Behind The Scenes

Windham County Humane Society “check passing”

[Many newspapers, as a policy, don't do the "check passing" photo-ops. However, I tagged along with Reformer advertizing sales director Jordan Brechenser, earlier today, to present a check from a recent ad campaign (a portion of sales went toward animal care at the Humane Society).]


When it comes to advertising, who do you trust?

World of Print recently declared that 70 percent of consumers "trust advertising in magazines and newspapers more than any other media."

They were citing a recent consumer study from Europe which asked more than 700 people in 13 different countries. Now, while I do believe attitudes in the U.S. could show dramatic difference, it still offers an important gauge as people (around the world) continue to digest information from a variety of sources.

Of note:

"When asked how much trust they attach to advertising in the various media, consumers gave magazines and newspapers a score of 63%, TV 41% and Internet 25%. Consumers were also asked about the role of advertising in purchase decision making -- almost seven out of ten said that advertising in magazines and newspapers was most important in supporting purchase decisions. When asked to compare direct mail with social media almost 90% of respondents valued addressed and non-addressed mail above social media."

Check out the full article here.

I'd be interested to see a similar piece on North American audiences ...


The new face of public relations

Jim Romenesko has a thought provoking piece up this afternoon centered around the following quote:

“I would like to propose engaging in a relationship where once in a while I supply you with fully developed stories (completed articles) that you can publish under your byline, with or without editing, at no fee.”

Highly unethical, to be sure, but the argument behind such a solicitation almost gives you pause for thought.

"The demise of paper-based journalism threatens to put down our watchdog, weaken the forces that traditionally comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, eliminate the institutions in our society which enforce civic accountability through their ability to expose and hold other institutions accountable. ... How can we create an economic model that supports investigative and accountability journalism? ... I’m here to cut through the problem, disrupting the existing business model, to help media break even or even make money acquiring first rate content. ... I’m here to help entrepreneurs rethink their publicity process to obtain guaranteed media coverage where traditional PR can’t."

I've experienced my fair share of out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to running advertising or press releases in a newspaper. Some of those (rad ads, anyone?) I've addressed on this blog in the past. But the truth is, providing this type of content with an actual byline (and I'd probably want an editor's note explaining where the story originated from) would be that off-the-wall.

But to attempt to credit the provided content to a staff reporter can only be an effort to make the press release seem more "news" than "advertisement" ... and that's what's most shocking about this story. (Heck, I still strive to make sure "paid advertisement" appears on any ads that take on the look of a traditional newspaper story. I think any papers caught picking up this content with see a direct hit to their reputation from the readership.

Check out the full post, here.


Production issues (Aug. 9, 2012 edition)

Readers of the printed paper may have noticed the front page looked a little "off" on Friday morning.

Occasionally we run a special front page wraparound ad -- called a spadia -- which covers a portion of the front page. The top of that ad mimics the top of the real front page, so while parts of the actual news as covered by the ad, the top of the newspaper appears as normal (so you see the Brattleboro Reformer logo, date, etc.).

This design is meant to mimic a regular front page; but regular readers may have noticed the Friday front page was redesigned earlier this year to coincide with our new Friday format. Not only does the Friday Reformer masthead run higher on the page, but Friday's paper also included a skybox ad, which forced the masthead to the left. Needless to say, the front page looked a little weird with the spadia.

This issue wasn't discovered until the paper when to press just after midnight. Once we realized there was a problem, several possible fixes were discussed. The only problem is that any of them would have taken up to an hour to enact, holding up the pressroom and the carriers responsible for delivering the paper. I decided the fix was not worth the result, and so we continued the press run.

Do mistakes happen? Yes. Are we aware of them? Most of the time. But sometimes the issues created by trying to adjust a headline after deadline, or fixing other menial errors, do not outweigh the new issues that arise. The lesson for any newsroom to learn it to get everything as close to perfection as possible before deadline. After all, a who's going to take a paper riddled with mistakes seriously?


More fun with ad placement

In an effort to offer advertisers "creative" opportunities in the print product, many newspapers over the years have come up "outside-the-box" campaigns. Consider:

-- The rad ad. Experimented with briefly at the Reformer offices in late-2007, early-2008. As opposed to stacking up at the bottom of the page, these ads "floated" in the middle of the page, with stories forced to flow around the ad. The thought process here, of course, was that it was impossible for readers to ignore the ad. It also didn't really offer much in terms of appearance, both for the ad and/or the news.

-- The post it ad. Much like the name implies, these ads are added to the front page of most newspapers at the end of the printing process, appearing as an actual Post It note on Page 1, which could be removed to enjoy the news of the day, and perhaps stored for later reference.

At the Reformer, we don't have the technical capability to literally paste these types of ads on to the front page. In our own effort to be creative, we've instead designed an ad spot that gives the appearance of a Post It note ... these ads typically force the Page 1 flag (read: logo) to the left, jut into the space reserved for a headline at the top-right of the page. It's very eye-catching and, presumably, a good "buy" for advertisers.

In a roundabout way, this leads me to post over at Romenesko earlier today; his regular "unfortunate ad placement" feature refers, in this case, to a Post It ad on the front page of the Tennessean, which dedicated much of its front page to the death of the "Queen of Country Music," Kitty Wells. The Post It ad, obviously booked much in advance, was for a funeral home and cremation service provider.










(Check out the full post here.)

Then again, maybe that's considered good value for money.


Ad placement discussion

There was a good post on Romenesko last week, pointing out an "unfortunate ad placement" (click on the below image to visit the post) ...

I've been asked about similar incidents over my years in the industry. In almost every case I've ever been involved with, it's been accidental in nature. Readers need to realize, in most cases you're talking about three different departments having a hand in the page in question -- an ad dept. selling the spot; production dept. laying the page out; a news dept. placing the stories. Right or wrong, each department is focused solely on their responsibility. In fact, in years past, I've been building pages without any knowledge of what they ads are or what they look like (either because the ads appear pixelated on the screen I used or because the ads had yet to be placed and appeared as empty boxes/placeholders).

Of course, there are common occurrences where the ads belong on the page in question. The Reformer has in the past sold "page sponsorship" ads, so that, for example, a weekly ad from Brattleboro Memorial Hospital would appear on the health page. In some cases, advertisers have requested a certain spot (a funeral home wants to appear on the obituary page; business 'A' wants to be near the TV guides or weather map). ... You get the idea.

As I write this, I recall one case that stands out to me, similar to the above "Paterno ad" incident -- several years ago we ran a huge piece on global warming and car exhaust issues, and the feature look up an entire page where the only other content was a giant ad from a local car dealer. No complaints as far as I know, and I'm sure there was several ways that could have been "spun" to the advertiser's benefit.

Close to deadline, it's very rare to have an editor make a drastic change to a page due to content/advertising "clashes." I suppose if there was a serious local story (like a tragic death) and we discovered the rest of the page was filled with celebratory ads (?) ....

Otherwise, these cases will provide good fodder for bloggers and late-night TV talk show hosts.