Sunday, September 27, 2009

Boston Globe advertising: What's wrong with this picture?

Boston Sunday GlobeToday, the "A" section of the Sept. 27, 2009 Boston Sunday Globe contained 14.5 pages worth of ads, out of 25 pages total. Of those ad pages:
  • 4 were placed by car companies.
  • 2 were placed by department stores (or actually a single store, Macy's)
  • 1.75 were placed by telcos.
  • 1.5 pages were placed by banks.
  • 1 was placed by the Boston Globe itself -- three separate "house ads" for Boston Globe services or programs.
  • The remainder were placed by various stores, events, brands, or charities.
The 12-page "B" section of the Globe (Metro) contained the equivalent of just over 2 pages of ads. One page was a large travel ad organized by the Globe with multiple vendors listed. A .5 page equivalent consisted of Globe house ads. The remainder: A bunch of small, education-related ads (Simmons, Massachusetts School of Law, etc.), a small ad for the Metro Credit Union, and some tiny legal notices in 6-point type on page B4

The 17-page Sports section was a desert: A single one-page Chrysler/Jeep ad, two quarter-page ads for Town Fair Tire and NTB, a miniscule ad for Buddy's Budget Tile, and, of course, a Boston Globe house ad to fill some space on page C13.

The Globe West section was far healthier -- about 6 ad page equivalents out of a 10-page section -- but a lot of that was tied into a special health supplement in the section as well as a crop of apple-picking advertisements.

Now, I didn't look through any other section except Money & Careers (mostly filled with job classifieds, plus larger health/corporate job postings, but no bank or other financial ads) or count the circulars, but you don't have to be a Madison Avenue quant to see that something is wrong.

But wait, there's more. Online, I couldn't check every page of the site, but I did check the front page of all the main sections listed in the navigation, plus several articles. Two things stood out:
  • Only the cars front page appeared to have local ads, and only for car dealerships. Aside from those companies, I did not see a single print advertiser who concurrently had online ads running on
  • The front page of the site and every article page were filled with mostly scattershot ad networks, running everything from American Express Gold Card pitches to banner ads for World of Warcraft. There were a handful of exceptions -- tiny labels promoting Bentley University's business school, and a larger unit for King Richard's Faire. But these were rare.
Imagine you were a consultant -- either the McKinsey type, or just a common-sense manager looking at the revenue and client situation. What would be some obvious areas that need help?

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