Ads return to page one

Drastic changes are about to take place in some big American papers.
The most face-changing: The Wall Street Journal is going to accepts ads
on its front page.

The ads, which can be in colour, will
probably be box-shaped and run in the bottom right hand corner of the
front page. A second option may be a strip running along the bottom of
the page. Whichever way, it is expected to change the look of the WSJ.
The move is seen as yet one more sign of the mounting financial
pressures that are forcing newspapers to find new ways of raising
revenue. It is predicted that giving space on its front page to
advertisers – an area long regarded as sacrosanct – could bring in
several million dollars of extra income a year. The WSJ admits it
regards its front page as its “jewel box”.

Because of The Journal’s long adherence to tradition it is
predicted that the move will soon be copied by many other papers, which
have restricted their front pages to news and pictures. The only
notable exception is USA Today which has run a strip across the bottom
of Page One since 1999.
Recently the NY Times announced it would shortly begin accepting ads on
the front page of its Business Section, in addition to page one of its
Metro Sections on Sundays. All are separately printed sections of the
paper. In another major change, the NY Times is planning to reduce the
size of its pages – trimming the pages in width by about an inch and a
half.. It will mean a saving of about 5 per cent in newsprint costs.
With a simultaneous closing of one of its major printing plants in New
Jersey, the savings could amount it’s reckoned to around $42 million a
year. But it will mean, it’s admitted, the loss of about 250 printing
jobs.
It will also mean there will be five per cent less space in the paper
for news and features.

“It’s
a number I think we can live with quite comfortably” said the paper’s
editor in chief Bill Keller. It will, he admitted, mean some “tighter
editing”. Several other major US newspapers have already trimmed their
size – including USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington
Post. Added Keller: “It’s painful to watch an industry retrench. But
this is much less painful than cutting staff or closing foreign
bureaux” It’s not a view shared by all. Many of the NYT staff admit the
announcement left them depressed. Bob Steel, an official of The Poynter
Institute, a school for journalists in Florida, put this way: “As a
traditionalist, I’m not thrilled by the idea. Front pages should be
reserved for news”. The head of one media agency, David Sklaver,
suggested that it could be a two-edged sword. “Placing ads in places
where readers don’t want or expect them is, in a way, like being
spammed,” he said.

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