A Few Notes re. Advertising, MoveOn, and the NYT

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There has been some suspicion in the blogosphere about the rate MoveOn paid for that loathsome ad they placed Monday with the NYT calling Petraeus a treasonous liar.  They apparently received a huge discount, and people think the Times clearly gave it to them because they’re sympathetic to MoveOn.

The Times counters that this was sort of a standard discount deal for a non-profit, black and white “standby” ad.  What they mean by standby is “We have this space we tried to sell to someone who will pay full price, but can’t.  So since things are already laid out such that this space exists, we’ll sell it to you on extraordinarily short notice for a song.”

I’ve worked in advertising, and I think the blogosphere is suspicious for the wrong reasons, and the Times is fibbing.  Thing is, a publication that is desperate to sell something to *anybody* will slash their rates so often that the published open rate is pretty much a fiction, except for people with lots of money willing to pay it so that they are consistently treated very well when it comes to placement and potential “value added”, which means free stuff.

My theory is the rate MoveOn paid is really an indicator of how desperate the Times is to sell ad space.  Their circulation is plummeting, and advertisers are sprinting as fast as they can from newspaper investment generally.  Conspiracy theorists counter that the timing of the MoveOn ad indicates they knew all along when the ad would appear, so standby or remnant pricing can’t be the reason.  I counter what this really means is the Times is so awash in standby opportunities that MoveOn could be reasonably sure their insertion would appear at about the right time.

So the Giuliani campaign is right to call out the Times on this, demanding similar pricing for a one-off insertion, butI bet they aren’t getting that much of a deal.

The real takeaway is still good, though:  The New York Times is likely to discount heavily for anyone because their business is sucking wind.

And now you also know why I am so thrilled I no longer flog paper advertising, making money mostly off the ignorant and the credulous.

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