Seriously, it’s not that big of a deal.
Well, it is, but it doesn’t mean the quality of The New York Times will diminish. Nor do I think for a second that front page ads will influence editorial decisions.
But this is a big move for the Times, just not in a way traditionalists think it is. The Times is finding a way to add to its print revenue stream. We should all salute them for that.
Losing the Times would be catastrophic for the U.S. Putting front page ads in a newspaper? Eh, not really news.
Other, major U.S. newspapers already do it, and it’s common place in Europe. What this move signals to me more than anything else is that the Times is serious about trying to find ways to fight back in this troubled financial times (and to avoid defaulting on its debt). A front page ad in the Times is an advertisers dream, and should fetch a handsome sum.
The first such ad, appearing Monday in color, was bought by CBS. The ad, two-and-a-half inches high, lies horizontally across the bottom of the front page, below the news articles and a brief summary of some articles in the paper.
The Times has huge debt obligations to make. This may not be the last, seemingly bold or drastic move (depending on your point of view) that the company makes in the coming months. Borrowing up to $225 million against its Manhattan headquarters is a much more drastic move than putting a single ad on the front page of the Times.
Before that move, the Times slashed its quarterly dividend to 6 cents a share from 23 cents. This will save the company almost $100 million a year. The Times is serious about making tough decisions to keep the company afloat.
If you have a problem with the Times selling front page ads, what would you rather the paper do? Cut more staff? Close more bureaus? Stop printing all together?
This isn’t your father’s newspaper recession. This is the real deal. Many of our most cheerished journalism institutions are in for the fight of their lives.