The Washington Post recently debuted ads on the front page of its print edition, while the Los Angeles Times now regularly runs multi-page advertising "wraps," designed to look a bit like editorial, touting films and TV shows.Why does it matter?
As newspapers try to make up revenue lost by circulation-rate declines and the classified ad shift to sites such as Craigslist, elements once deemed sacred ground, such as the front page, are now increasingly seen as ideal ad platforms.
But Ken Doctor, an affiliate analyst with research firm Outsell and author of the Newsonomics book and blog, notes that USA Today has had front-page ads for a while, and even The New York Times has small front-page text ads.
"Newspapers realize you can put ads on section fronts or a front page as long as it's not intrusive," he says. "It ends up being about disclosure. The only time you can get in trouble is if you're seen as trying to fool readers, which is what the Los Angeles Times has been accused of doing by masquerading ads as editorial.
"Newspapers are now a niche audience," adds Doctor, "but they're a very good niche for brands."
Formula PR president Michael Olguin says front-page ads do mean less real estate for traditional editorial, though "it's rare when you can get a story on the front page, anyway, especially for feature coverage."
The new, aggressive ad strategies notwithstanding, Olguin says many of today's top executives are in the their 40s or 50s and admire print, so placement in a top paper retains its cachet. "They still want to be in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, or The New York Times," he notes.Key facts
- US newspaper print ad revenue fell 7.6% to $5.6bn in Q2 2010, according to the Newspaper Association of America - marking the 16th straight down quarter.
- Only 26% of Americans read a print newspaper the day before, found a 2010 Pew Research Center study
- An Ipsos Mendelsohn survey found print newspaper and magazine consumption fell 16% among affluent Americans from 2009 to 2010; Web use rose 12%