Rate Card

A rate card is essentially the menu of ad options available on a site. This document contains the cost, either on a flat fee or CPM basis, for the various ad units that advertisers may buy on a site.

This document is only relevant for publishers who are selling part of their ad inventory directly to advertisers. If you are using a network such as AdSense to monetize your display ad inventory, a rate card won’t be necessary. Ad networks are monetized primarily on a CPC basis, so there is no need to quote rates for inventory.

Below is an example of a rate card included in the 2013 media kit for PopSci.com (the online home of Popular Science):

Example of a Display Ad Rate Card

As shown above, a rate card can be a fairly basic document; for each available ad unit, it can include just the dimensions and the price. In the rate card above, most line items are shown on a CPM basis but some are priced on a flat fee (specifically, the e-newsletter and sponsored posts).

Other rate cards may include additional technical information or noteworthy restrictions on the ad units, such as:

  • Acceptable file formats
  • Rich media guidelines (note that PopSci indicates a $2 premium for rich media)
  • Available monthly impressions
  • Minimum spend amount

Typically, advanced technical specifications for ad units would be provided via a separate document known as a spec sheet. However, some publishers may also include relevant data on the rate card.

Once a rate card has been created, publishers need to know what to do with it.

Different publishers take different approaches on this topic. Generally, rate cards are not included in a media kit and are not made publicly available (a media kit is generally easy to find and download). However, there are obviously some exceptions (the screenshot above is a page out of a larger media kit that was available for download).

Many publishers will provide a rate card to advertisers upon request. There are a few advantages to this strategy:

  1. Forces advertiser contact. If an advertiser or agency is interested in your site after viewing the media kit, they’ll need to initiate contact in order to acquire a rate card. This personal introduction can be very valuable for a sales rep.
  2. Allows for flexibility. It will often make sense to tweak a rate card based on the potential client to whom it is being presented. Making rates available upon requests allows for this type of flexibility.
  3. Avoids bad first impressions. Some advertisers may be turned off by a rate card that features seemingly high costs. The above is a good example of a rate card with sky-high rates; a $62 CPM for a leaderboard ad is extremely high. However, if the rate card is accompanied by an explanation, potential advertisers may better understand the potential value of the placement.

Generally, we suggest keeping a rate card private unless an interested advertiser asks for it.