How To Evaluate a Media Kit For Your Business Advertising

10 things to look at when trying to evaluate a Media Kit when considering maketing activity for your business with a media publisher or website.

How To Evaluate a Media Kit Presentation For Your Business
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Did you know a lot of media kits are full of hype?

Most business owners don’t take the time to properly assess a media kit or advertising pitch. I have reviewed hundreds of proposals through dealing with agencies or publishing media over the years during my time in product marketing & brand management roles. 

What is common to most of them is a representation of high level data that looks impressive, but can be meaningless or gloss over the truth. 

In this article I walk through some examples to help you evaluate a media kit for your business to help determine whether you will reach a high quality audience.

What is a media kit and how can you evaluate it?

A MEDIA KIT PROMOTES A PUBLICATION, WEBSITE OR AN AD PLATFORM

A media kit, often referred to as a press kit, is normally a document or a presentation that summarises key information about a person or business. When it is used by magazines, websites or advertising platforms it will normally contain information that is aimed at convincing you to use them for your intended marketing activities. There are lots of advertising media kit or business media kit examples you can find on the internet, even templates that are used to create them.

Practically any business that sells advertising, promotional content opportunities, or other marketing packages to showcase products or services, will have a media kit available for business owners to review. so they can evaluate any potential media spend 

There isn’t an independent body that creates them, so typically they are made ‘in-house’ by the owner of the media platform. Anyone can create one without being audited or checked, there are even free media kit creation tools available on platforms like Canva.

So, you guessed it, it means you have to trust the source of the information and this is where most brands or business owners get caught out. Looking at pretty diagrams and numbers doesn’t help explain the true value proposition. 

Therefore if the information isn’t good quality or accurate how can you possibly evaluate your media spend accurately?

Media Kit Templates from Canva

What is a media kit used for?

A media kit is used to promote the offerings available

 Media kits are typically used to generate publicity and promote a company, product, or event. They will usually include a company overview, service offerings, examples of successful campaigns, a rate card and more. 

Media kits can be used in a variety of ways such as;

  • Promoting the advertising and promotional offers available via that business or media publication
  • Launching a new product or service
  • For an influencer to summarise all the deliverables they can provide
  • A website, blog or social media profile to present opportunities for collaborations or joint promotions.
 
These days there can be lots of different ways that a media kit, or some form of presentation that summarises any type of offer available, can be used for the purpose of attracting support to use the available advertising or promotional platform available.

What information should be in a media kit?

MEDIA KITS WILL DESCRIBE THE PROFILE, AUDIENCE & PRICING OF THE MEDIUM

Most media kits will follow a similar format and trying to highlight;

  • The team behind the brand.
  • What the medium represents or stands for.
  • Who their key demographics are.
  • What their estimated audience size is.
  • The mix of brands they work with.
  • Testimonials from previous advertisers or partners.
  • Examples of successful campaigns.
  • Advertising pricing & options.
 

By design they are aimed at selling their range of advertising options and as you’ll see in the examples below they will try and highlight as many big shiny numbers & examples as possible to give a business owner the confidence to invest in their services. 

This is where it becomes important to begin doing your own due diligence & begin asking questions because it is more important to reach the right people not the most people

Digital Marketing Can Provide Lots of Deep Insights

Are most media kits accurate & filled with good information?

MEDIA KITS ARE FULL OF GLOSSY FIGURES AND LITTLE DETAIL

Most media publishers rely on the ignorance of the business owner, agency or marketing person to really do their due diligence to see if what is being presented is true. 

There is a high level of trust placed in a presentation made on Powerpoint or Keynote when in fact the actual information is just a few clicks away if the time is taken to check it.

Media kits will say things like ‘55,000 Uniques’ but what does that really mean? Is that unique views of the home page, a single article or across the whole website? Where to those unique views even come from and how long to they stay on a website for? In fact what it could mean is fifty five thousand people per year visiting a site which may not be a lot at all.

Those ‘55,000 Uniques’ might not even be in Australia, so if you are a local business selling just in this country, then having your story shown to people overseas provides very little value and would not be a wise advertising media send. This type of information can be proven because a website can get it via their Google Analytics Data.

If or when questioned, most Advertising Account Managers or Website Owners won’t actually know the answers as they never look at it, they rely on the flashy numbers in their presentation to convince people to spend their advertising money based on trusting the presentation.

