Thursday, October 2, 2008

Special Features Coming Soon

And now this from Lee Abrams, Tribune's chief innovation officer: Let's not call an advertising section an advertising section because people won't read it. Let's call it something else, say Special Feature Section, in the hopes readers won't notice that this is really advertising.

When newspapers start lying to readers about what they are publishing by using euphemisms instead of straight talk, you may as well throw away the printing presses. You cannot be trusted to tell us what is fact and what is advertising. The blurring of this line will render newspapers worthless.

This came up apparently because the Baltimore Sun labeled a special advertising section -- what else? -- a "Special Advertising Section." Abrams then wondered, who's going to read it if you call it advertising?

Who's going to read it if you lie to readers and mislabel your ads?

I can think of a local example in the Orlando Sentinel. Has anyone taken a look at the Seminole Extra section lately? There's no there there. Not even a half-hearted story on the cover. Nada.

The 8-page section is about 6-1/2 pages of ads. Whatever happened to the 50-50 ratio of news to ads? The remaining 1-1/2 pages are taken up by listings. Nobody is calling this a "Special Advertising Section," but that's what it is.

Advertisers ought to be asking questions because they're not getting their money's worth. There is no content to lure readers. In the old days, there were stories that weren't exactly a 'fit" in the main paper, which was higher and mightier than the Extras. If somebody thought a story wasn't meaty enough for Local/State, it would wind up in the Extras. Right off the bat, there was never a lot of respect for the regional reader.

This version is worse. This is a let's-hope-people-don't-notice strategy. The Sentinel is not willing to cut off the Extras entirely because of the ad revenue. It's always been said that the Extras are where the "little advertisers" can afford to place their ads.

Abrams need look no further than the Sentinel to see the new Special Feature come to life.

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