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Expensive Exposure
Kirt's Cogitations™ #220

RF Cafe University"Factoids," "Kirt's Cogitations," and "Tech Topics Smorgasbord" are all manifestations of my ranting on various subjects relevant (usually) to the overall RF Cafe theme. All may be accessed on these pages:

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Expensive Exposure

I do not watch a lot of television; time simply does not permit it when working a fulltime job, tending to RF Cafe, and doing the many other tasks associated with being a productive citizen. In fact, other than watching a few segments of an occasional news broadcast, just about any time Melanie and I watch a TV movie, it is on tape so that the commercials can be fast-forwarded through. I listen to the radio via the Internet, except when in the car, which I minimize (if you saw my car, you would understand). Maybe that seems extreme, but such is our lifestyle at this point in time.

Radio, like television, depends on paying advertisers to underwrite the costs of bringing the service to the public with no direct cost. To be sure though, you are paying for every second of broadcast time because the price of virtually all products are higher than they would otherwise be if the companies offering the goods and/or services did not have to pay to make their presences know to you. Your Adidas 1.1 computerized running shoes would likely cost half of what they do now if high dollar celebrities did not have to be paid to convince you that you need those shoes to be competitive. On top of that, Adidas must pay Sports Illustrated and ESPN to place those ads in front of you.

OK, so we all are at least slightly annoyed at the commercials regardless of the media, but by now everyone realizes ads are a necessary evil. The alternative is that you pay a subscription fee for every form of media your consume. Not all commercials are so bad. I have to admit that there have been some commercials so good that I actually enjoy them just for the entertainment value. The GEICO gecko is pretty good, as are the Suburban Trunk Monkey commercials and, of course, so are the much-heralded Super Bowl commercials. Even some of the print advertisements are quite clever.

You may have asked just what percentage of your time spent with television and radio is comprised of commercials? According to the statistics I found on the Internet, approximately 18 minutes out of every hour of TV is spent airing commercials. That calculates to 30%. Radio is similar with averaging 15 minutes of each hour dedicated to commercials, or about 25%. There are two other major media formats that you likely also invest a fair amount of your waking hours indulging in: the Internet and magazines. Both of those also inundate you with advertisements.

Internet sites are highly variable, and range from being one big commercial on company Internet websites, to purely ad-free sites which are usually hobby endeavors. RF Cafe falls somewhere in-between since we consist of about 1,500 pages of information, not including the couple thousand pages on the Forums. No effort has been spared to find the best balance between providing our paying advertisers with the best possible exposure to potential customers and being the least offensive to our visitors. I have read through scores of articles on how to optimize a website for both visitors and advertisers, as well as experimenting with a lot of my own ideas. The current format seems to have worked fairly well since I have yet to receive a nastygram from a visitor about the overabundance of advertisement or from advertisers for not providing enough coverage. In fact, the rates charged for an appearance on RF Cafe is far below what any of the other major engineering sites get.

Although it may sound trite, my primary objective has always been to put the highest priority on giving visitors what the came for. The policy has paid off as far as I am concerned because of the amazingly large number of people that visit RF Cafe nearly every day. Unlike most other commercial and quasi-commercial websites, RF Cafe provides a lot of hyperlinks to “competitor” sites. I have never really thought of RF Cafe as being in competition with websites like EE Times, RF Globalnet, Microwaves & RF, and any of the other magazine-related websites, but I am beginning to get the feeling they are not too pleased with RF Cafe. Although I have submitted numerous (maybe two to three times per year) short articles and news release pieces to them, only one or two have ever returned the courtesy I have been providing to them for many years. RF Cafe's web traffic is second to none for this type of an engineering site. In fact, having a link to your website from RF Cafe's homepage practically guarantees a listing in Google's search engine database since their webbot spiders RF Cafe two to three times a day for new material. Unknown websites sometimes have to wait three or more months to get listed, and then never get updated again. Items that appear in the Recent Additions on RF Cafe column always generate a spike of traffic to the topic owner's website.

Magazines, which also maintain complementary websites, are notorious for cramming a large number of advertisements in with the “useful” text. I ran a little experiment to determine just what portion of a typical print edition is comprised of advertisement. The process was simple: Thumb through the magazines from cover to cover and count the number of full-page and partial-page ads. The sum was then divided by the total number of pages (including the covers) to arrive at a percentage. Partial pages were counted as 1/4 of a page, even though most were at least 1/3 page, so the numbers are, if anything, on the low side. The results of the survey are presented below.