Can Google Analytics Be Used to Evaluate a Media Kit Proposal photo

How can you evaluate an advertising media kit

PRESENTATIONS HIDE THE DETAILS THAT MATTER MOST

Media publications typically show their overall numbers, but won’t disclose their origin. In the example below it could have been perceived to be an Australian audience, although Google Analytics can report the geographic location of visitors and for this website the reality was that nearly 40% were from the USA. 

Imagine if you had to evaluate your advertising media spend but had to focus it on people in Sydney only to find out the media kit was wrong or didn’t present the right information. Don’t believe the numbers that are presented, ask for proof which can be provided via Google Analytics to make sure what you are being offered is actually real. 

Making a website owner that is charging for advertising prove their reported results is very important. Google Analytics also break up visitors by source i.e. where did they come from e.g social media, organic search, eMail database etc. This information can be used to prove whether the information in the media kit is accurate and help evaluate how good it might be to advertise on the medium being presented.

What was presented

What do website stats mean in a media kit photo

THE REALITY

Google Analytics Showing US Visitor Website Traffic

Social media can be another grey area to be careful of when evaluating your advertising media spend. In the second example below, the audience was being presented in the media kit as 38,000 ‘fans’ although that audience is mainly in Turkey and Cambodia. The content being posted has little to no engagement, and in this example, was being seen by less than 200 people on average. So not only was this Australian website saying to local advertisers they had a great social media audience but they weren’t disclosing their location or the poor reach volume of any of their posts.

Understanding this type of valuable information from social media insights data is very important for a business owner to see or understand before making the decision to invest their advertising budget. Imagine spending money on a social media post that nobody even sees or isn’t in the country that you are trying to sell products or services.

What was presented

What does uniques mean in a media kit photo

THE REALITY

Facebook Insights Showing Audience By Country City photo

Be careful of points like these in media kit examples

MEDIA KIT STATS ARE HIGH LEVEL NUMBERS THAT MAY NOT BE RELEVANT TO YOUR BRAND

AUDIENCE SIZE

Every single media kit will try and explain just how large and impressive their audience is and some may even disclose the method or source used to determine its size. Typically though you will just get shown some form of overall number and in many cases it won’t have any context in terms of when that size was achieved, is it growing or declining or even how that compares to similar media. In the example above the number is so arbitrary you can’t even work out if that is per year, month or day.

CLAIMS TO FAME

Is big better?
Some media kits will have a section to highlight special highlights or their ‘claim to fame’ like this example above that talks about the site being the ‘biggest homepage in the country’  It seems impressive but what does it really mean because most Australian’s use their mobile phone to research products, so having a big page isn’t very useful on a small screen. Secondly, even if the fact were true, the activity you are about to pay for may not even guarantee first page placement, plus if it is that big how will anyone find it anyway.

What does engaging mean?
The claim is ‘27 mins per person’ but is that per page, per visit, per month or per year? It also doesn’t show what that is benchmarked against to even know if the claim is valid. In today’s society it would be pretty incredible if anyone is spending 27 minutes on a single website as people will often be surfing from one thing to the other.

Do Facebook ‘Likes’ mean much?
That is another impressive number, but as a business owner is it valuable? What they aren’t disclosing here is whether the audience is even real or engaged.  Influencive published a report on the 30 Best Sites to Buy Facebook Followers in October 2020 and it is well known fact many website owners resort to trying to grow their audiences to achieve vanity metrics. Although as reported by Hootsuite engagement rate on Facebook pages on average is 0.18%. 

They also don’t mention things like average reach per post, clicks from a post to a story or even location of the audience. So, if the media proposal you receive includes a paid Facebook post you have to really question its true value. 

READERSHIP OR DISTRIBUTION

In the last 10 years print media around the world has been impacted the most due to how people consume information. They have threats from multiple sources including Google, YouTube, Facebook and other online platforms that are constantly competing for attention. Most newspaper and magazines these days won’t talk much about actual circulation figures given their dwindling numbers but they will refer to Readership which is measured by Roy Morgan. 

This is an attempt to estimate an audience size for physical print media to help them compete or be measured against online mediums who can look at a digital report using Google Analytics. This information is used to sell advertising space based on the size and location of the ad. The methodology might assume 2 or 3 people in a household might read the one printed copy, but even then there is no way of knowing if every page is read completely. Meanwhile a website owner can measure every single page on their site, down to city & time spent reading a page.

