First published: October 31, 2004
The Toronto Star had an interesting cover Sunday to celebrate Halloween. The banner was orange, dripping with blood and some amazing photos of kids dressed up in great costumes. It is a very innovative approach to the front page of a weekend edition and raises some interesting questions about the use of a front page in a newspaper (Is it an attempt to be a magazine? Shouldn’t we stick with traditional front pages or is there room for innovation a.k.a Globe China issue)
However, when you open the section, the inside pages are paid editorial from Dimetapp, selling children’s cough remedy and giving Halloween tips. The page pulls out and reveals a traditional Toronto Star front page.
Is this a front page ad? It is not clear. Certainly newspapers use advertisers to pay for full color ads to reduce costs on front page color photographs. That is not new. And advertising on a front page of a newspaper is not big news either. Yet, on major dailies the front page ad is usually below the fold. However, is there any sacred space left? I recently saw advertisements on the editorial page of a small town weekly.
Of course ads must be sold and revenue made (please let’s not hear any comments about naivety. Everyone knows this is a business). But are there any places in a newspaper that should not be for sale? What about content to advertising ratios? Is there a threshold that says a product is no longer a newspaper or news cast and just an advertiser or infomercial?
About a year ago, a beer company wanted to buy the front page of our campus/community newspaper at the college for an ad. It was instantly turned down. We just did a redesign for our front page and there was a serious discussion about banning front page ads. It will likely not happen for the same reason any newspaper would not let it happen. Dropping ad revenues force newspaper to prostitute every ounce of space to balance demanding budgets.
No doubt advertisers want the premium space and will pay for it. But where do we draw the line? (or is there a line to be drawn?) Ear lugs? Base bar? Or can we fantasize about an newspaper or news cast without ads (as on CBC ). Subscription only. Yes, it is a fantasy. Ah, to dream…