   Magazine    Edition Total  Pages Full Page Ads Partial Page Ads Total %
# % # %
EDN August-06 94 46 48.9 10 3.5 52.5
Microwave Journal January-06 200 103 51.5 54 9.0 60.5
MWJ MTT-S Issue May-06 376 191 50.8 107 9.5 60.3
Microwave Journal July-06 160 79 49.4 47 9.8 59.2
High Frequency Electronics January-06 66 28 42.4 10 5.1 47.5
High Frequency Electronics July-06 66 32 48.5 5 2.5 51.0
Microwaves & RF January-06 102 56 54.9 21 6.9 61.8
Microwaves & RF July-06 102 57 55.9 17 5.6 61.4
RF Design January-06 82 42 51.2 12 4.9 56.1
RF Design July-06 86 46 53.5 10 3.9 57.4
EE Times August-06 82 43 52.4 20 8.1 60.6
IEEE Spectrum January-06 90 29 32.2 6 2.2 34.4
Vogue April-06 416 266 63.9 20 1.6 65.5
Television   60 18 30.0     30.0
Radio   60 15 25.0     25.0
Copyright RF Cafe 2006

The average for all of the engineering magazines surveyed (not including IEEE Spectrum) is 57% with a standard deviation of 4.8%, so they are all pretty close. High Frequency Electronics tends to be on the low end at around 50%, and the rest are at around 60%. To be honest, that is lower than what I expected to discover. Advertisements really seem to overwhelm the pages, but maybe that is due to slightly more than every other page containing an ad. IEEE Spectrum is in a slightly different classification because it is partially funded through membership dues.

Out of curiosity, I tested a copy of Vogue magazine that was sitting on a doctor's waiting room table (I swear neither Melanie nor I subscribe!). They have a little higher advertisement content at around 65%. Ad density in that rag seemed like 95% since in the first half of the magazine, six to eight pages in a row often are a contiguous run of advertisements by one company, and that occurs in multiple places. In the back third of the magazine, there are actually a lot of extensive articles and photographs, which tended to hold the percentage at bay.

Now, let us explore the taboo subject of what those magazines might be raking in for advertisement revenue on a monthly basis*. Here is what such an estimated monthly revenue flow is for each magazine:

Magazine Edition Total Ad



Cost $U.S.

Revenue Per

Edition $U.S.

EDN August-06 49 $18,252 $894,348
Microwave Journal January-06 121 $6,370 $770,770
MWJ MTT-S Issue May-06 226 $6,370 $1,439,620
Microwave Journal July-06 94 $6,370 $598,780
High Frequency Electronics January-06 31 $3,450 $106,950
High Frequency Electronics July-06 33 $3,450 $113,850
Microwaves & RF January-06 63 $7,410 $466,830
Microwaves & RF July-06 63 $7,410 $466,830
RF Design January-06 46 $4,970 $228,620
RF Design July-06 49 $4,970 $243,530
EE Times August-06 49 $26,960 $1,321,040
IEEE Spectrum January-06 30 $20,000 $600,000
Copyright RF Cafe 2006

That is per month (per week for EE Times) - not per year. Not a bad chunk of change, eh? You do need to bear in mind that these folks have fulltime payrolls to meet, printing and circulation costs, facility overhead, and even advertising of their own. The expense of publishing a magazine is enormous when such highly skilled people are employed. They all do a great job, and I owe much of the knowledge I have gained to them. Based on that kind of revenue, you might think they would exhibit a little less paranoia about RF Cafe.

Anyway, this was all just to scratch an itch I have had for a long time. Let me know what your thoughts are on this subject. Hmmm...... maybe RF Cafe should expand its horizons and do just the opposite of the other entities: Move from being just a website presence to actually publishing a magazine. If it worked, that would put us in the same league as the Monkees band of the 1960s. They were the first rock group to gain fame first from a television show, and then through the normal record distribution channels. “Hey, hey, we're RF Cafe!”

Originally, I had, "I do not know what a full-page ad costs, but it has to easily be $1,500, and probably more like $2,000 to $3,000, but we will assume $1,500 (somebody please correct me if I am way low)." RF Cafe forum visitor Ed Milan provided the links to the rate sheets. Click on the link above to see them.

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