Friday, April 10, 2009

LA Times unveils front page ad in form of story; newspapers willing to do most anything for cash

The Los Angeles Times, once a newspaper industry stalwart until bought by the now bankruptcy Tribune Co., Thursday unveiled an ad on the bottom half of its front page written as a news story.

Many newspapers have sold the very bottom of their front pages for ads. They, however, have been distinctively different and with a colored background to not blend with the rest of the page.

But The LA Times ad began just below the fold on 1A. It was heavily boxed with the word "advertisement" printed above it. But the very first paragraph of the ad referred to a reporter being taken on a wild rise, to promote an NBC cop show.

Adam Stotsky, the president of entertainment marketing for NBC, loved his ability to buy news content. He told The New York Times:

“What was great about this ad unit is it gave us a quote-unquote ‘editorial voice.' The more relevant you can make your advertising, the more contextualized you can make your advertising, we find the more engagement can be created, and ultimately the more effective your marketing can be."

Yes, advertising is more effective when it deceives, when it convinces buyers they are getting more than they actually are. So when an ad looks like a news story, the advertiser gets the credibility the news writers have built for decades and the trust readers placed in that reporting.

This precedent-setting move is a most discouraging ethically for an industry that has set new lows as far as quality, content and openness to new technology. And that's why revenues are declining, which The Times feels justifies this ad written as a news story.

Sad, but not unexpected. Expect more of this kind of weirdness and betryal from this industry as its decline accelerates.

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