Glossary of Media Terms

The following glossary contains the industry jargon, both current and currently out-of-date terms you may have heard or will likely hear when managing your advertising.  This list was generated by our president Kevin Andersen from his 30+ years of advertising experience in San Diego CA.  If you are looking for a term that does not appear here, please contact us.  We will be happy to define the term and make sure we add it to this list. 

Ad Agency - These days advertising agencies come in two basic types. 

Traditional full-service advertising agencies take up to 15% of your budget to plan, design, write, and place your advertising for you.  Production costs are  extra.  With the exception of local rate advertising in major daily newspapers, the media will pay the agencies the 15%.  (Many radio and TV stations will give directly to you a 15% agency discount, but since this is based on a negotiated rate, you may not be getting a discount at all.  This is because the agency should be able to negotiate a better rate than you can.  Although they may not be better negotiators than you, the combined buying power of all there clients may earn them, and you, a better rate. This is true of Non-traditional agencies, too.

     Non-traditional agencies, usually charge a flat monthly fee for assisting you with all or just part your advertising needs, or charge only for a one-time project.  These agencies often can provide the same services as the traditional agency.  However, instead of keeping specialists on their payroll, they outsource special projects when they are needed.  With this type of agency, you basically have hired a vice-president of marketing who is not actually on your pay roll.  This type of agent knows he/she will be paid the same if you spend a lot or a little in any given month.  They are more on your side, like your accountant should be.

Adjacency - The time period between TV programs.  Your spot will not actually be in the show.

Affidavit - A sworn statement from a broadcast station declaring exactly when your spot ran. Necessary for co-op reimbursement.

Affiliate - A TV station not owned and operated by a major national network.

Air Check - A recording of an actual broadcast of your radio or TV spot.

Area Of Dominant Influence (ADI) - An area covered by a radio station according to Arbitron’s radio rating service.  May be a single metropolitan area, a county or tri-city area.  For TV, the Nielsen rating service calls this a Designated Market Area (DMA)

Audience Composition - A breakout of who watches a particular program or cable network, ie, percentage of men, women, age groups, etc.

Audit Bureau Of Circulation (ABC) - An independent agency that verifies the number of subscribers for a newspaper or magazine.  All daily newspapers used to use this service.  However, since their circulations have dropped so dramatically, they are now resorting to the less accurate readership.

Availability Or “Avails” - Information submitted by a radio or TV station showing which programs have commercial time available for sale and there asking price.

Average Audience Rating    In radio, the average number of listeners during a specific time period.  For example, 5am to 8pm.  (Be careful of average estimates since the number of persons listening at 5am will be less than those listening at 7am) See Daypart

Average Net Paid Circulation - For magazines this number would indicate the average subscribers and single issue sales for a 12 month period.  (Be careful. if Sports Illustrated included its circulation for its widely popular swim suit issue in its average, but you intend to advertise in a different issue, the average will artificially inflate your potential audience.

Average Quarter Hour (AQR) - An average number of radio listeners or TV viewers over a specific period of time.  For example, the average number of radio listeners during a specific time between 5am and 10am. See Daypart.


Back-To-Back - In radio adjacent commercial announcements, for example running your spot immediately following the run of your competitor’s spots.

Bait And Switch - A legal term for advertising a particular item or service for sale then trying to switch that customer to a product or service that costs more.

Bleed - In print magazine advertising.  Running the background color all the way to the edge of a page.  Normally there is an increased charge for this.

Buy  - Industry term for buying a schedule of commercials on radio or TV. “…making a buy.”

Buying Service  - An agency that only buys advertising space or time for you after either you or another agency did the creative work.


Camera Ready - A finished piece of art completely ready for the printer or paper.  It’s called camera ready because printers used to actually photograph it.  However, these days it usually is a finished piece of art in digital form. Printers use several computer programs and formats for digital art.  Check with them.

Campaign - An advertising campaign consists of the total efforts made with respect to a particular advertising goal.

Circulation - The number of paid subscribers to a newspaper or magazine.  See the chapter on Newspapers in the free book, Tips and Tricks for Buying Advertising - Space and Time in America to see how this term is often incredibly manipulated.

Column Inch - Newspapers sell space based on size that is computed by the width of the column times the depth in inches.  Columns are generally narrower in the classified section than in the general news sections.

