Peek-a-boo — I see news!

These days, the debate over front-page newspaper advertising seems quaint. And critiquing the ads that are there seems hypocritical, given the several dozen columns I’ve written about print’s decreasing ability to attract paying customers.

But Sunday’s Pioneer Pioneer Press is noteworthy because it features not one but two banner ads, which is unusual if not unprecedented. The layout means the PiPress can only feature three stories, and only one with any real graphic oomph on the week’s biggest circulation day.

The ads certainly make an impression; big and bold, they look like they take up far more of the front page than the 33 percent they actually do. I hope the PiPress cashed in big.

Amid the Advertising Depression, publishers are ever more willing to put ads in new places and arrange them in unconventional ways. Target is usually involved, as you can see in earlier BrauBlog pieces here and here, though the Mall of America gets bigger play on this particular PiPress front.

The Mall of America ad replaces the above-the-nameplate “skyboxes” that tout other stories inside the paper. As a reader (but definitely not a design expert), I’ve never found the skyboxes all that useful, so perhaps not much is lost.

I couldn’t find another double-banner layout in a speedy scroll through other newspaper front pages at I made sure to glance at big papers run by PiPress owner Media News Group.

For comparison’s sake, here’s Sunday’s Star Tribune front:

It features the now-ubiquitous single banner, though you’ll notice a smaller spot in the upper right. That means promoting only a single inside feature in the skybox. However, the layout means two front-page stories get photos, and there’s room for a few more design elements.

In the end, does the difference matter to you?

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by B Maginnis on 11/08/2009 - 06:33 pm.

    What “matters to me” is the burying of the story about a nutball (and Muslim) Army Major (!) yelling “Allah Akbar” as he gunned downed unarmed soldiers at Ft. Hood.

    Can you please provide your trenchant analysis to this phenomenon, rather than how “Wheat Thins” are being marketed in the dead tree media?

    Thank you.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 11/08/2009 - 07:23 pm.

    Brian – I think the basic story there is you’re not paying attention:

    Was on front page of most of that morning. Not exactly an under-reported allegation locally or nationally. I think you’ll have to look elsewhere for evidence of a cover-up, or fuel for an anti-Muslim crusade.

  3. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 11/09/2009 - 07:27 am.

    Seems like an odd way to try and enhance and expand sales of the dead-tree version. And with Katherine Kersten – “Sex between men and women creates new human beings” – on the op-ed it reads like the Weekly Reader.

  4. Submitted by Adam Platt on 11/09/2009 - 09:24 am.

    Big picture, it’s been a half-century since this has been a metro area with a lot of newsstand/box sales. That’s due to mostly car commuting and high rates of home delivery. So irritating ads are not likely to harm the circ numbers.

    And judging by the lack of comment mass to this post, I think the answer is most of us who value newspapers find the creeping intrusiveness of advertising on a front page a small price to pay if it helps stabilize these businesses.

  5. Submitted by Sherry Gunelson on 11/09/2009 - 09:47 am.

    I am more annoyed by the lack of content. The Strib Sunday opinion session has shrunk to almost nothing, plus advertising. The Monday paper is pitiful. We have seriously discussed canceling our Monday paper each week – not an easily available option. If I lived alone I would simply cancel the paper.

  6. Submitted by Michael Mischke on 11/09/2009 - 10:29 am.


    Your comments about front-page advertising in the local dailies reminded me of a question I fielded years ago from a longtime advertiser: “What would you charge to place my ad on your front page?” I had never considered the possibility.

    I called a friend and fellow advertiser to ask his opinion of the Villager were we to run ads on the front page.

    “I’d say you’d sold out,” he said.

    Given the premium price we could get for a front-page ad, I told my friend I was considering it anyway.

    “Then would you consider selling the space to me?” he asked.

    We never did “sell out.”

  7. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 11/09/2009 - 10:44 am.

    Sunday the PiPress linked to a bunch of MN blogs, mine included. As a joke I switched my mast to a screenshot of the PiPress mast, Tires Plus ad included.

    A reader immediately wrote to let me know that there was a viral ad placement on my blog, and that he was unable to block it. (He was relieved but not happy to learn that it was a joke.)

    I don’t object to front page ads, but I do object to newspapers presenting opinion as fact. The Strib is a dying newspaper and I regret that, but not as much as I regret what they’ve become: a sad sack of corporatized content politically bowdlerized for their owners’ amusement.

  8. Submitted by Jane McClure on 11/09/2009 - 11:14 am.

    Rob, don’t you mean the Weekly World News? I still have the Terror of the Devil Cat story on my home office bulletin board. . .

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