Newspaper ad covering front page ‘shocks’ staff, but it’s ‘a real snoozer’ to readers

Romenesko Misc.
A Richmond Times-Dispatch newsroom employee who asked not to be named says “the news staff is shocked and angry” over Sunday’s Wells Fargo ad wrapped around page one, but publisher Thomas Silvestri tells me that “the reaction here is a real snoozer.” He passes long this quote from Times-Dispatch editor Danny Finnegan:
“I’ve received no complaints from inside the newsroom or outside. No emails, no phone calls. I’ve talked to several people who don’t necessarily like it, but they understand it.”

The publisher’s email to me is after the jump.

We welcome reader and employee comments on anything we do.

In this case, we can appreciate if “some” readers were surprised by the unusual treatment. But the wrap is clearly marked “SPECIAL ADVERTISING PULLOUT.” Anyone who reads The Times-Dispatch will know the wrap isn’t news content. There’s also no “story” on the front. Red is not a headline color for news as well.

So far, I know of two complaints. In both cases, we have talked with the readers by phone to understand their observations. Three complaints, if you count your anonymous emailer. Compared with changes to comics and obituaries, the reaction here is a real snoozer. (Side note: I also have a handful of readers who keep lobbying me for NO advertisements whatsoever.)

As for the Newsroom, Editor Danny Finnegan reports:
“I’ve received no complaints from inside the newsroom or outside. No emails, no phone calls. I’ve talked to several people who don’t necessarily like it, but they understand it.”

We’re always looking for new ways to generate revenue without confusing ads with news. At the same time, we’re always looking for great stories and opportunities to showcase our watchdog journalism and expand our audience.

On your policy question: We’ve tried “spadia” wraps in the past — half page in front, connected to the full page that serves as pages 3 and 4 of the concept. This is the first full wrap around the A section. We’ll review future proposals on a case-by-case basis. Like the process in the Wells Fargo wrap, the Editor will be involved in final decisions.

By the way: I’m happy to report we also had a very good Sunday newspaper.

Thank you for your interest in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Tom Silvestri
Publisher

P.S. I would appreciate if you could relay to the “one emailer” [who complained to Romenesko] that my door is always open and I welcome a discussion. He or she should know that.

> Earlier: L.A. County Board takes a stand against LAT’s front-page ads

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  • Anonymous

    Wells Fargo did this a year ago in the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

    This is nothing new.

  • Anonymous

    “Yes, it really is that simple.” Oh, my. We really are doomed.

  • Anonymous

    “Yes, it really is that simple.” Oh, my. We really are doomed.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it’s really that simple.

    You may not have ever worried about the money side of the business before. Well, you should. Spend a day or two with some ad sales people and see what they’re up against.

    The editorial side of the business has the luxury of acting like they have principles and pointing at things like wraps and calling them abominations. But then they wonder why newsrooms are shrinking.

    They’re shrinking primarily for two reasons: There’s not much for the public to get excited about in American newspapers anymore. If they were excited, more people would be reading. The proof is in the proverbial pudding.

    The second reason is there’s no money to pay for the newsrooms of yesteryear because advertisers don’t see the value of a printed product because readers are less and less seeing the value of it.

    The circulation of American newspapers and population are completely out of whack. However, other people around the world consider their papers much more highly.

    Case in point: Japan, which has a population of 128 million people. Their biggest paper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, has about 14 million cir daily.

    Lastly, flanc, referring to my “internet-commenter persona” is pretty funny. I’m nearly positive that’s not your legal name either.

    So, cut the bullshit.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, it’s really that simple.

    You may not have ever worried about the money side of the business before. Well, you should. Spend a day or two with some ad sales people and see what they’re up against.

    The editorial side of the business has the luxury of acting like they have principles and pointing at things like wraps and calling them abominations. But then they wonder why newsrooms are shrinking.

    They’re shrinking primarily for two reasons: There’s not much for the public to get excited about in American newspapers anymore. If they were excited, more people would be reading. The proof is in the proverbial pudding.

    The second reason is there’s no money to pay for the newsrooms of yesteryear because advertisers don’t see the value of a printed product because readers are less and less seeing the value of it.

    The circulation of American newspapers and population are completely out of whack. However, other people around the world consider their papers much more highly.

    Case in point: Japan, which has a population of 128 million people. Their biggest paper, the Yomiuri Shimbun, has about 14 million cir daily.

    Lastly, flanc, referring to my “internet-commenter persona” is pretty funny. I’m nearly positive that’s not your legal name either.

    So, cut the bullshit.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t really have a strong opinion on this. It’s crass, tasteless, desperate and probably ineffectual, but on the other hand, it’s that not much different from doing a wrap. And, well, the sellout of local newspapers is old news by now. But “ad revenue always good” is kind of a simpleminded default take on these things. I mean, you don’t really believe that if they didn’t do this, the staff wouldn’t be paid, do you? 

    More generally, when people complain about breaches in what used to be a sturdy ethical wall between ad and ed, there might be legitimate arguments against those complaints. But “it make money so it good” isn’t really one of them. What you’re essentially saying here is that no matter what publishers and ad staffers might decide to do, it’s OK, because it brings in revenue. But you can’t really mean that, can you? Is it really that simple for you?

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricklcoleman Patrick L. Coleman

    Guess it had no reaction in Roanoke? It was there, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricklcoleman Patrick L. Coleman

    Guess it had no reaction in Roanoke? It was there, too.

  • Anonymous

    Business/trade mags have been doing “belly bands” for decades.  It’s like gift-wrapping for publishers, that’s all… and another reason for readers to migrate to the web.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s see how “shocked and angry” the news staff is when they don’t get paychecks.

    Learn to like advertising revenue. It pays your mortgage.

  • Anonymous

    If the publisher received no feedback then that tell you a lot. It tells you no one pays attention to the newspaper anymore.

    No even cares enough any more to even have the debate. What would be the point?