Marketplace Scratch Pad

Front page hijack

Scott Jagow Mar 5, 2010

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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