Copy, Ad - The text within a print or broadcast commercial

Cost Per Point (CPP) -The average cost of reaching one rating point

Cost Per Spot - The average cost of a spot in a radio schedule.  Stations will charge more for the times when more people are listening (usually morning or evening drive).

Cost Per Thousand (CPM) - The cost of reaching 1,000 persons in a particular medium. It's the best way to compare the costs between competing media.  For example, a popular radio station may have a higher individual spot cost than a less popular station but be less expensive in the long run because the more popular station reaches more listeners.  A station with double the audience size that costs only 15% more will have a lower cost per thousand and be the better deal.  Take the cost and divide it by the total number of listeners and multiply that by 1000.

Cumulative Audience “CUME” - In radio, it’s like the circulation of a newspaper.  The total unduplicated audience reached over a period of time.  For example, people tune in and out of a radio station and the total audience is not listening at the same time.  To reach all person who listen to a particular station during a given week, you would have to place many spots throughout that week.  In doing so you would reach some listeners many times and some only once.


Daypart - In broadcasting, the segment of a broadcast day.  In radio this usually is referred to as morning drive, midday, evening drive, nights and over-nights.  Be careful since radio usually refers to morning drive as 5am to 10am.  The audience for 9am to 10am may be significantly lower than earlier in the morning but they will attempt to charge you for the average audience.  In TV the dayparts are usually referred to as early morning, daytime, early fringe (4p to 6p), late fringe (6p to 8p), prime, late night and over night.

Demographic, or Demo - The breakdown of an audience into characteristics primarily of age and gender, but may include education level, race, marital status, etc.  See also “skew”

Designated Market Area (DMA)        An area covered by a TV station according to Nielsen’s TV rating service.  May be a single metropolitan area, a county or tri-city area.  For radio, the Arbitron rating service calls this an Area of Dominant Influence (ADI)

Direct Mail Piece - The advertisement you send to potential customers during a direct marketing campaign.

Direct Marketing - Sending a letter, post card or object to a potential customer who has not requested the information.  Often called junk mail.

Display Advertising - Print advertising that includes photos or illustrations.  As opposed to classified advertising in, say, the Help Wanted section.

Drive Time - The times of day when people are listening to radio in the car.  See daypart

Dub - A copy of your radio or TV spot to give to a station to air it.


Earned Rate - The discount rate earned from a newspaper or magazine based on purchasing multiple insertions over a given period of time.

Estimated Rating - A rating predicted for a TV show based on similar programming or what that time period reached with a discontinued program.  Note:  Be especially leery of estimated ratings as they are never estimated in your favor.  Estimates are often used for sports programs. .  See the chapter on Newspapers in the free book, Tips and Tricks for Buying Advertising Space and Time in America


Facing - The direction a billboard faces.

Flat Rate - The basic, uniform rate charged by a publication regardless of frequency or size discounts. See local open rate and national open rate.

Flight - For broadcast.  One of a series of buys during a campaign.   Or the time period a special ad campaign is run.

Frequency - The estimated number of times a person will see and/or hear your ad.  Can be provided per channel, per media, per campaign. 


Gross Audience - With broadcast.  The total of either households or persons estimated to see/hear your spot, without regard to duplication. Be careful.  See gross rating points (GRP)

Gross Rating Points (GRP)   Advertising agencies use this number to either impress or confuse there clients.  It’s a meaningless number unless compared to the frequency factor.  If somehow a particular TV show reached 100% of the audience it would deliver 100 gross rating points.  Also, running a spot 100 times in 100 shows that each had a rating of 1, you would also have 100 gross rating points.  In the first example each household would see the spot one time.  In the second example some people may see the spot 50 times, others 10 times, etc.  Radio and TV rating services use a frequency algorithm developed in the 1960s when there were only three TV networks. All it is currently, is a guess. When a station gives you a proposed schedule ask them to include the average audience along with the frequency.  For example, 5,280 listeners will—on average—hear your spot 3.6 times each.  It's not accurate, but, when used with other information, might give you some guidence.


Homes Using Television (HUT) - A HUT level refers to the number of household with there TVs on during a given period of time. HUT levels are used to calculate a TV programs share and is NOT related to its rating.  A rating number is a percentage of all available households that have a TV.  A 10 household rating is 10% of the homes that have TV, whereas a 10 share represents 10% of the homes that are actually watching TV.  Also, neither a HUT nor a rating point reflects the number of persons in the room watching that TV.  See demographics.


