Friday, January 15, 2010

Where are all the front-page ads?

Not too long ago, newspaper purists shuddered at publisher plans to begin putting advertising on their front pages. Turns out, they needn’t have worried.

In a survey last week of the front pages of all of the U.S. dailies published at Newseum.Org, I found only 17% of the papers actually ran ads on their covers.

This may reflect the general dearth of newspaper advertising, the reluctance of publishers to besmirch their front pages with commercial messages, or a little of both.

In any event, I found page-one ads on only 71 of the 411 papers whose images were posted on Tuesday at the Newseum website.

As newspaper advertising eroded in the last few years, a number of revenue-hungry publishers said they needed to be able to sell ads on their front pages and section fronts, because they believed they could charge premium prices for these high-visibility locations.

This prompted an outcry from most journalists and many newspaper fans, who felt these prime locations should be dedicated exclusively to the display of news and features.

Prime real estate or not, most newspapers aren’t selling page-one spots.

Of the papers that do, most publications carry a single, modestly proportioned ad for a local merchant. But some papers really know how to pack them in.

The Montrose (CO) Daily Press (left) proved to be the champion front-page ad seller. Its cover was bracketed top and bottom with a total of three paid ads and two in-house promotions.

The biggest single ad was stripped across the bottom of page one at the Tulsa World, where it occupied some 15% of the page-one real estate.

Announcements for upcoming real estate foreclosure auctions were at once the cheesiest and most popular front-page ad genre. Remarkably similar ads ran on the front pages of dailies from Fort Myers, FL, to Fresno, CA, as well as in such markets as Atlanta, Las Vegas, Orlando, Tallahassee and Toledo.

USA Today, the flagship Gannett publication, was the biggest newspaper featuring page-one advertising. The New York Times had a front-page ad but the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times did not.

In addition to Gannett, the newspaper chains most likely to carry page-one ads were Freedom Communications, McClatchy, MediaNews Group and Tribune Co.

So, why don’t more newspapers have page-one ads?

While some newspapers are unwilling to sell them, others “are making it difficult to buy them or making them too expensive to be viable,” said ad consultant Peter M. Zollman, the founder of the Advanced Interactive Marketing Group.

The dearth of page-one advertising is just another example of the ways newspapers “still are leaving money on the table despite their tremendous financial difficulties,” said Zollman in an email. “It’s a sad commentary that they’re not being much, much more aggressive about sales when they so badly need revenue.”

Although Zollman may be right and most readers probably don’t mind page-one ads, I never have gotten used to them. Unsettling as they are, however, they are a small price to pay to keep a few more journalists on the job.

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't stop at the front page. Look inside and you will see that advertisers are gone. I keep reading this stuff from Sam Zell and McClatchy about how things are coming back and looking good, but I don't see it here.

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We have Page One ads, but we seem to have difficulty selling them every day of the week, especially this time of the year. Tuesday may be one of the harder days.

What do we charge for them? Slightly more than you'd pay for an ad of similar size buried somewhere inside the paper, who knows where. C7???

That's what burns me up. Our Page One definitely suffers. It would have been nice to know the ad was coming before we updated the look of our front page - not shortly afterward. We would have designed it differently.

That said, for a few hundred bucks, why can't they sell it every day???????? Not that I'm complaining. I think there needs to be a re-evaluation of ad rates so that some sections and some pages are priced higher and others more cheaply.

And our newsroom, including me, is well past the point in time where we dislike ads. We like them. We need them. We get that.

12:08 PM  
Anonymous mark fletcher said...

The Age newspaper in Melbourne Australia does this regularly in the form of a post-it type ad stuck over editorial content. The reader needs to remove the ad. Sometimes it is stuck over the masthead.

