If you’ve picked up a USA Today in the past two weeks, you’ve probably noticed that the paper has been missing one crucial element—its front page.
Well, to be fair, the front page is still there, per se. It’s just hidden within the fold of a four-page Jeep ad (see image).
This marks the first time USA Today has allowed for such unorthodox advertising, but at $1 million-plus from Jeep, it seems the deal was just too tempting to pass up.
According to industry publication MediaWeek, USA Today‘s senior vice president of advertising, Lee Jones, says that in the past, concerns about editorial integrity and circulation deterred the paper from selling ads of this nature. But now, market demand and the quality of the ad have eased these worries.
“I think it’ll have minimal impact on single copy sales,” Jones said. “The look and feel will be very close to the way the paper looks.”
While the ad may or may not impact newspaper sales—I’m still waiting for the figures—since when does aesthetics trump integrity? I’m not saying that USA Today is being unethical or even just a little bit naughty, but I do think that Jones is reaching when he implies that the ad is a-okay because it looks good.
The truth is that if USA Today and other papers weren’t buckling under the recession, neither they nor their parent companies would ever allow for advertising to hide vital content.
But as we all know, journalism jobs are dwindling and media companies, especially newspapers, are having to rethink their advertising strategies in order to stay afloat.
So, what do you think about USA Today‘s move to sell ad space not just on, but in place of its front page? Do you think it violates their journalistic integrity? After all, how could they run a potentially negative story on Jeep if the paper is wrapped in images of the Grand Cherokee? Or—do you think that desperate times call for desperate measures, and that this will in no way influence editorial content?
Selected further reading from News-Geek.com: