Section front ads, maybe even the front page!

By Greg Michael

First The Wall Street Journal, America’s last true freedom loving, free enterprise newspaper, will be putting ads on section fronts. (Hello? USA Today has been doing that for 20 years). A day later, the Chicago Tribune announces it will even “dirty its hands” and put ads on some section fronts. The move is just another indication that the editorial elites are trying to appear “business oriented” to stockholders. Imagine, they will even allow precious inches on their sports section!

Meanwhile, YouTube has banner ads across the top of its page and gets 100 million video views every day. In the next day or two, the New York Times editorial-centric management (picture them in togas) will decide to allow some real ads on their section fronts, as well.

But the investment advisors will be calling their clients, saying “Time to sell. This is a joke.” These section front ads are just some of the papers’ ad inventory moving up a page. They are fooling themselves if they think they will get incremental revenue gains from the move. This stratagey is not unlike the newspapers’ shallow Web advertising models. They just cannibalize their print ad inventory by spreading a small fraction of their loyal customers’ ads from print to the Web. But the advertisers don’t increase their budgets, most often, they decrease them. The big audience numbers in national and regional media have shifted to Google, AOL, Yahoo, YouTube, MSN, and FOX.

Newspaper editors didn’t do very well in business or math classes. You think?

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