Advertising: Options for a kit biz

Dangerous Prototypes has always been a word-of-mouth operation. We survive on the traffic we get when you submit our projects to your favorite blog. Over the next few months we’re going to document our experience buying advertising, and try to figure out if it makes sense for us. We’ll share real numbers about the price, and percentage change in sales, profit, and site visits during the ad runs.

Our initial targets are three publications that got us interested in hacking, Make, Circuit Cellar, and Nuts and Volts. We’re not limited to these though, if you have other ideas or suggestions please leave them in the comments. We’d really like to consider your favorite regional magazine too, not just the big US-based publications.

Of these three initial publications, all but Make publish ad prices online. We’re certainly at the bottom of the pile: 9th pages, a few inches of column space, nothing huge. We’re looking at options under $400 per ad, with a $1000 total budget. After the break we look at the type of ads that might work for a small open source hardware business.

Circuit Cellar

Advertising info.

Circuit Cellar is a serious engineer’s magazine with online and print versions. We like their pricing because it’s so straight forward, but there aren’t a whole lot of options to work with. A 1/9th page ad is the most we can get on our budget, $390.

Nuts and Volts

Advertising info.

Nuts and Volt’s smallest regular ad is 1/4 page, and at $635 we can’t even begin to afford one. That’s ok, because they have several budget-minded options that are more our style.

A showcase ad is about 1/12th page and runs $347. An Electro-net ad is a banner ad that appears in print and online, standard banner size is $200. A classified ad is only $50 per inch of length.


Advertising info.

We were first interested in advertising in Make’s classified section, ads were around $200. When we inquired about it in the Spring, they had been discontinued. Make does not list their prices, as far as we can tell, so we’re going to ask when this post is finished.

Taking it further

Our next step is to write Make and ask for their rates. We’ll also write the other publications to see if there’s room for price negotiation.

What do you think? Where should we advertise, and what type of ad should it be? We haven’t even started to think about online advertising, but honestly, the web has ads?

Join the Conversation


  1. How about getting a dangerous prototype published into a magazine. The elektor magazine (european) for example features regular designs from others. They provide links to the original site with the article. I think the site needs to be non commercial..

  2. I haven’t bought a magazine for years. There were several in my teens – Eti, Elektor, the PE/PW/EE set. Then for a long while I bought Wireless World. But they’re very disappointing compared with the internet and I have no use for them any more (though I still buy a newspaper).

    The point is, advertising in mags wouldn’t reach me. I found Dangerous Prototypes through Sparkfun & Adafruit.

  3. I know there are ads in magazines like Make, but personally, I don’t look at the small ones in the back, an would consider them a waste of money. A full page, or maybe a half could be noticed, especially if it’s next to an article.

    As Sjaak mentioned, getting into the “content” part would be way better. Either write an article and send it in (could eg. be a detailed guide with examples on how to use the BusPirate). You could also provide free product samples for review to magazines and key blog authors (I think a cool post on Engadget/Gizmodo/etc. will generate way more traffic than a little ad in the back of a printed magazine).

  4. For Europe, I’d consider to take a close look at elektor like Sjaak suggested.
    They publish in French, English, German and Dutch and they have their articles, projects, general tech news and more on their website. They are open to publish projects (so I am not sure about their licensing policy but they have published quite a few open source projects). Their combination of print and online presentation/resources is pretty unique. Having a project published and placing an ad in the same issue might be quite efficient – at least in Europe (and the royalties for the project article might pay for the ad;)

  5. What about Google Adwords? Whatever you choose, think about how you will track any additional web site traffic or income that you may receive because of the ad. I have done both print and online ads at different companies. It is hard to justify to the bean counters either without some way to measure them.

  6. My idea was the same as Sjaak’s & Co. — to write up one or more articles for the likes of Circuit Cellar, Nuts & Volts, Elektor, Silicon Chip, Electronics for Everyone, Everyday Practical Electronics, Servo, etc. etc. This way you get paid for the article and the self-promotion/advertising is free. This seems to be a well-worn theme. There’s pretty much a monthly Parallax article, a Fred Eady article, a Joe Pardue (Smiley) article, etc.

    Hell, you’ve already written them up in your project page — so > 66% of the work’s already done.

    [In Soviet Russia, product sells you !]

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