You’ve all seen ’em. The newspaper has their title at the top of the Front Page, and there’s a catchy photo just below. It’s something neat. It’s so good looking, you can’t imagine it was actually put together by a journalist, because those people know style like they know money. It’s almost so good looking that it could be an ad. You never know, right? Newspapers have been so desperate lately, maybe there might come a day when they actually put an ad as their front page. Not on their front page, of course, but as their front page.
So, you pick it up, and you go to sit down with your medium coffee and turkey ranch sandwich, and you realize… oh wait, it IS an ad.
Newspapers have been crying foul for a while now, acting like they’re some grand fifth estate that is essential to democracy and the well-being of its people, even though their mishandling of their own future isn’t far off Lehman Brothers’ destruction of the real estate industry or Foot Locker’s destruction of urban shoe style. Any newspaper worth a penny would have known that the Internet would destroy its once-formidable profit margins, but they chose to look the other way. They chose the lazy way. They ate their grapes with a crown and flicked the peasants on the forehead.
They weren’t kind to everyone on the way up, and now they’re grasping for straws on the way down.
So, in their endless despair, they’ve turned to a multitude of failing and misguided strategies, all of which have only further alienated their readers from their content.
They still brag about their content, of course, because their confidence in themselves has never been questioned or flattened, even as daddy takes the TV away.
They say they have all this gold within their walls, but they can’t keep producing it on a blacksmith’s salary.
That’s a lie. If they had golden content, then people would read it online without being forced to, Stanley Kubrick-style.
But, of course, people aren’t reading their work online, and newspapers are desperate.
So, they’ve started charging for their online content. Fail. Yeah, that will make us like you more. (What’s the harm, though? We’re already all on the Huffington Post, anyway.)
And, they’ve started this horrible, disgusting awful trend of full front-page advertisements. How was this even thought of? How was this even presented?
“That’s it,” says Fat Cat 1. “Yes, that’s the ticket. Let’s hand our most well-known symbol of editorial customization over to advertisers. We can charge a butt load, and we can make a whole bunch of money before readers find us completely detestable.”
“Ah, ha, Bully,” says Fat Cat 2. “Advertisers are beating us in creativity on the inside of our paper. Let’s give them the front, too!”
This whole age-old battle of ads vs. editorial is real, but it’s exhausted. Lately, newspaper folks have been blaming a whole lot of things for their downfall, including the Internet, Gawker, Twitter, Ad People, and Money.
They’ve been blaming everyone but themselves, and themselves are the only ones who deserve any blame.
Where’s the responsibility? Where are the grown ups?
And, so, instead of learning how to develop their business model and adapt it, they’ve resorted to an attempt to manipulate the system. They’ve tried to extort the game. They’ve written about “The Future Of Journalism,” but they’ve failed to recognize that they’re already in the past.
They’re no different than the almost-dead scouts getting it all wrong in the opening scenes of Moneyball. They’re playing catch-up in a race they have no chance of winning.
So, you get these front-page ads. You get the ultimate sell-out.
Before this, the only reason editorial teams had to hate advertising was when ads were more creative than their own stories, and that happened a lot.
Now, instead of working harder to reconstruct their own ship, they’ve just sit back and let the flood wash over them.
THIS IS THE FRONT PAGE! THIS IS YOUR HOLY GRAIL! GOOD GOD, MAN!
The front page is it. It’s the big show. It’s the elephant in the circus, and the bulls eye in the arrow. It’s what writers fight over. It’s the Taj Mahal for any journalist with ambition or gravity.
Bands used to know they had made it when the Rolling Stone put them on the front. Now, it’s being given to Siemens.
Imagine Johnny Carson calling just any comic over to his hot seat. Imagine Sinbad getting the wave-over from Carson, or Dane Cook.
Imagine if Piers Morgan took over for Larry King. Or, yea, right. He did.
DEFEND YOUR FRONT PAGE! FIGHT FOR IT!
You want us to fight for you. You’ve been begging us to. You’ve even been charging us for free content, and we’ve responded by actually paying you.
You’re like the Catholic Church, but without the promise of Heaven.
So, get some balls and fight for yourself.