Monday, July 12, 2010

Report: USAT ad wrap trumps 'editorial integrity'

USA Today's Jeep advertising wrap of its news section this morning is a first, according to Mediaweek, and is a reversal of past practices meant to guard news content quality.

USAT advertising chief Lee Jones said that in the past, concerns about editorial integrity, production and circulation deterred the paper from selling ads that wrapped the paper, but that market demand and quality of the ad allayed those worries. “I think it’ll have minimal impact on single copy sales,” he told the trade publication. “The look and feel will be very close to the way the paper looks.”

The ad for Jeep’s 2011 Grand Cherokee is part of a $1 million-plus deal that will include a presence on USA Today’s iPad app and website, Mediaweek says.

Despite the break from the past, the advertisement is nowhere near as bad as what newspaper visuals expert Charles Apple called the recent "huge disaster" at the Los Angeles Times

Earlier: Jones named new USAT chief of advertising sales

Related: Gannett Blog reader Charles Apple takes his blog to the American Copy Editors Society's website


  1. What possibe "market demand" led to this outrage? Burying the front-page in ads hasn't been seen in this country for a century. I think is going to backfire, because customers who usually buy USAT will pass over this edition as being incomplete.

  2. If wrapping the front page in an ad (and one that is clearly denoted as such, unlike the LA Times), helps pay journalists' salaries, I'm all for it. This is not something to get worked up about.

  3. 2:15 pm: Over and over, however, we say "this is not something to be worked up about" -- in effect, it's not like we're doing something as bad as ____________."

    Then we sink lower, because the once unthinkable becomes, well, thinkable.

    Is there never a floor?

  4. Here in New Orleans, USAT is in the honor boxes sans Jeep ad.

    But I gotta tell ya, The Times Picayune is my choice of the day. The NYTimes seems to sell well, too, while the USAT boxes are always full. Guess the tourists don't need them after getting their free copies at the hotels.

    Maybe they could try giving them away at Jimmy Buffet's new place.

  5. If it will make money in the short term -- No. There is no floor.
    These are the behaviors of people who want to squeeze as much value out of the company as possible before it collapses. These are not the behaviors of people who want to build for the future. They've determined there is no reliable future past a couple of years.

  6. To 2:29: Maybe the boxes just have enough papers in them to satisfy demand and the other pubs are to chinchy. Until you start counting what was delivered and what was left at the end of the day your comments are meaningless.

    To Jim: what do you know about the floor? Business models need to change. Some don't work - such as your Ibiza thing - but others do and you have to keep trying new angles even though you haven't changed your strategy since you began other than to drop this blog and then return.

    The business is evolving and those that don't evolve with it will be begging money with a blog like this.

    Jim, you are just inciting conversation for the sake of inciting. And no, I'm not a troll.

  7. 3:06 pm: Suppose companies offered to pay newspapers for favorable news coverage. Should the papers agree to those payments, justifying their decision by arguing that "business models need to change?"

    Again, I'm asking the same question: Is there a floor?

  8. Come on Jim, you are just being silly now. What is your floor?

  9. I think the bigger problem that Gannett has is that it is not trying to win over the high-end consumer. Those consumers want a higher-quality product, not the middle and generic experience that USA Today can provide. $1 for USA Today or $2 for the Times? Look at how much thicker it is... I think I'll get the Times.

  10. I had always pushed for those watermark ads like a Nike logo under box scores. Box scores are box scores. No integrity lost and revenue is found.

  11. 3:24 Jim is not so silly. We have the case where FEDEX agreed to finance a project run by the Memphis Commerical Appeal of places in the world where FedEx goes. The reporter was kept largely in dark about the details until he returned from one trip with copy not to Fed Ex's liking. He refused to change it, which is why we all know about this now. The stories never ran and Fed Ex withdrew in the controversy. So it has happened.
    There are certain standards we make as an industry so we can stand handling a razor before a mirror each morning. We all know these are breakable, and some have been broken for short-term gain. It's an ancient ethical argument, and subject for classical plays along the lines of what price do you put on your soul?

  12. I gave up on being a regular reader of USA Today a long time ago but still keep tabs on it and Gannett, as well as other newspapers and media companies. When USA Today was at the top of its game, it was a pretty good paper. I knew a few good folks who worked there. It seemed to have some journalistic integrity, easy-to-follow design and snazzy graphics. In recent years, the journalism isn't what it once was. I suspect the newsroom personnel has changed a lot, as has the business model.

    Regardless of how it's packaged or how it makes a buck now, USA Today simply is not providing the content I once enjoyed, therefore I am reluctant to buy it.