VISITOR NUMBERS

The majority of media publishers these days will concentrate on offering access to their online audience. Generally speaking most will earn advertising revenue through either affiliate partnerships, Google Ads placements on their site or bespoke content creation partnerships. It is a fine balance between maintaining journalistic integrity and creating content that can earn revenue.

In this example above the site owner has presented some high level numbers that don’t actually mean a whole lot. So for example ‘Uniques’ are per day, week, month or year? ‘Impressions’ from what and over what time period and for what? Even something like the ‘EDM’ number doesn’t mean much if the people the eMails go to never open them.

A business owner must get a better understanding of what these numbers actually mean before they can justify committing marketing funds to an activity.

SOCIAL MEDIA SIZE

The other area that media publishers will try and leverage is their social media profiles. As mentioned previously having ‘Likes’ or ‘Followers’ doesn’t mean a whole lot if any of the content being posted isn’t reaching that audience or they don’t engage with it. A common trick that many brands resorted to in the early days of social media was to ‘buy’ followers to then create the perception of a large audience.

A business owner should spend time looking at the actual profiles as you can quickly tell how ‘real’ or ‘engaged it is’ by comparing the audience size to how many ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’ or ‘Comments’ each post gets on average. It will give you a good idea and of course each social media profile has data & analytics behind it to show all this information, so ask for it.

bold statements

By now I am sure you can see a common theme where lots of claims are being made but not much substantiation. In this example above from a popular car magazine they make the claim of ‘49.4K’ new car buyers, but you have to question how many read their magazine because they love cars vs looking to buy one at that moment, especially given the long cycles between purchases. 

Plus consider their second stat, depending on your perspective if you are brand wanting to reach car enthusiasts then only half their audience is one, so does that mean the cost of the ads will be 50% off?

BRAND PARTNERS

Nearly all publishers will try and show off who they have worked with previously, even I do. The goal is to try and establish a level of credibility and trust by showing recognisable names. Although the question to be asking is how many were one off projects vs repeated programs? If a large proportion are one off executions you’d have to ask why, did those brands not get great results?

The other question to ask is what was the extent of the work – was it just an ad placement or something deeper. So even though they have used the logo, how meaningful is it really?

SPECIAL OFFERS

Some publishers will offer access to high profile personalities or celebrities with special rates that you can access through them. A business owner has to now consider is the presented ‘value’ actually real? It isn’t like buying milk off the shelf in Woolworths or haggling a price with a car dealer, therefore how is the value established or even benchmarked to determine the figure? 

Then you also have to think, how is it possible it could be discounted by 50% if it is so valuable in the first place? 

Basically, it is just a made up number for an element of their service that is presented in a way to make it more attractive to use.

AMPLIFICATION

The large media networks that own many different brands or mastheads will often try and ‘amplify’ a marketing activity across its publications. This makes sense in situations where the target audience may be similar and it makes it a fast way to get exposure across multiple locations. In other cases independent publishers might work together in a ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ sense where they will offer stories to be run over multiple sites.

The page out of a media kit is an example of that, but similar to the previous examples shown it offers very little context or proof. While the use of ‘value’ is shown again even though you can see any standard pricing on the other sites.

It seems impressive, reach millions of people, but the reality might be 1,000 once you start digging into the details. 

RESEARCH POINTS

In the example above there is a ‘research point’ on the media kit proposal to try push the value of video to sell the service. It’s another example though that doesn’t have much basis especially when Facebook treats views at 10 second or less. On top of that if your video is 3 minutes long, but the average consumption time per video is 15 seconds on social media, what real value is it?

Similar to the other examples, this proposal had high level numbers without any context.

WHAT'S BETWEEN THE LINES?

This media kit slide takes a slightly different approach with some reference points to external ratings or previous years to try and establish a clearer baseline. Although a business owner should then ask for more details such as;

– Global audience split by what % in what cities?
– Did the growth in 2020 continue through the whole year & into 2021?
– Have the pageviews grown if more & more articles have been written?
– Search impressions are nice but what is the % clicking to the site & have impressions been growing?

In other words those stats are a point in time, but how is the media platform evolving over time, where & what is being consumed?

