Established 2002

What the hell is a column inch: How to advertise in a local newspaper

I know, I know, Craigslist is king. Everyone is hooked on internet marketing and reaching the global economy blah blah blah. What happens if you want to open a small ice cream shop or cafe in your hometown? Sure, you can set up a website (and you should!), but you need to reach the local community and fast. Remember, the whole world hasn’t gone digital yet. HELLO local newspaper!

What the hell is a column inch anyway
If you request a newspaper’s rates, you’ll see something along the lines of “$14 per column inch.” That doesn’t mean your ad will be $14, silly. Per Column Inch is how newspapers measure their display ads. To decide your column inch, you need to first decide how big you’d like your ad. Simply put, you take how many columns ACROSS your ad will be, multiply that by how many inches in DEPTH your ad will be, multiply that by the column inch rate and, presto chango, you have your ad’s price.

It’s really not complicated because I am a math-idiot and I can handle it.

Let’s say you want to put in a nicely-sized square announcing your cafe’s specials. You play around in Photoshop and whip up at cute 4″ x 4″ ad that you’d like to run. Your local newspaper’s page is five columns across and each column is 2 inches so you’ll need 2 columns across and 4″ in depth. Here’s where your third grade math teacher would be proud: 2 x 4= 8 x $14 = $112 (And yes, I totally just used a calculator to get that number).

Also remember, some newspapers will charge you if you would like your ad in a specific spot within the paper and/or if you would like your ad in color. If you are graphically-challenged, some newspapers will charge you for ad creation. Mine doesn’t.

Sending your ad over, for the more graphically-inclined
You now know how much it will cost, but can the newspaper use the cute little 4 x 4 ad you made? You’re going to have to check. Your best bet is to make it into a PDF. Do not assume that because you have Microsoft Publisher, so will the newspaper. Please, for the love of God! You can use PDF online if you can’t print them yourself. Additionally, Microsoft Word is NOT FOR MAKING ADS! There, I said it. That felt good.

Also, if your ad is to be in color, make sure you check with your paper on color settings. For example, we use CMYK process color. If you use the wrong settings, your ad will show in black & white and/or the newspaper’s production department will curse you and you don’t want that, right? And don’t forget to check your images. GIFs and PNGs might be great for online but in a newspaper, not so much. Did you use some funky font you found on Yeah, that might not work either.

Confused? Just send you stuff over and let the ad department make it. They know what they’re doing.

The most important tip – make sure you know your newspaper’s deadline. I know you’re busy running your cafe and all, but your newspaper’s staff is busy too.

And you’re done!
Your ad is ready to be published. Why not see if your newspaper will publish a press release for your cafe? Hey, if you advertise with them, they might even write a feature on your cafe!

This was written for the “How-To” Group Writing Project! Thanks, Sarah!


For the first time since 1991, it really sucks to be a Patriots fan


I’m Italian: we hold grudges


  1. Great tips. Makes me want to open an Ice Cream store.

  2. HA HA you should, then you can have a flavor called “Chuck’s Chocolate Chunk”. 😀

  3. Thanks for your entry in my group writing project! You are so funny with your commentary and I had no idea how those newspaper ads worked. Thanks!

  4. You know, its not the size of the ad, it’s how you use it.

  5. Hi there!
    I’m new to the blogging community but I came across your site while looking around. I’m so glad I did! I’m a Pats fan, myself, being from MA originally. (Worcester, to be exact.) I just wanted to say hi, and tell you that I appreciate your Patriots’ fanaticism and let you know that I enjoy the way you write. It’s very crisp and entertaining. I look forward to reading what you write in the future.

  6. MDB

    “Microsoft Word is NOT FOR MAKING ADS! “. Love it!! Interesting information given in an easy to follow way. Thanks.

  7. Nice tip on using PDF online – I always thought my Microsoft word expertise would suffice…

  8. I LOVE pdfonline. I have to use it all the time for Microsoft Publisher files because we don’t have that software here at my office. It’s tough because, as a small local newspaper, we don’t always deal with large advertising firms. For the most part, we deal with small business owners with no expertise in marketing or graphic design.

  9. Great info, I’ve never advertised in the newspaper before but will bookmark your article in case I end up doing so, thanks! 🙂

  10. mdyayayaya ….. * Many people think *…. the author thanks for the post!

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