    The horror stories told at smaller Gannett papers, two of which I worked for, seem to have spilled over onto the nation's newspaper. The deteriorating product is not only a sign of the recession but also an indication that the staff has been gutted to some degree.

    My guess is that the torch has been passed to people who are incapable of leading. Gannett loves "yes people," which in my opinion is the beginning of the end for any newsroom. It's a shame. I know that USA Today once had strong leaders who spoke their minds and had some clout throughout the paper. Gannett being Gannnet, that wasn't going to last forever regardless of the recession or state of the industry.

    The Jeep ad in and of itself isn't the problem. It's just another symbol of the desperation and folly that is USA Today in 2010. This is a paper that more than any other major publication has suffered self-inflicted wounds. It's like USA Today couldn't handle its own success. It was a hit with readers and advertisers because it had great content, probably produced by great newsroom personnel. Now its just another paper -- a thin, over-priced one at that.

  13. To those who are saying this is obviously don't know your ... from a hole in the ground. I'm a single copy carrier. I have been for quite a while. I doubt you in your chair in your cubicle doing everything on your computer but work know what goes on "on the street". People don't buy the paper, USA or any paper, if it has the slightest wrinkle in it, never mind hiding it with any kind of wrapper. What...are you ashamed of your paper? You have to hide it? I was ashamed to put it out today, knowing full well what I'll pick up tomorrow. You cut the size of the paper, make the paper with half the content it used to have, raise prices, then cover the whole thing up? Whoever thinks this is good business needs to get another line of work....and let people like me earn a decent living.

  14. A) This isn't the first wrapper I've seen since I've been here, though the ones I have seen have been limited runs for specific advertisers. However, this is also the most invasive-zero-readability-of-the-front-page wrapper I've seen.

    B) I argue that journalistic integrity isn't really a factor here in response to Jim's comment at 3:16pm. Anyone remember Open Air? How about when you buy a magazine and read ads that resemble news stories, or the "Amish Made" fireplace ads we run non stop in the winter months. The blending of ads and news has been blurred for years anyway, so at this point does it really matter? Its all about and always has been about the money. Jeep brought us in a million bucks. Hopefully that keeps one or two employees employed for a few months longer.....

  15. Hey 4:07: We don't want or need you as a customer. Go away!

  16. At least USAT retained it name and logo on the ad. For the last six months/year, the Cincinnati Enquirer had been selling a modified version of this type of wrap. The front is actually a half page lengthwise, so half of the front page is still visible. Whenever there is an ad that "wraps", "The Cincinnati Enquirer" masthead morphs into
    "The Enquirer"
    (right justified)
    Anyone else think that changing the name of the paper in order to accommodate an ad is disturbing?

  17. Right on, 6:14. It is called survival and until people like 5:03 come up with better ideas, shut the up. Everyone here is so damn critical of everything, lead by Jim. So one offers realistic ideas or improvements, orly criticism of what Gannett and USAT management is doing.

    Come up with something better and we'll all salute you!!

  18. "So one offers realistic ideas or improvements, orly criticism of what Gannett and USAT management is doing.

    Come up with something better and we'll all salute you!!"

    Why should they?
    They're NOT being paid for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. Hey, 7:27 p.m., don't worry. 4:07 p.m. and legions of others are going away never to return.

    The mediocre product that Gannett passes off as a newspaper simply doesn't measure up.

    But don't fret. The big guns are grabbing all the cash they can while the grabbing's good.

  20. 7:13, the only hope for any Gannett employee is to not be a Gannett employee anymore. Dont you feel stupid enduring furlough after furlough? You do know that other companies out there are not forcing their employees to take unpaid weeks off while pocketing millions in bonuses. Bonuses? Just typing it makes me sick. Lousy worthless managment and they get bonuses? What kinda world do we live in?

  21. Lee Jones would sell his mother to make a dime. This paper is going to shit. I work for the USAT Ad Sales department and I cannot tell you how desperate we are right now.

    We have the head of digital sales Andy Jacobson selling any digital impressions at below $1 cpm. We have Lori Erdos giving away free trips to Cannes to guarantee placements and now we have Hunke telling us to just book revenue at "any cost".

    W are in some seriously bad shape.

  22. 7:30,
    Don't you know that the company doesn't give a damn about your worthless suggestions to improve the paper? Some of us used to offer suggestions about better use of the website, better use of dwindling newsroom resources to pursue indispensable journalism, flexibility in employee benefits and work arrangements, and so on. Managers are too busy putting out fires to listen, and if any ideas reach top editors, they either don't care or don't bother, with no discussion whatsoever with the rank and file. They've been trained to roll out whatever corporate tells them to. End of discussion.

  23. Hi y'all. S/C carrier from yesterday. As expected...52% returns! Thanks USA. Any other great ideas?

  24. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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