How can a business owner use a media kit?

a business owner needs to know what questions to ask

If you are a business owner that isn’t comfortable trying to determine the value of a media proposal then you can hire me as your marketing consultant to do that for you. I can review the proposal and act on your behalf to negotiate a commercially sensible marketing activation.

If you want to work it out yourself then you need to be asking for proof of each promise being made and these are some starter questions;

  • What % of visitors / readers / circulation is in Australia?
  • What % of your social media audience is Australian?
  • What is the average reach of a social media post?
  • For eDM’s what is the average open rate % & click rate %
  • What is the average time people spend on your site?
  • What is the average views per month on a written article or review
 
It goes without saying that if the answers aren’t quickly forthcoming or you are challenged about why you want to know that level of detail, then you know it might not be the right platform for you.

While media kits may be promotional in nature and designed to highlight an organisation’s strengths, they should not be full of bullshit or false claims that are intended to deceive or mislead potential advertisers or members of the media. Providing inaccurate or misleading information in a media kit could ultimately harm an organisation’s reputation and credibility, and may even result in legal consequences.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that media kits are marketing materials, and as such, they are designed to put an organisation’s best foot forward. While the information presented in a media kit may be accurate and truthful, it may also be presented in a way that emphasises an organisation’s strengths and downplays its weaknesses. 

As with any marketing material, it’s important to approach a media kit with a critical eye and to do your own research before making any decisions about advertising or partnering with an organisation. As you will see below it is pretty easy to trick potential advertisers.

Marketing Consultant can do Google Data Analysis photo

Can a business owner ask for proof of performance?

data is available from multiple sources to prove the results

Even if you are satisfied with the pitch and follow up media proposals, it important to make sure you clearly understand how proof of performance will be demonstrated. Of course a printed magazine or newspaper can’t provide much insight other than seeing your marketing promotion in the materials, although digital executions are different.

Let’s say you wanted a new product or service reviewed & written about on a website that was a paid content piece. The website owner should be able to show you exactly what traffic your article generated, where the readers came from, how long they spent reading it & if they clicked any links that were placed in the article.

You can look at your own Google Analytics reporting to see if you had more visitors when the story released. You can also look at Google Search Console to see if your search keyword rankings improved at all. 

Either way you can see how well the activity performed. If you aren’t really sure you can hire me and I can audit the data for you.

Google Analytics Can Track Lots of Website Information photo

A media kit is a presentation or document that contains information about a business or service. For marketing purposes websites, magazines, newspapers and even bloggers will use a media kit to share potential advertising and marketing opportunities. The point of a media kit is to attract potential prospects to spend their marketing budget on available executions and is a high level summary of what is on offer. Typically a media kit or pitch deck will include high level credentials, potential audience size, demographics & other details to highlight the potential reach of any execution. A business owner can use a media kit to try and evaluate if that print or online profile is suitable for their products or services & should be the starting point to evaluate a potential investment.

‘Impressions’ can mean a few different things depending on the context of how it is used. One of the more common uses relates to search impressions where a site, news post or webpage will appear in a Google Search Listing. Over a period of time there will be a number of impressions where they appear & a % of people will click on the link to visit the site. So a site might have 10,000 impressions and an average click rate of 1% or 1,000 people visiting its pages. Individual stories or articles might have a 20% click rate if they are seen to be relevant or interesting. Seeing impressions information in isolation is of little use without seeing the corresponding click rates.

‘Pageviews’ is a term normally associated to how many times a particular web page is visited and read. If a site has 2,000 news stories then the number of weekly or monthly page views might look impressive at 00’s of ‘000’s each month. Although individual pages might only get 20 views each month & even then, a view could be someone looking at something for 20 seconds rather than reading the whole article. So a more valuable measure would be ‘Pageviews’ and ‘Average Time on Page’

An ‘EDM’ normally refers to an eMail database that the brand, site or business owns that can be used to send eMail updates to. Generally a media publisher will try and build their eMail database as one of their most cost efficient ways of reaching an existing audience. The overall number might look impressive but without any context to the ‘Open % Rates’ or ‘Click % Rates’ having a huge database has little meaning. For a website audit I completed in 2020 a site owner had over 10,000 people on their eMail list, but less than 10% open rate so really only 1,000 people were generally opening the eMail which isn’t very useful to a brand owner investing money to advertise.

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Paul D'Ambra - marketing consultant

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