Indicia - A postal permit pre-printed on a direct mail piece showing the identifying number of the company that processed the bulk mailing.

In-House Ad Agency - If you have an in-house agency, you have a sub-division or your business that serves as your advertising agency. See ad agency. contents.)

Insertion Order - Written authorization from an ad agency to a media outlet to run a client's ad or spot.

Inserts - These are “flyers” inserted into newspapers or PennySaver type publications.  (See the section on Newspapers.)


Local Open Rate - The highest rate charged by a newspaper to businesses that have a retail outlet or headquarters within that papers circulation area.  A non-contract rate.  (see national open rate).

Loss Leaders - A item offered for sale at below your cost to acquire that product in hopes the customer will be attracted by the low price but end up buying something else that has a higher profit.  (See bait and switch.)


Marriage Mail - Publications that spread the costs of postage among several advertisers.  The largest expense for most direct marketing campaigns is postage, especially if you mail first class.  The US Post Office changed the name of Bulk Mail a few years back to Standard Rate to trick their own customers; the public.  Standard Rates are cheaper, and can vary a lot.  When you receive a bunch of flyers inserted in the PennySaver, or other similar mailings, all of the advertisers are splitting the postage charge.

Mailer -  An advertisment delivered via the US Post Office.


National Open Rate - The highest rate newspapers charge businesses that do not have a retail outlet or headquarters in the area in which they circulate their paper.  A non-contract rate.  (See  local open rate.)


Personal People Meters (Ppm) - The radio ratings people of Arbitron (now Nielsen) have fazed out personal diaries as a way of measuring (guessing) how many people listen to a radio station and fazing in PPMs.  A select sample of people in a market area will be paid to wear a device that will automatically detect what station is playing near them.  As a result, radio stations and ad agencies will not have to wait three months for a rating book to come out.  They will get listener info up to the minute.

Pick-Up Rate - With newspapers.  A discount on a second or third run of the same ad in the same week.  Always ask your newspaper representative about pick up rates.

Post Buy Analysis, Post, Posting - So a radio or TV station sold you a schedule that included estimated ratings.  After the schedule has run, and a new rating book has come out, have them post it.  A post is an analysis of a schedule to see how many rating points it actually received.  If the actual rating is lower than the estimate they owe you some free spots to make up the difference.

Pre-Empt - Some of the spots you agreed to purchase from a radio or TV station may get pre-empted by the station for a variety of reasons.  Normally either the program did not air because of breaking news or they re-sold your spot time to someone willing to pay a higher rate.  It sounds incredible but TV stations routinely “bump” spots to accommodate last minute advertisers willing to pay a higher rate even if you did not receive a lower pre-emptible rate.

Pre-Emptible Rate - You pay a lower than average rate for a radio or TV spot but the station can cancel your spot at any time and replace it with one from a different advertiser willing to pay more.  See pre-empt.

Press Run - The actual number of copies printed by a publication.  Includes copies that are destroyed or not read by anyone.

Prime Time - A TV term for the time when the networks take control of programming on local stations.  It’s 8pm to 11pm for the West and East coast of America and 7pm to 10pm for the Central Time Zone.  Because this is the time networks earn most of their money advertising time for the local stations is limited and extremely expensive.  Most local advertisers cannot afford to advertise in prime time and don’t really need to.

Program Rating - This is the average rating for a particular TV show.  Be careful here since TV stations and networks run there best stuff during ratings sweep periods giving them higher numbers than when you may be running your spots.  This is especially true if your spots will run during re-runs of the program.


Ranker - The common term used in radio for a list of stations and how they rate compared to other stations.  All radio stations are number one in some demographic.

Rate Card, Or Card Rate - A pre-printed card from an advertising medium that states their advertising charges.  (Note:  newspaper rates are generally non-negotiable, however, radio and TV rates are always negotiable.

Rate Holder - In newspapers you can secure certain discounts by agreeing to run advertisements during a specific time period.  Sometimes is makes good economic sense to run small--usually one inch in display or three lines in classified--to secure a lower rate when you place your large ads.

Rating - One rating point is equal to one percent of the potential audience in your DMA or ADI.

Rating Point  - See rating.

Reach  - The number of unduplicated persons your schedule will reach on a particular radio or TV station.