2:58 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Here are my two cents - and my two stories - about front page ads - including images that show front page ads have been around for more than a century, taking up 50 percent of front pages, instead of mere strips across the bottom.

http://brasstacksdesign.com/bakersfield_redesign.htm

http://www.brasstacksdesign.com/irritating_readers.htm

5:59 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

I think even given the visibility of the "Front Page" doesn't matter if the advertisers believe newspapers are no longer an effective way to reach their market. The idea is no longer such a difficult one to accept either for the editorial staff or the readers given that every major news site online has multiple ads running on the main or home page which is really if you think about it the "Front Page"....

6:40 PM  
OpenID poch said...

A few page-one ads are just fine
but some papers are just so shameless glutting their front page. More people would be driven away from print news that way.

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Body Armor said...

I think that front page ads are going away. I think lots of people will start doing their advertisements by email or txt messaging. Not so much by front pages. The age of the newspaper is gone.

6:58 AM  
Anonymous Body Armor said...

The age of the newspaper is gone...if people want to advertise they will probably do it on an cell phone or through an email.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Tom Curtin said...

It is not the placement of advertising on front pages that should shock us – it is the placement of editorial. When newspapers started out, the entire front page was devoted to advertising. Even in the 1960s there were papers in the UK whose front page was devoted solely to classified advertising. And they thrived. It is the rise of the prima donna editor that forced editorial onto the front paper in the form of what were then known as ‘leaders’, often the inane ramblings of one individual.
As the founder of The Times of London John Walter put it (in 1785), one of its key objectives was: “To facilitate the commercial intercourse between the different parts of the community through the channel of advertisements.”
It was the advertisers who allowed editorial freedom. Without advertising from many sources, media was subject to the whim of governments, politicians and owners. As The Times own foreign correspondent, Henri de Blowitz put it at that time: “It is the English advertiser who permits the English journal to be so well edited, so well written, so high-minded.”
So let the advertisers lose on the front and every page – that is, presuming that they still want to be involved with print media.
Unlike the precious editors of newspapers, Google won’t relegate your message to page 47: a mantra for today’s editors: If you want survive – advertise.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Tom Curtin said...

AMENDED COMMENT

It is not the placement of advertising on front pages that should shock us – it is the placement of editorial. When newspapers started out, the entire front page was devoted to advertising. Even in the 1960s there were papers in the UK whose front page was devoted solely to classified advertising. And they thrived. It is the rise of the prima donna editor that forced editorial onto the front paper in the form of what were then known as ‘leaders’, often the inane ramblings of one individual.
As the founder of The Times of London John Walter put it (in 1785), one of its key objectives was: “To facilitate the commercial intercourse between the different parts of the community through the channel of advertisements.”
It was the advertisers who allowed editorial freedom. Without advertising from many sources, media was subject to the whim of governments, politicians and owners. As The Times own foreign correspondent, Henri de Blowitz put it at that time: “It is the English advertiser who permits the English journal to be so well edited, so well written, so high-minded.”
So let the advertisers loose on the front and every page – that is, presuming that they still want to be involved with print media.
Unlike the precious editors of newspapers, Google won’t relegate your message to page 47: a mantra for today’s editors: If you want to survive – advertise.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First Morris, now Media News is finally entering bankruptcy, according to the WSJ. They are falling fast, Alan, upholding some of your musings in recent months.
My leading candidate now is McClatchy, which has to be choking on all that debt.
There will be more, and it will take more than a torrent of new front-page ads to head it off.

10:58 AM  
Anonymous Mike Phillips said...

I hate to argue with the eminent Mr. Zollman, but I don't think lack of selling pressure accounts for the decline of page one ads. The ads were a desperation move, and desperation never leads to smart marketing strategies. The courage and imagination to dramatically reinvent are the qualities publishers need now. Those are about as absent as the ads.

1:05 PM  
Anonymous bernard zimmermann said...

I know many in the newspaper industry condemn it, but I think they are wrong.

We have to be practical, what has helped to keep newspaper prices down is advertising.

Occasionally in Australia they will use a wrap rather than print on the print on the front page.

For a sample of what a wrap looks like on a newspaper, click this link.

http://www.posbrowser.com.au/gallery/transparentwrapfr.jpg

5:22 PM  

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