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Wall between editorial and advertising

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Stitch, Jul 2, 2008.

  1. Stitch

    Stitch Active Member

    How big is the wall at your shop? I'm at my first stop after college and I think the reality is that there is a shorter wall between the news and ad sides that I was led to believe.

    I assume I'll hear some pretty bad examples from other posters.
  2. Ben_Hecht

    Ben_Hecht Active Member

    Gannett's been busily destroying it, for years.

    And they're not alone.
  3. There's actually a pretty big glass wall between advertising and my desk. I'd say it's about 50 feet long and about 8 feet high.
  4. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    I might catch hell for this, but after the tone of about the last half-dozen threads created on the JTO board here, I don't care.

    I've never been rigidly hard-line about the so-called "wall" between editorial and advertising, but I understand why it exists and I agree with that. However ... I'm not so sure that it should be a very high wall, because for all of our idealistic passion about journalism -- whether news or sales, we ARE in this together.

    So I think there should be a wall, but maybe it shouldn't be as rigid as they teach it in J-school. Maybe we on the editorial side should be proactive about trying to up-sell our work, instead of relying on the news judgment of the consumer to grab a bigger audience. Consider:

    I had an interesting discussion with a coworker earlier this week. We were (in attendance) at an MLB game, just enjoying the weekend. We were sitting a few rows down from a local Stitch-and-Pitch group that our paper had sent a reporter/videographer out to do a story on. Nothing major, just one of those nice summer features that people like to breeze through. But in eavesdropping on the people near us who seemed excited about being "in the paper," we noticed that they were confused whether it was our paper or the big-city competitor that the story would appear in. So we took it upon ourselves to, you know, make sure they got it right and encouraged them to view the related video on our Web site, etc., etc.

    Now -- we're both in editorial, not advertising, and it's not much of a breach of the "wall" since we had nothing to do with the composition of the story itself. But I can only think that we could do a little better if we gave a little "push" in the communities we cover, instead of maintaining such a rigid divide between what we do ... and selling more papers.

    I think there are limits, obviously. Selling ads is a whole 'nother ballgame, and there must be a line between blatant "advertorials" and independent news coverage.

    But at some level ... we're still trying to sell papers. Any way we can. I think this might be an idea that's rooted more in the past, when there were more papers that practiced, uhh, partisan journalism. But hell, why not?

    Maybe this is an idea that works better at smaller papers (which is where I've had more success with it, personally.) And I have no doubt that, at this point, it's a little "too much trees, not enough forest." ... But I just wonder if editorial staffs should exhibit a little "community service" like that, maybe tear down the wall a little more often -- at least in that sense -- and if it would do any good.
  5. There's nothing wrong with selling your product, Buck. Now if you were selling ads or compromising your coverage to keep an advertiser, then you're crashing through the wall.

    Big, big difference, as you sort of noted.
  6. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Point being, I don't think many of us do enough to sell our product.

    Of course, if the beancounters keep slashing and burning ... there ain't much of a product to sell anymore. (And we might have already reached that point.)
  7. And you're right. We need to be doing customer service, which I've long been an advocate of.

    Of course, the problem we run into nowadays is trying to sell a product we give away for free.
  8. buckweaver

    buckweaver Active Member

    Honestly, I haven't run into that problem too much -- at least, on a small scale. The readers I've talked to about it still seem willing to pay for the product if they think they're getting some benefit out of it.

    How much of that is a vocal minority (and granted, people generally won't talk bad about you to your face), I don't know. Clearly, plenty of people are pissed that each section of their papers are now 6 pages instead of 8 and don't have as much local copy because 15 percent of the writers just got laid off. ... That's not something we have any control over, unfortunately.

    But I have, for a long time, sensed the attitude that editorial doesn't have any responsibility to try to sell papers other than to produce compelling news content. And I tend to disagree with that.
  9. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Customer service is a great idea. Selling what's left of our product to the public via decent "Hey, we're here for you" means is smart. Promoting your product to the consumer is a good idea.

    Having a publisher or ad rep put the heavy hand on you to do a nice story about the ABC Shop's great widgets because they bought a 6-month quarter page run is different. THAT's where the wall needs to be in place and defended.
  10. I've just had more and more people tell me that they quit buying the paper because they clutter their homes and, "Why should I buy it when it's all there on the website?"
  11. Some Guy

    Some Guy Active Member

    Here's something I don't think we sell enough: Sunday coupons. I know people are aware of them, but I don't know about the *level* of awareness.

    I just went grocery shopping today. Used $10 worth of coupons, buying things I normally buy. Just paid for my monthly subscription with the savings. Granted, I get my subscription at a discount ... but again, we're talking one trip to the grocery store.

    To me, it's free money, and every month I'm saving more in coupons than I'm spending to get the paper. It seems like if you could enumerate this for people -- You basically get paid to take the paper -- maybe circulation wouldn't be plummeting.

    Or maybe I'm just naive.
  12. That's the only reason my wife opens a paper.

    Actually, I recently made a pitch to my bosses through our thinly-veiled "save our newspaper with great ideas and maybe you'll get a reward" program about how they can get more coupons on the website. That was a few weeks ago. Never heard back.
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