An ad that looks like a news story appeared on the front page of the Los Angeles Times Thursday, creating quite a brouhaha in media circles.
Newspapers have become desperate for revenue, as their readers and advertisers flee for the Internet. Major papers began selling ads on their front page en masse two years ago.
But this is the first time the LA Times has used an ad that resembles a story. The ad is for NBC’s new police drama “Southland.” NBC’s name and logo and the word “advertisement” are prominent at the top of the ad.
The ad is headlined “Southland’s Rookie Hero” and promises readers a ride-along with a rookie cop in Los Angeles.
The LA Times, whose owner Tribune Co. has filed for bankruptcy, approached NBC with the idea. “What was great about this ad unit is it gave us a quote-unquote editorial voice,” Adam Stotsky, entertainment marketing president for NBC, tells The New York Times.
“The more contextualized you can make your advertising, we find the more engagement can be created.”
Some pundits were aghast. “This breaks perhaps the most important bond that newspapers have with their readers, which, to me, is a bond of trust,” Geneva Overholser, director of the University of Southern California’s journalism school, tells The New York Times.
Apparently LA Times journalists agree. More than 100 signed a statement blasting the move. It reads in part: “This action violates a 128-year pact with our readers that the front page is reserved for the most meaningful stories of the day. Placing a fake news article on A-1 makes a mockery of our integrity and our journalistic standards.”
But not everyone got so bent out of shape. Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy tells the New York Times, “If we’re going to have front-page ads, I don’t really see that this one is worse than the others.”
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