Two Top Papers Refute ‘Newsosaur’ Charge, Deny Movie Ad Decline

By: Jennifer Saba

LA Weekly’s Nikki Finke — known for riling the top brass at the Los Angeles Times and The New York Times — opened fire recently with a column about the drop-off in entertainment advertising.

Finke charged that the movie studios are spending less on ads in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times because, as one studio bigwig told her, their readership is “older and elitist.” She dubbed the audience “newsosaurs” after citing readership statistics from Scarborough Research and the Readership Institute that show that the 18-to-34 set (and by extension 18-to-24 year olds) barely read daily papers.

Judging by the material studios are putting out there — exhibit A: “Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo” — most movies try and appeal to that very demo.

Now the two papers are firing back.

In a written statement to E&P, the Los Angeles Times called Finke’s piece “misleading in its description of the state of newspaper readership and of the Los Angeles Times’ value as an advertising vehicle for movie studios.”

The paper then went on to cite a Scarborough Research report that shows that 52% of 18-24 year olds who go to three or more movies a month read the paper weekly. Among 18-24 year olds who usually go to movies on opening weekend, the Los Angeles Times says 43% read the paper each week.

New York Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis told E&P Wednesday that the Times has not felt the cutbacks Finke’s column portends. Furthermore, Mathis said the movie industry views the paper as a trade publication as well as a “highly influential ticket-selling vehicle in New York.” And finally, she said, The Times is increasing selling combined ad packages for print and online — presumably to snag that younger audience.

Overall movie advertising represents about 14% of national advertising, according to the Newspaper Association of America. In turn, the national category contributes about 8% to the newspaper ad revenue bottom line. In other words, it’s a small fry category at most papers.

Entertainment advertising has slipped slightly over the past year. In 2004, the movie category pulled in $1.149 billion versus $1.162 billion in 2003, according to the NAA.

But because the studios and talent are largely concentrated in the Los Angeles and New York markets, those papers have come to rely more heavily on movie advertising. So even a slight decline is no small blip in New York and Los Angeles, said Mort Goldstrom, vice president of advertising at the NAA. “They get a disproportionate share by a lot,” he explained.

Even if young people are reading the papers, both papers have been feeling the effects of the dip. According to a note from Merrill Lynch, the Los Angeles Times’ ad revenue was down 1% in July, which the research firm attributed to “weak movie advertising.” The New York Times is having similar problems: a Banc of America report dated Aug. 29 says that movie print page counts are down in the “low teens.”

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