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Front page hijack

Take a look at the photo below. What do you think you're seeing?

It is the actual front page of today's Los Angeles Times. Those aren't real articles in the columns. They're just a bunch of old copy cut and pasted. The sentences don't even make sense. The entire thing is one big, fat advertisement.

When you open up the faux front page, the real front page lies behind it. The newspaper is actually bragging about this concept in a press release:

The Los Angeles Times breaks new ground today, translating the "homepage" take-over concept from the Web to print and deliver Disney's Mad Hatter to readers' doorsteps, driveways and city street corners.

Timed to coincide with the release of the highly-anticipated "Alice in Wonderland," starring Johnny Depp, The Times is the only major newspaper in the country to carry the innovative ad unit...

"The Times is thrilled to work with Disney to create a truly exceptional and distinctive way in which to let L.A. know 'Alice in Wonderland' is now in theatres," said John T. O'Loughlin, Executive Vice President, Advertising and Chief Revenue Office. "We knew this was an unusual opportunity to stretch traditional boundaries and deliver an innovative ad unit designed to create buzz...and further extend the film's brilliant marketing campaign."

Selling the entire front page is new territory for the LA Times, but not by much. Last April, the paper ran an advertisement that looked like a news story:

The ad for the NBC drama "Southland" appeared in the left column, starting below the fold and above and beside a banner ad for the television show. The ad, which was labeled "advertisement" and carried the NBC peacock logo, was written from the perspective of a reporter on a ride-along with the show's main character, a Los Angeles police officer.

I thought the idea of advertising was to support the news product, not replace it. But I guess I'm old fashioned. No doubt the Times needs the money. The Tribune-owned paper has decimated its staff, prompting other top writers to drop f-bombs and leave.

So, it's fairly difficult most days for the Times to put out a paper with any substance.

No wonder they're trying to hide it.

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Did they forget that they need to sell papers? I often impulse buy papers by the headline I see.

So, if I walked by that paper a newstand or saw it in a coin-operated machine, I'd have no idea whether or not I wanted to buy the paper.

The L.A. Times already devalued its front page recently when it debuted its confusing LATEXTRA section (putting late-breaking news in an inside section). This advertising gimmick just adds to its decline. At a time when it needs to respect readers' tighter time constraints and shorter attention spans, the LAT is moving in the other direction -- making it harder to find the most important stories in the proper context. So, why stop here? Why not just lay out Page 1 like a website homepage with headlines and blurbs that point to stories inside? That would free the editorial staff from trying to maintain the pretext that front-page stories are of greater significance. And the advertising folks would be free to dot the front page with ads like those we now see online.

And they may still sell newspapers based on the front page headlines....why not put it in our faces? This is what we get when we knuckle under to business and profits! You GO, LA Times! Show us what we have become! What is more important than profits and money? If you have a job, you don't need to answer that question! If you don't well, I'm sorry, but this is where we are going! Better get ready to cow-tow in order to get and keep a job in this world! Yes, we are a world economy and that makes ALL the difference....slaves, one and all!

until the 1960s, the entire front page of the
Times of London consisted entirely of small
ads.

The LA Times has been off my list of hard-copy newspapers ever since Sam Zell picked them off and squeezed that lemon dry. What news they once had covered is now long gone. It's all about the ads and Republican talking points.

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