More on the front-page ad

Ghost of Timmy says:

I don’t agree that ads are not placed on the front page of a newspaper merely because of “arbitrary symbolism” or that allowing such advertising will “guarantee a better product.” Allowing front page ads is simply a way to maximize revenue – the Hatchet could have color each issue, but that would cost money; find another way to get color at no cost to the Hatchet and the problem is solved.

A newspaper’s front page is where readers are told which stories are the most important. It is supposed to be a place where the paper’s editorial side is completely untouched by its advertising side. Same thing for the editorial page.

Those two sections – front page and editorial page – are the only ones where there is – and should be – a total separation between editorial content and any ads. Why? Because those are the two sections where readers should be able to read editorial content without any distractions from ads.

If, as Michael argues, it is merely “arbitrary symbolism” to keep ads off the front page, then isn’t it equally arbitrary to go with a small ad just on Thursdays? Why not another ad on Mondays? Why not re-arrange the front page layout to allow for more or larger ads? If the goal is simply to maximize revenue so as to allow for regular color issues, then how does one draw the line between journalistic concerns and profit maximization without being arbitrary by definition?

A further point: traditionally, the Hatchet made a very significant amount of money during SA elections season. Since the front page’s “ad virginity” has been broken, so to speak, why not allow SA candidates to place their campaign ads on the front page? It would be completely arbitrary to not allow a small front-page campaign ad. And why stop there? Why not use the same reasoning to place ads – whether commercial or campaign – on the editorial page? Since the ads would clearly be labeled as such, there would be no concern that they would be implicit Hatchet endorsements of the candidate or company (just like the front-page pizza ad is not an endorsement by the Hatchet of the pizza company). And yet…such ads would reek because of their symbolism.

As always, thanks for your comment, Ghost of Timmy. You made some very interesting points. I hope in making this post I shed light on some of the things you mentioned.

1. The Hatchet is NOT maximizing revenue through the sale of the front-page ad. As you know, Timmy, The Hatchet almost never buys color unless a color ad pays for its cost. Without a color ad, we wouldn’t spend the extra money to purchase color. And since the cost of the front-page ad barely exceeds the cost of buying color (this is something I didn’t mention in my column), we don’t directly save or generate additional revenue through its sale. This may be a little confusing, so I’ll reword my point: The Hatchet doesn’t pay out of pocket for color, so selling a front-page ad that only covers the cost of buying color doesn’t mean better profit margins.

2. You mention that it seems arbitary that only Thursday issues will carry the front-page ad. The same spot is also available for the Monday issues.

3. I guess almost any decision, including the one to have a small front-page ad instead of a larger solicitation, can be construed as arbitrary. But I think that by allowing ads to be put on any page we are being less arbitary than the newspapers that hold their front pages and editorial pages as sacrosant.

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