More ads, so what?

The obsession with front-page ads

One day—and hopefully that day will be soon—it will stop being news that magazines and newspapers are putting advertisements on their front covers, or front pages, as the case may be. It seems that at least once a week, (I’m spit-balling here, humor me), Romenesko links to yet another example.

Today was no exception, with Romo linking to a New York Times article proclaiming that Women’s Wear Daily is now—you guessed it—featuring ads on its front cover.

To this, I offer a hearty and heartfelt, so what?

It’s not that I’m celebrating the trend. It’s true that ads on the front page of a newspaper eat up valuable column inches that could be put to more newsy-y use. But with circulation numbers and ad rates falling, newspapers are going to do what they have to do to survive. It’s the new reality of the business. As long as the ad doesn’t affect the way the news itself is gathered or presented, it doesn’t make that much difference. Given some of the front-page fare we’ve seen recently—The Washington Post’s page-one expose of a young female athlete who has had her picture posted on the Internet comes to mind—I think that we can wait until page three or four for some stories.

After all, as the Times notes, papers like The San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, and the Philadelphia Inquirer all run front page ads, while the Los Angeles Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and yes, the Times itself all run ads on section fronts, and the Republic somehow continues to stand.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.