Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Page One ads for Newsday, other Tribune papers

Page One ads for Newsday, other Tribune papers


Many of Tribune Co.'s largest daily newspapers are planning to sell ads on their front pages, following a strategy that may break with tradition but, experts say, is fast becoming a trend in the industry.

The Chicago Tribune this week began talking to "key advertising clients" about buying the 1.5-inch strip of space along the bottom of the newspaper, said Michael Dizon, Chicago Tribune communications manager. Friday, Los Angeles Times Publisher David Hiller said that selling front-page advertising space was in the planning stages. And Newsday Publisher Tim Knight said Tuesday that the newspaper will be selling front-page ads to national advertisers. The paper began selling small sticker ads on Page One earlier this year.

Facing heated advertising competition from other media, including Web sites, and a declining readership, newspapers have been grasping for new strategies to boost falling revenue. Representatives from several Tribune Co. newspapers said that this is one way to do that.

"The Chicago Tribune is constantly exploring ways to provide value to our customers but also grow revenue," Dizon said. "One way to accomplish both is to provide section front advertizing."

Front-page ads are now commonplace in The Wall Street Journal and USA Today. The New York Post and the New York Observer also have taken up the practice. But the decision to sell such space still raises concerns about keeping advertising separate from the news among some in the newsroom.

Representatives of the Chicago Tribune and Newsday said that clearly defining advertising from news content is a priority.

"For Newsday, the concern in the newsroom and beyond the newsroom is to make sure we clearly delineate between advertising material and our stories," said Newsday Editor John Mancini. "That discussion has been part of this process, as it always is."

Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski said that editors debated the issue for over a month and the editors' recommendationto the publisher was not to proceed.

"I didn't think it was in the best interest of the readers," Lipinski said. "I just think their interests are better served on page one in other ways through stories."

Some experts share Lipinski's views but say that such change is inevitable.

Putting ads on Page One "says that there's nothing in our newspaper that's not for sale, even though it's clearly an ad you've sold," said John Morton, of Morton Research, a media consulting firm in Silver Spring, Md. "To me, it breaches the separation of what the newspaper presents and what it sells."

But others say that if the distinction between an advertisement and news content is clear, there should be no ethical problem.

"There are absolutely no cons and absolutely all pros," said Paul Levinson, professor and chairman of Fordham University's communication and media studies department. "It's not as if newspapers are non-commercial, as if they don't have ads throughout the paper." He later added, "My advice to newsrooms is to concentrate on writing the best stories and presenting them in ethical ways with appropriate headlines -- and you should be happy your newspaper has ads."

Other Tribune Co. papers have already begun to sell front-page advertising. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel began offering the advertising space - a small square or a strip at the bottom of the front page - in June and the fist ads started appearing at the end of last month, said the paper's spokesman Kevin Courtney. The Morning Call, based in Allentown, Pa., will debut advertising on both its front page and the front of its B section this Sunday.

Courtney said that advertisers "have reported a great response" and the newspaper isn't aware of any complaints from readers. The ads appear at the bottom of the pages with an emphasis on a brand message to maintain a "clean advertizing look," he said.

"It's a challenging time for advertising and this is a way to help drive revenue . . . and give advertisers different opportunities," Courtney said.
Copyright 2007 Newsday Inc.

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