Readership - What it should be:  The actual number of people that might see your ad in a newspaper or magazine.  What it is:  At best a good faith estimate of how many people read a publication by multiplying the press run by the number of people who share a particular copy.  At worst it is a fictitious number arbitrarily made up by the publication and/or its representative.  Please read the chapter on newspaper advertising.  We recommend that anytime a sales representative brings up his/her publication’s readership that you bring up a career change for him/her. See the chapter on Newspapers in the free book, Tips and Tricks for Buying Advertising Space and Time in America to see how this term is often incredibly manipulated.

Remnant Space - Space in newspapers that have not been sold to advertisers that they might sell at a discount.

Rep Firm - An independent company that sells advertising space on behalf of many newspapers.  Say you want to place the same ad in many newspapers around the country.  You can deal with each one independently or just deal with the firm that represents them all.

Road Blocking - Placing TV or radio spots at the same time of day on all available TV or Radio stations.  In theory, if you road block, your commercial will be seen by everyone watching TV or listening to Radio.  Your reach is 100% of the HUT with a frequency of one.

Rotator - A spot placed on a radio or TV station anywhere the station wishes to place it within a specific time period.  Be careful.  You may get a smaller audience than you bargained for.  (See posting.)

Run Of Press (ROP) - If you place an ad in a newspaper or magazine as ROP the publisher can place that ad anywhere within the publication he/she chooses.

Run Of Schedule  (ROS) - If you buy time on radio or TV as ROS the station can run that spot anytime within the stated time period it chooses.  Be very careful of ROS schedules.  Almost always you will get the least preferred times. Their proposals will use Average audience ratings but you will generally receive less than the average.  (see rotator.)


Saturation Schedule - Usually with broadcast.  Some people call this carpet bombing.  It’s when you place an usually high number of spots within a compressed time frame.  If you run a saturation campaign, then every one in your market should see or hear your spot many times.  You might overdue it but think of it as insurance. You’re going to get the message out.  Hopefully, it’s a good message.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) - Designing and coding a website so that search engines (Google mostly) recommend your content to their users  In the old days this was done simply with meta-keywords, but today requires you to craft visually appealing webpages that are easy to navigate and contain information relevant and accurate content.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM / PPC) - Paid advertising and marekting efforts on search engines.  Paying to appear in search results of keywords and keyphrases that relate to your business. 

Share - See HUT

Short Rate - The difference between what you agreed to buy in a newspaper and what you actually bought.  If you signed for an annual agreement you will be charged the lower annual rate.  However, if you quit after only six months you will be billed retroactively at the higher six month rate.

Skew - In broadcast.  If a station skews female, its audience is primarily female.  If a station skews 18-24 female, a majority of its audience fits that demographic.  If you know the demographic of your customers you will get a far better deal from a station that skews to your audience since you won’t spend money advertising to non customers.

Spec Ad - When a newspaper or agency produces an ad for you to consider, change or approve.  Speculation.

Split Run - In newspapers and some magazines.  You run in full circulation but you run two different ads.  Half the people will see one ad and half the people will see a different one.  This is useful to try out different offers.

Spot - The term folks in the advertising industry call a commercial announcement in radio and TV.

Sweep(s) - Four one-month periods each year when networks and TV stations are rated by the Nielsen Rating Service for data on specific demographics, like age and gender.  Stations always put there best stuff on during sweeps months then sell advertising time in subsequent months based on the sweeps period.  These are February, May, August, and November. 


Tear Sheet - A full page from a newspaper that contains your ad as proof of publication.  The run date will be printed at the top of the page.

Time Period Rating (TPR) - If you see a TPR rating on your proposal from a TV station know that they are guessing at the rating based on what the show they used to air at that time got.  For some reason these estimates always seem to favor the station.  Note:  If they use a TPR based on a previous show that attracted men but are replacing that show with one intended to attract females, the TPR is meaningless.  Don’t trust TPRs.  See posting.

Total Audience Plan (TAP) - A tap plan on a radio station asks you to place spots throughout the broadcast day.  Its there total audience plan and includes late nights and over nights when their audience is extremely small.  We do not recommend spending extra money to reach that last 5% of their audience that only listens at night.

Total Market Coverage (TMC) - Having a newspaper place inserts within their paper to subscribers and deliver via mail to non-subscribers.

Total Rating Points (TRP) - See gross rating points

Trade-Out - When you trade your service or product for advertising space or time.  Restaurants often trade meals for advertising.


Zone Advertising - Some newspapers and magazines allow you advertise to only a part of their total circulation.  This will save you money and allow you to test different ad copy.