Using rack cards to increase ad revenue

By Bob Bobber

Looking for quick way to increase your revenues? Many years ago the Gwinnett Daily News introduced the concept of selling advertising on rack cards to raise revenue. I thought it might be a good time to pull it out of mothballs and revisit it.

The idea is simple: Use the rack card as an advertising option for your customers. The most obvious use is to tie it to an ad in the newspaper or insert. For instance, “Look for Sears' automotive ad in today's Daily News.” Another avenue was to print plastic rack cards that are obviously more expensive for generic advertising that can be left in the rack for the long time. Something such as the Winn Dixie slogan “Getting Better All the Time.” Working with your ad department you can set different rates for one-time rack cards and long-term rack cards. You know that there will be a squabble over who should get credit for the revenue but the bottom line is that the newspaper makes more money as a result.

Be careful of political advertising. The Daily News sold some rack cards to a politician, which simply said “Vote for Joe“ and the editorial department complained that it appeared that we were endorsing Joe even thought the rack card had the standard disclaimer on it that it was a paid political advertisement. This idea kind of falls in the same category as paid plastic delivery bags.

Another idea to generate revenue comes from Mississippi. A few years ago, The Vicksburg (Miss.) Evening Post expanded its distribution area into Clinton, Miss., a community outside of Vicksburg. To introduce The Evening Post to the potential subscribers, circulation manager Becky Chandler placed 20 newspaper coin racks in Clinton. To help defray costs and connect the readers to Vicksburg, the newspaper had various businesses, which hoped to draw Clinton residents, sponsor the racks.

Taking a cue from tried and true park bench advertising, a beautiful full-color decal with the sponsor's message was placed on the coin rack and the sponsor also received a coordinated rack card. Each sponsor signed a one-year or six-month contract. Cost of the one-year sponsorship was $150 per month and costs for the six-month contract was $200 per month. Sponsors included casinos, a bed and breakfast and several restaurants. Most of the revenue was new dollars and not switch money.

Each decal started out with “Visit Vicksburg” and then the sponsor's message. The decals are peel off and can be changed without refurbishing the rack, which gives the newspaper the flexibility to advertise themselves when a sponsor is not available.

Although The Evening Post has its own print shop that made the decals, any local print shop can provide them. Total revenue generated by the sponsorships has reached $22,000 per year.

Another part of the marketing plan included 1,000 paid samples that had a wrap. One side of the wrap was the sponsor's message and on the other side was a list of all the new Evening Post locations. Single-copy-sales are going up steadily, said Chandler. The Evening Post is in Clinton to stay.

One of the drawbacks of opening up new territory is often that the expansion costs money and the newspaper is not willing to invest the money because of an uncertain return. This marketing expansion plan is paying for itself.

© Bob Bobber 2010

Bob Bobber is a newspaper consultant specializing in circulation sales, training and public speaking. You contact him at

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