Advertising and articles: two related (but different) forms of newspaper content

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A few facts to clarify the differences

by Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor

1. An ad is different from an article.

A newspaper is an information delivery vehicle. When you buy an ad, you are essentially renting space in that vehicle. You can use that space to communicate whatever message you choose. Through your “rental fee,” you are also hiring us to print 10,000 copies of that message and deliver it to our readers in Lansing.

2. You can’t buy an article.

Buying an ad doesn’t guarantee that we’ll write an article about you. This is key. In fact, it’s foundational to the purpose and value of a community newspaper. When content is paid for by people who want to share their own message, that piece becomes a marketing flyer rather than a newspaper—and readers can tell the difference. A news article is our perspective, our research, our impressions, our wording. The businesses, churches, schools, and individuals who have been featured in our pages have had to trust us to represent them accurately. Yes, we want the subject of the article to be pleased with what we write, but our first goal is to convey useful information to the public. If coverage can be bought, we lose our credibility, and the community loses a reliable, balanced source of information.

3. Articles are often more effective than ads.

Precisely because articles can’t be bought, readers are more likely to trust an article than an ad.

4. Ads sometimes lead to articles.

Sometimes we become aware of news because an organization approaches us to buy an ad. We often spend significant time with our advertisers, helping them craft their ad message and design. Through that process, sometimes we get story ideas.

5. With a small, local newspaper, it can be easy to confuse advertising with articles.

At a larger newspaper, the line between advertising and articles is very clear. The two departments are staffed with different people, and they are often located on opposite ends of the building. If you have a story idea, you contact an editor. If you want to run an ad, you contact a sales rep at a different phone number and email address. Large newspapers are careful about making a distinction between news and ads, for the reasons explained in point 2, above.

At a small, community newspaper, it’s more difficult to keep that distinction clear because many of us are doing more than one job. If I interview you for an article, and then I stop by to pick up a check for the ad you want to run, it can feel like you bought both the article and the ad. We apologize for that confusion, and we admit we’re not sure how to avoid it right now.

6. Ads pay for articles.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that advertising revenue is what keeps a newspaper going. Those advertising dollars are what we use to buy ink and paper and to pay our reporters a small stipend. So even though you can’t buy an article, when you buy an ad, you help make articles possible. You are helping to fund a community newspaper that benefits the whole community, including your organization.

7. Advertising in a community newspaper is a community service.

Yes, many of our advertisers have told us they get good response when they advertise in The Lansing Journal, and we appreciate knowing that our vehicle is delivering your message effectively. We also appreciate advertisers who understand that their ads also have a larger purpose, who advertise precisely because they value the time and effort we put into attending events, interviewing sources, researching history, taking photographs, writing, re-writing, editing, and formatting for daily digital and monthly print editions that inform the Lansing public. We appreciate their understanding, and we are grateful for their support.

Keeping the conversation going

If you have questions about articles, advertising, or the value a community newspaper provides, we hope you’ll ask. It has been a long time since Lansing had a local newspaper, and the media landscape has changed, so things are more confusing than they used to be. We appreciate your input as we navigate these new horizons.

And of course, if you’d like to advertise in The Lansing Journal, we’d be happy to assist you in delivering your message to Lansing homes. Click to email a member of our multi-tasking team for help:

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I, for one, appreciate your clarity and transparency in this article, and I have no doubt your intentions are to maintain a newspaper that all of Lansing can trust and value.

    • Thank you, Jennifer. Your support (verbal and financial) has been very important for us. We appreciate your partnership.

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