Most of the calls that come to the editor are, appropriately, about news. But lately readers have been calling or writing me about ads in the paper.
Shirley called to say she hates the car ads that get in the way of her news sections.
John said our paper is being overtaken by ads. “It’s just ridiculous. ... That ain’t why I buy the paper.”
Another Shirley (or maybe the same one) said she couldn’t remember reading a newspaper in the past six months that did NOT have at least one ad for a certain real estate firm. “It would be interesting to know the amount of money they have spent for all the ads and why they continue to have an ad or two in each edition of the TNT.”
Chuck encouraged us to put the ads in a section of their own.
“This would allow for more news, which is what a NEWSpaper is supposed to be,” he wrote, “not an ADSpaper!”
Actually, I have to disagree. Those ads are helping to pay the way. Monthly subscriptions and the quarters dropped in newspaper boxes make up only 20 to 25 percent of our revenue. The rest comes from advertising.
Without advertising, subscribers would pay up to five times as much for their newspapers. Without advertising, we could afford to keep only a fifth of our reporters.
Contrary to Chuck’s premise, the TNT strives to be a good ADSpaper along with being a good NEWSpaper. Local and national businesses depend on us to get their messages out to potential customers. And we’re pretty good at it.
An advertiser reaches more than twice the Pierce County adults with one ad in The News Tribune as he would paying for a spot on every local radio station during morning drive time. One ad in the Sunday News Tribune reaches more than twice the adults in Pierce County as one spot on all four local TV stations during prime time.
Ads in the paper don’t steal space from news stories. We budget a certain number of “newshole” columns every day. To that, we add space for the advertisements we’ve sold. Together, they make up the paper.
We try to build a paper that’s more news than advertising, so in fact, more ads can lead to more news space. Last Sunday’s paper, for instance, contained a second A Section because the large number of ads led to the need for more news pages.
We try to balance the arrangement of ads and news so the experience is good both for advertisers and readers, but there is a natural tension. Advertisers want splash so readers notice them. Readers don’t want the ads to be too obtrusive.
At our paper, the editor has a say when we are considering an ad that may interfere with the reader experience. We have turned away ads we thought stepped over that line.
For most readers, ads are a welcome part of the newspaper-reading experience. That’s how they find out about good deals in our community, about store openings and movie times. The couponing craze in recent months even has people buying multiple copies of the Sunday paper. It’s a good deal. Last Sunday’s paper, for instance, contained $119 in coupons – enough to pay for a seven-month subscription to the paper.
Lastly, we must agree with our reader, Chuck, who nailed it at the end of his note: “Looks like your (sic) double dipping, getting paid by subscribers for the paper, and getting paid by the businesses!”
That’s exactly right. And we think the arrangement is good both for advertisers and for readers.
Karen Peterson: 253-597-8434