worked in print advertising for years. While programmatic print advertising might address certain issues for the advertiser having to do with the costs of reaching a certain target audience, I personally don't see how it solves the bigger issue: magazines' overall dwindling audience. Just like Craiglist killed the local paper's biggest cash cow: classified advertising, the diversity and breadth of online content is hurting magazines. Programmatic print advertising looks to me like a transitory gimmick: a partial solution for the magazine at best and a headache for their respective production and distribution departments at worst. I think what this move does is enable big media companies to grab some of the ad dollars spent on smaller specialty publications. If TIME magazine can show that they can deliver the same specific audience that FEMALE FIREFIGHTERS MONTHLY magazine can and at a similar cost then... For that matter, why not programmatic editorial content for print magazines as well? And don't forget, at the end of the day they are reliant on the US mail to make all this happen correctly.