Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Spun Up Over the Front Page

Charles Apple over at is in a snit over newspapers and magazines finding "creative" ways to place advertising where advertising has never been before, such as Business Week wrapping an ad around a popular bit of editorial content in its most recent edition.

He seems to imply that these tricks, including front page advertisements -- like the sticky notes newspapers have used on their front covers for years -- are attempts by flagging rags to boost their advertising revenue during the current downturn, and that such advertising is only a gimmick meant to prop these publications up until the crisis is over.

I don't know about that. And I don't know that such advertising is a blow to editorial integrity, either.

Front cover ads -- especially in magazines, it seems -- is really getting people spun up, as the covers have heretofore been considered strictly editorial space. And it's true that the crisis in advertising is causing a lot of publications to reconsider what has traditionally been off limits, or reserved for somethign else. Readers Digest, for example, has long had magazine-commissioned original artwork running on the back cover. No more. It's now ad space. Not to mention the magazine is now the size of a postage stamp.

Readers, of course, notice. Some complain. But, I think, only the rare few are snookered into believing the advertising is editorial content, any more than they believe the editorial content is advertising. So the LA Times had an ad that looked like a story on its front cover, touting the NBC show Southland. Most readers are savvy enough in this overwhelming media age to know it's an ad. We're used to it. The majority of us won't get as spun up about it appearing on the front page as will media purists like Apple.

We're used to product placement, folks. The film industry has done it for years. The Goonies, one of my favorite movies, plugs Pepsi and Godfathers Pizza. Cast Away, some grumblers grumble, is a long (very long) advertisement for FedEx. And any Mormon out there will tell you that Tahitian Noni's deep pockets brought Johnny Lingo to the silver screen to hawk their health juice. (I didn't much like that, and, apparently, neither did viewers. The movie bombed.)

Print attempts to do the same thing, crisis or not, seem minor sins to me.

The other option, I suppose, to get the public eye back into print publications is tabloidization, which television news does to spectacular effect, and the British and some US venues like the New York Post do amazingly well. Pick up practically any British newspaper and you'll see tabloid elements -- nudies, crime shockers, death and gore, plane crashes, car crashes, celebrity news and such. A lot of it on the front page. Tell me you'd rather see that than an infomercial for Southland.

No comments: