‘Merc News’ Among Several Papers Exploring Front Page Ads

By: Joe Strupp

Several of MediaNews Group’s Northern California papers, including The San Jose Mercury News and a group in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco, are considering placing advertisements on the front page and section fronts for the first time, officials told E&P.

In addition, MediaNews Group’s Alameda Newspapers, which includes the Oakland Tribune and several other dailies in the East Bay, are expected to expand the use of such front page ads that have so far been limited to one-inch strip ads across the bottom.

“We are examining the option of having front page and section front ads for the Mercury News and the Contra Costa papers,” said John Armstrong, publisher of the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, Calif. and vice president of the California Newspapers Partnership, which includes all of MediaNews’ California dailies. “We are exploring advertiser interest in various options for section front ads and Page One ads. We would like to get something done in the next few months.”

The ad expansion comes less than a year after MediaNews purchased the Mercury News and the Contra Costa papers, along with other dailies, from McClatchy following McClatchy’s takeover of Knight Ridder.

Front page ads, which had long been avoided in the past as an encroachment on the news value of Page One, have slowly been creeping into use more and more. In just the past year, numerous papers, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times have announced plans to begin placing ads on section fronts. Several Gannett papers, including USA Today, already run banner ads along the bottom of Page One.

Still, word that the practice is continuing to spread indicates a shift in the approach newspapers are taking to recoup lost advertising and counter continued revenue reductions.

“It is inevitable, something we need to learn to accept,” said Kevin Keane, vice president of news for the California Newspapers Partnership. “It is something newspapers have to address. I don’t have any personal objections to it if it is done tastefully and if we get enough advance notice because we sometimes run graphics that need to be considered.”

Peter Wevurski, editor of the ANG papers, said he learned in just the past week about the advertisement expansion plans, but said it is unknown when or where the ads would be placed, and how often.

But he indicated they would include ads larger than the current strip ads now running in some ANG dailies. “We expect it could be around two or three columns by five inches,” he said. “It is a growing fact of life. We are so dependent on the advertising dollar, this gives the advertiser something else.”

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