Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Monday 29 April 2013

And... She’s Off!

Here we go on another snark... And all I did was read the Sundays.

That’s the point of Mondays for me, on the blog. I read the Sunday papers, which I was going to do anyway, partly for fun, partly to keep up, (a bit) with current affairs, partly for research, and partly to stimulate the brain and generate ideas... and I have fodder for Monday’s blog... This blog.

I don’t read the Sundays to get in a stitherum about something (and, despite that having a red squiggle under it in this WP package, yes, it is a word; you can look it up, if you like), and end up snarking all over the place.

However... one of my Sundays was the Times.

Oh dear!

They’ve gone and done stuff to it!

This might have happened weeks ago, and, for some reason, I simply didn’t notice. Sometimes it takes me a while to catch on, and sometimes I read a portion of the papers on-line and just look for bits that interest me. Sometimes, I don’t read the glossy bits, sometimes I only read the actual news sections, so don’t quote me on when the Sunday Times changed its format; all I know is that I happened to notice it this weekend.

I happened to notice the changes, because, all of a sudden, and you can’t tell me this is accidental, and that’s what I find so cynical and snark-worthy about the whole thing... All of a sudden, I’m finding it very difficult to tell the difference between editorial pages and advertising pages in the glossy magazine bits of the paper.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I quite like to know when I’m being offered an opinion and when I’m being offered a sales pitch. Those two things are not the same, after all.

Back in the 80s, and trust me I’m not proud of this, and I wasn’t, actually, much more than adequate at it, I worked, for a time, selling ad space. There was no such thing as ‘advertorial’. No one could buy an opinion. I couldn’t even tell the person I was selling ad space to what the opinion of the magazine was going to be on anything... I wasn’t even told  what the opinion of the magazine was going to be on any given subject or product. 

I was given the flat plan; on it was written which pages had what content, including the blanks, which were the ones I had to sell. I knew what products were being reviewed and by whom, and I knew who was being interviewed by whom, and who was writing columns on what subjects, and that was all I knew.

Editorial did its thing and wasn’t expected to care what was happening in my department. It wasn’t their responsibility, and that’s how it’s supposed to be!

I don’t know how it works now, and I don’t think I want to know.

I do know that I’ve picked up magazines where the content is so ambiguous that they actually feel the need to print the word ‘advert’ or ‘advertorial’ on some of the pages to explain themselves... and that doesn’t seem to scare anyone. 

I think it should scare everyone.

Woods, my friend's boutique in Maidstone
I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine who opened a new shop. His local newspaper did not cover the opening, as they might be expected to do. His local newspaper did, however, offer to send out a photographer and someone to talk to him if he decided to buy advertising space!


Cover the story, take the pictures, and have the journalist say exactly what he thinks, which might be positive, but which, equally might not be. Either way, a new shop opening in a town centre in the middle of a recession is news in this sort of paper.

If I’d been running the advertising department, I would have approached the shop to advertise on the back of the editorial. The shopkeeper might have decided against it, but I would have had at least a couple of arguments why it would be a good idea for him to take the ad space. What’s more, I would have approached every single one of his competitors in the town to advertise with the paper, and I would’ve had arguments and counter-arguments for them taking space, too.

Good editorial content, by which I mean content with journalistic integrity, creates opportunities for good ad sales people to do their job, but, it’s like everything else: they have to know what that job is, and they have to have the training and the will to do it, and by will, I mostly mean cojones.

Selling ad space has never been easy, but, when I was doing it, it was damned hard to prove that buying ad space actually shifted product; that part of the process has, at least changed, and those numbers can be crunched, and crunched fast. 

Still, here I am, opening a glossy like the Sunday Times Magazine and wondering what on Earth I’m looking at. Frankly, I’m not thrilled by that.

1 comment:

  1. It reminds me of the Vogue layout: the first umpltytump pages are all advertisements; so the first few times you pick it up you spend ages looking for the content, until one day you realise the advertisements are the content.