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Jane Dwyre Garton Headshot

Set Your Alarm: Page One Ads Are Coming

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Journalists object to front-page advertising and don't hesitate to say so. When the Tribune Company sought input from editors on launching page one ads in Chicago and Los Angeles, opposition from the news side of the operations was immediate.

Shrinking the news hole on the papers' face simply stings the sensibilities of the people who spend their lives collecting the words to write what we call top stories.

Selling off precious space on the prime page is the revenue-producer that publishers are convinced will boost their bottom lines. It will also suck inches of news away from readers. Industry print and on-line advertising revenues were lower in April and May following a 4.8% drop to $10.6 billion in the first quarter of the year from the same quarter a year ago.

After the decision to add front-page ads to the Tribune Co.'s big city newspapers in mid-July, the public editor at the Chicago Tribune, Timothy J. McNulty, received more than 140 calls from readers. Not one reaction was positive. Readers appear to care but it does not appear that the decision will be stalled.

Three suggestions come to mind that might diminish this tension within newspaper organizations.

1. Don't do it. Save the front page for news. Who ever rushed to the newsstand to see what auto dealer or money manager had a message to share?
2. Share the revenue with the newsroom by turning 10% of page one ad sales into an endowment to fund investigative journalism. Reporters could appreciate a steady flow of funding for important work.
3. Mitigate the loss of news space by designating equal ad space inside (not unlike the Environmental Protection Agency's mitigation banks) for worthy non-profit organizations that support women, the biggest newspaper target market over time.

Newsroom managers will cry out for readers' needs (news). There are dozens of theories about why newspapers are losing readers but no one has said readers are leaving because they could not get ads on Page One.

Do schools of journalism teach students to design front pages with ads?

The recent conversations about Page One advertising were likely over before they began. Front pages ads are appearing throughout the country in smaller markets, in the Wall Street Journal.

Is there any measure about the future of the reading in the phenomenon of Harry Potter?

Isn't life (journalism) often stranger than fiction?

Could more in-depth reporting offer a compelling argument for re-capturing newspaper readers?