By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Why the Times’ front-page ads don’t matter

Three reasons why the New York Times’ decision to sell display ads on its front page is nothing to get excited about:

1. The Times’ most important front page is the home page of, which, like nearly all news Web sites, has included advertising from the beginning. In a world in which the Web is your primary delivery vehicle, it’s silly to pretend there’s anything sacrosanct about print.

2. Back in newspapers’ heyday, the Times was one of the few quality papers to run front-page ads at all. The reason we’re all saying that the Times is now selling display ads on page one is that it’s always run classifieds. Remember those ads reminding Jewish women to light candles for Shabbat?

3. The Times actually held out longer than many. As Richard Pérez-Peña notes, a number of excellent national papers have been publishing front-page ads for a while, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and the Los Angeles Times. Each of those papers has its own pathologies, but none is any more troubled than the New York Times is these days.

If front-page ads can help to offset newspapers’ mounting losses, then I’m fine with it. No doubt we can expect ads on the front of the Times Co.-owned Boston Globe in the near future.

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  1. Jerry

    Well into the 20th century page-one ads were a matter of course in newspapers throughout the United States although primarily in the East. They began to fade out after World War II, but in New England, particularly, newspapers kept selling page one space into the 1960s. The Boston Herald and the Boston Traveler were among the last to drop the practice. In short, while many of us may bemoan the shift, this is another case of what-comes-around-goes-around — joining the oft-repeated and continuing efforts to turn daily newspapers into “instant newsmagazines.”

  2. lovable liberal

    Yep, good analysis, especially item 1. You might be interested in NewsTechZilla or in the waaay too long blog item that NTZ stimulated me to write yesterday.

  3. lovable liberal

    One more thing: It’s like ads on the Green Monster, awful for the change-phobic but worthwhile if it helps put a championship team on the field.

  4. Ron Newman

    Meanwhile, today’s Globe front page has a NOTE TO READERS, informing us that the newspaper will no longer publish a classified ad section Monday through Thursday.

  5. krembo

    I, for one, can never remember when to light my candles.

  6. io saturnalia!

    The Salem News has had page 1 ads for a year or so. You know what? I barely notice them … just like ads on the Web. It’s only on TV that I find them infuriating, but thanks to DVRs, that problem is largely solved.

  7. io saturnalia!

    Another thing: That CBS ad is actually pretty attractive, and I think it’s interesting — and probably pretty smart — to advertise a television news broadcast in a newspaper. What a lot of journalists forget or perhaps never realized is that readers actually like to read in depth about things they saw on television news, and care little about the competition among papers, TV and the Web.As long as newspapers retain value — via focus on a niche or local area, as well as clever, diverting writing, pictures and other material (plus, frankly, two-for-one coupons, comics, TV listings and the like) — people who care about news will seek out several venues, often on the same topic.That’s just my experience talking, however.

  8. O-FISH-L

    The NY Times has been using the front page as an advertisement for the Democrat party for years now. Why is this news?

  9. NewsHound

    Advertising belongs on the front page, traditionally, historically and currently. It is a means of raising revenue. We must not forget that newspapers are in the advertising business. The concept of not selling advertising is absurd.The news is to build circulation and page traffic so that the advertising performs efficiently.The Vineyard Gazette most likely has had paid advertising on Page One since its historic beginning.The Vermont Standard continues with front page advertising. Forty years ago late publisher Benton Dryden wouldn’t allow new advertising and it dwindled down to Gillingham’s great store in Woodstock. But, now front page advertising continues in the state’s oldest newspaper.Some papers used to decline advertising on Pages 2 and 3, and on the front page of each section. That is as foolish as having a department store on Fifth Avenue without window displays or not allowing tenants on the first floor of Rockefeller Plaza. Why should our newspapers resemble the windowless WalMart that looks more like a state prison than a traditional department store?

  10. Ron Newman

    OK, question for you all. Should there be advertising on the editorial page? I recall a great uproar when newspapers first sold ads (usually to Mobil Oil) on the op-ed pages.

  11. LFNeilson

    My father sold front-page ads in the Town Crier for many years, and the ads were always in strong demand in the local political season. One time, he’d sold the entire front page except for one inch. He casually mentioned this to the Methodist minister. “I’ll take it!” said the Rev.He held out and sold front page ads long after many others in the press association had stopped, although in later years, he established a rule of nothing above the fold. (tabloid) The paper was never lucrative. The straits in which papers of today find themselves were familiar waters to the captain. Without the front-page ads, he would have been out of business.In the NEPA annual contest, it was an unwritten rule that papers with front-page advertising would never be considered for awards in general excellence.

  12. NewsHound

    The only negative about advertising on the editorial page is that the page expresses an opinion rather than “facts.” As such, an advertiser could be subjected to wrongful public opinion to be supportive of some specific editorial commentary. This would be unfair to the newspaper and advertisers. But, this measure of caution is stupid.Overall, I think it is a good idea to sell advertising, at a premium rate, on the editorial page. And, most certainly if insecure there could be a line expressing the opinions are not those of the advertiser just in case there is fear somebody ready for war over nothing.

  13. NewsHound

    Larz the Captain certainly was a legend with many great ideas and honest tactics. There are many who would be better off today with Larz’s practices and principles.There were many high quality newspapers with front page advertising at least equivalent with general excellence.

  14. acf

    At this point, the newspapers must be willing to sell ad space wherever they can find someone to buy it. Now, as Ron Newman mentioned, the Globe has eliminated the printing of a classified ad section Monday through Thursday. Do you think they’re doing it just to save newsprint, or because they have less and less advertisers? Also, as for their claim that the ads are still available on, I can’t be bothered. Speaking of the Globe, it keeps getting smaller and smaller. It’s getting to the point where they have a nerve charging what they do for it. Maybe going the free route, or a hybrid of a seriously discounted price might entice some readers.

  15. NewsHound

    If the Globe is not going to publish classified Monday through Thursday it is not to save newsprint. That would compare with a jewelery store not selling diamonds to save on diamonds.Maybe the Globe will become as small as Metro. No doubt, will occupy a smaller office space, too, if that happens.The smallest daily newspapers I have seen is one 8 1/2 x 14 inch sheet, both sides from Labonte, Wyoming, from back in the 60s.

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