UPDATE: ‘Chicago Tribune’ Goes for Front-Page Ads — Editors Oppose

By: E&P Staff

The Chicago Tribune will run ads on its front page and some section fronts, Tribune Publishing President Scott C. Smith said Monday in a memo to employees.

The paper will begin selling the ad positions this week for “premium prices for brand and image advertising to key clients,” Smith wrote to staffers.

The color ads will be be 1.5 inches deep and run across the bottom of the section fronts. “This is a common ad size across the industry and will be common across Tribune newspapers to attract more business from national advertisers,” Smith wrote. “They will also be sold locally, generating millions of dollars of new ad revenue in total.”

Last week, Tribune Co.’s biggest daily, the Los Angeles Times, announced it would start selling front-page ads.

“I made the decision to expand section-front advertising, including on the front page, weighing the interests of both readers and advertisers in the context of our overall goals,” Smith said in the memo. He argued that readers “highly value” newspaper display ads, and that with the “rigorous guidelines” established for the ad positions, “I’m confident that the kind of high-quality advertising content you see on the front of The Wall Street Journal can be a net plus for readers, as well as the advertisers seeking to reach them in engaging ways.”

The Tribune exec noted that in past decades, the Tribune carried ads on Page One. He also said in the memo that revenue for the Chicago Tribune Media Group fell 7% in the second quarter, and he indicated that June was also a down month.

“Importantly, everyone can continue to count on high-quality journalism throughout the Chicago Tribune, and be confident that the news, including on section fronts, will be edited and presented entirely independent of the advertising,” Smith wrote.

An article in the Tribune on Tuesday, however, reveals that editors were opposed to the move. The Tribune account follows.
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Both Hiller and Smith have faced stiff resistance to the idea of front-page ads from their editors….”There is real demand [for front-page ads] that will turn into real revenue,” Smith said Monday. “But we have to do it with high-quality standards. That’s important to both readers and advertisers.”

Chicago Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski said Monday that Smith had sought input from the newsroom but had not followed the editors’ advice.

“It’s safe to say we were opposed [to front-page ads] on the grounds that it wasn’t in the best interest of readers. But that view did not prevail,” she said.

Los Angeles Times Editor James O’Shea was also opposed to the possibility of Page 1 ads.

“Front-page ads diminish the newspaper, cheapen the front page and reduce the space devoted to news,” O’Shea was quoted in the L.A. Times saying. “This would be a huge mistake that will penalize the reader.”

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