Thursday, 17 September 2009

The eternal struggle

The combination of editorial and advertising staff in newspapers should be a wonderful thing of symbiotic bliss.
A mutual sharing of ideas, concepts and schemes designed to make our papers greater and better than they were the week before.
Why then is it such a fucking hellish marriage of pain, anger, frustration, and paranoia?
My first response is mangement greed, my second is advertising staff's ignorance.
Since I started in newspapers back in the early 90s I have pleaded for a weekly/monthly meeting between editorial and advertising staff (not just managers).
It is an opportunity to air grievances, deal with customer complaints or sort out new projects or campaigns.
But mainly it's an opportunity to explain why editorial bothers to bring out a newspaper worth reading each week.
It's never happened.
In my career I have met only a handful of ad staff who really care and understand about the products they sell and why local papers exist.
My very favourite used to have a quiz at the start of the week to test her staff about the paper's content.
Most don't give a fuck, however.
Having said all that I am still a great fan of my advertising staff.
There, I said it.
I am a great fan of my advertising staff, even though I know they are not mine.
There, I told the truth.
The reason why I like sales is because it keeps me in a (lowly paid) job.
So I help them with tips by telling them about new shops, promotions or businesses with something to say. Convert that into cash, earn some bonus.
Or I give their best customers a few puff nibs or a slot in my business pages just to keep everyone sweet.
I come up with commercial ideas -some very lucrative -and I am present at meetings of the serious spenders. Mostly nodding and smiling (it's v. hard).
I know all their names and will generally bend over backwards to help out.
This alone should earn me a little kudos, you would think.
But the problem is I also care what my paper looks like.
We're a free so editorial space versus cash per page is a major issue.
Premium pages sell for more, so it figures the space up front they try to limit.
But I'm one of those old fashioned types of boss. The crazy sort who knows if there is nothing to read, there is also nothing to sell.
I'm also a hard-nosed, mean, manipulative bitch who knows exactly what to say and whose buttons to push to get what I want.
And I generally get what I want.
That is until recently when we surrendered a lot of space due to recession/credit crunch cost cutting.
We allowed advertising to sell more than we wanted on the proviso we got it all back once holiday season was over.
Well summer's over and those pesky ads are still spoiling my papers.
In fact they are ruining my papers.
So battle lines are drawn and favours are revoked.
Squeeze in ads over deadline - fuck you.
Front page promotions for ad features - fuck you.
Favours for clients - fuck you.
Fuck me - fuck you.
I don't do this lightly or in a spirit of belligerence.
I do this to save my newspapers. To stop the money hungry, management whores from selling everything we own to make a monthly budget figure.
My only goal in life is to carry on bringing out newspapers until I turn grey, drunk and shouty.
Give an inch and advertising will sell a mile.
It's time to claw something back for our readers.


  1. Good luck with that one Blunt.
    We are just coming up to end of third quarter.
    Ad managers around the country feel the invisible noose as they look at the charts of forecasts versus actuals, and how far adrift they are.
    So get ready for a glut of wraps, late sells, monstrosities on page 3, and 6 column specials on P5. And 'Oooh we've accidentally sold the lefthand front page ad twice... it's a new client... it's worth £250 but £5,000 between now and Christmas.... you'll have to fit it in somehow....' etc etc.
    Oh yes, next up we have the quarter leading up to Christmas and the threat of more January 2010 redundancies if we don't show HQ the right figures.
    You have no chance.

  2. Wraps on paid-for titles... where the hell did they come from? You put together a great-looking splash with a tidy piece of news on it - which will, for a change, jump off the Tesco shelf and frogmarch the reader to the checkout. Then you look at the plans and realise a wrap will shroud your front page, rendering the whole exercise almost pointless. Are the readers just as irritated by this as the frustrated reporters?

    And then there's late ads appearing on pages, transforming a page of pictures into a humble caption story. But ads equal cash, and money talks the language that only seems to matter at the moment.

    I think I'm preaching to the choir here (forgive the cliche).

  3. Ah yes... wraps on paid-fors, one of the most obvious indictments if we could ever bring these clowns to trial.
    Let's imagine Heinz decided to do the following with their baked beans:
    1. Take out a third of the best beans.
    2. Fill gap with watered down, bland tomato-ish sauce.
    3. Shrink size of tin.
    4. Make recipe identical to bargain 'own brand' ranges.
    5. Jack up price of tin.
    6. Stop ad /promotional spend on beans.
    7. Remove another chunk of beans, add a bit more water.
    8. Close departments responsible for quality control and checking beans are actually on right shelves in supermarket.
    9. Jack up price again.
    10. Replace the iconic label with an advert for double glazing bearing a tiny sign: 'your beans are inside this special feature'.
    11. Arrange to give beans away for free to internet applicants.
    12 Tell soon to be redundant remaining assembly line staff they have been putting wrong stuff in cans, so fewer are being sold.
    WELL, it would be the absolute indicator that they had completely fucked up their marketing and brand management. It just couldn't happen anywhere, could it?