Monday, April 18, 2011

Newspapers' Zucchini

April 18, 2011, 10:50 a.m.

Gannett Modifies Half-Page Newsprint Ads
But Outraged Readers' Protest Continues

When I was a boy everyone had gardens. What we called "Victory Gardens" were a part of our war effort during World War II.

When we had excess produce we shared it with our neighbors.

And the greatest of these excesses seemed to involve zucchini squash. ["The zucchini . . . is a popularly cultivated summer squash which often grows to nearly a meter in length, but which are usually harvested at half that size or less." "Zucchini,"]

The proliferation of zucchini gave rise to a story my mother used to tell -- whether true or apocryphal I neither know nor care. (As Mason Williams ended the lyrics to one of his songs, "This is not a true tale, but who needs truth if it's dull." "The Tomato Vendetta.")

An especially generous neighbor, who had grossly overestimated her need for zucchini, regularly delivered a supply to the woman who was her next door neighbor. One day the gardener was met at her neighbor's door by the neighbor's nine-year-old daughter. Offering to take the gift, the young girl said, "Gee, I hope they are the small ones." "Why? Do you like the small ones better?" the gardener asked. "Oh, yes," said the girl, "they go down the disposal ever so much easier."

The newspapers' advertising supplements are the zucchini of the industry.

But unlike the zucchini, the larger the supplements are, and the more well assembled in a single pack, the easier they are to "put down the disposal" -- or, as we'd say today, "transfer to the recycling bin."

It is the "little zucchini," those half-pages of newsprint pretending to be a newspaper, that create the problems for those few remaining, loyal, hard-copy newspaper subscribers and readers.

I won't repeat here what has been said about this problem in the past, but here are a couple of links: "A Half-Page Newspaper Not Better Than None; Disintegrating Paper Contributing to Disintegrating Industry," September 20, 2010; and "Abusive Advertising; It's Time to Strike Back," April 6, 2011.

As explained in the latter blog entry, it's now "no more mr. nice guy." The refusal of Gannett to take readers' legitimate complaints seriously has caused a shift in strategy. