Friday, June 8, 2007

BoSacks Speaks Out: Selling Ads on the Front Page

BoSacks Speaks Out: Is it just me, or is the selling of prime real estate on your front cover a betrayal of principles? Whose principles you might ask? Good question. And I don't claim to have the answer. No really, as hard as it is to believe, this time I only have questions.

There are many reasons to be in the publishing business, and surely one of the top two is to make money. I accept that fully, and that is one of the reasons I went into the business in the first place. That being said there should, it seems to me, be some room left over for publishers to exhibit principles, patience, strength of character and display some sound business practices.

Now why do you think the industry is having accountability problems? Could it be because we have long ago abandoned strong principles, reasonable patience, a modicum of character and any resemblance of sound business practices? Well, yes, I think it could.

The selling of the front cover is just one more step in the pitfalls of publishing greed and continuing the downward spiraling loss of integrity.

What's with you guys? Somebody strap a 2x4 to the publisher's spine. What will you sell next - your grandmother? And if you do, will that be an off-rate card sale too?

The reason we are in this mess and have lost our integrity has nothing to do with the Internet. These problems are all self-made. The problem is that somewhere in the past we as an industry sold our affections to the lowest bidder like a street walker. And once down that road, it is very hard to regain your personal integrity or the respect of your past John's.

"Thus were they defiled with their own works, and went a whoring with their own inventions."
The Bible

Fashion Paper Joins Bottom-of-the-Front-Page Club
With today's issue, Women's Wear Daily, the longtime chronicler of the fashion world, becomes the latest newspaper to sell a piece of valuable real estate: advertising space on its front page.

Women's Wear Daily is running a front-page advertisement, a slim banner promoting a bracelet by Cartier.

A slim banner, about an inch-and-a-half wide, runs across the bottom of the cover and promotes Cartier's Love bracelet, a popular gold band. Not only is the image a familiar one - particularly to fashion-oriented readers of Women's Wear - but the sight of a strip ad on the face of a daily paper is becoming increasingly common, too.

Indeed, the latest debates in journalism seem no longer to be about whether or not it is prudent or ethical to run ads in places they haven't historically appeared, but how to do so in a way that makes the most of the property being sold.

"Women's Wear Daily has had a heritage of creativity when it comes to advertising, and this is moving it to an entirely new place, " said Daniel Lagani, president of the Fairchild Fashion Group, the unit of Advance Publications that owns the paper. "We are making our best real estate available for our best advertisers."

The paper, he said, is following the leads of other newspapers that have opened their cover pages to ads in recent months. The trend was apparent just yesterday in New York, where the free daily Metro New York had a strip ad for Avalon Communities, a rental housing chain, while its rival, amNew York, another free paper, had a so-called cover-wrap - an overleaf featuring the paper's logo and advertising content by a sponsor, in this case, Starbucks. The New York Observer, meanwhile, which recently switched to a tabloid format, arrived on newsstands with a banner ad for Wempe watches and jewelry.
So many newspapers are now running advertising on either the front page or the front pages of sections within the newspaper that the phenomenon was labeled "A Fading Taboo" in the headline of an article in the June/July issue of The American Journalism Review. Among the papers that have started accepting front-page ads are The San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Hartford Courant, the article said. Papers that now run ads on section fronts include The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and The Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Journalists lament the trend as a potential sign that the boundaries between editorial and advertising content are weakening, and because the advertisements reduce the amount of prime space for news and feature articles. But front-page ads seem destined to stay, given the declines in advertising and circulation that newspapers have endured in the Internet age. Prominent ads command premium prices.

Edward Nardoza, editor in chief of Women's Wear Daily, said that while journalists would prefer commercial-free front pages forever, ads are acceptable there as long as they are well conceived and pose no ethical conflicts. "We've come to terms that it's part of doing business today," Mr. Nardoza said. "I can't stress enough that it will have no effect at all on the independence of our editorial coverage or our decision-making process. There will be a strict delineation of all editorial material."

Most readers do not find front-page ads intrusive, said Gilbert Bailon, president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the publisher and editor of Al Día, a Spanish language newspaper in Texas.

"People are bombarded with advertising every day, from their cellphones to the Internet and every other way - seeing a front page ad strip isn't going to move the earth," he said. "I think some hard-core readers won't like it, but they get adjusted very quickly."
Timing, and not desperation, led Women's Wear Daily to its decision to introduce a front-page ad, Mr. Lagani of Fairchild said. The paper did run smaller black-and-white ads called tombstones at the bottom of the front page until the 1970s, for companies like Jantzen and Peter Pan Fashions. In 2000, it ran some cover-wraps with ads for Gucci. The new front-page banners will be limited, Mr. Lagani said, to prevent overexposure.
"In the case of Women's Wear Daily, business has never been better," he said. "This is simply a smart business decision."

He would not say how much the Cartier ads cost, but said the paper charged a premium for the prime space and required a commitment to a package that included a full-page ad inside the paper and a series of ads on the Women's Wear Web site.

The Web site component was a draw for Cartier, which strives to be a trendsetter among luxury retailers on the Web, said Frédéric de Narp, president and chief executive of Cartier North America. Cartier advertises on Yahoo, and other sites, and the ads on link to Cartier's own site, where the company plays up its designation of June 8 as "love day." On that day, Cartier will give 10 percent of sales of the Love collection to charity.

Mr. Bailon of Al Día, who started accepting front-page ads shortly after starting the paper four years ago, said that journalists should look on the bright side of the trend. "Every company has to find new ways to develop revenue, and this is an opportunity," he said. "If this is the new way, then you have to give a serious look."

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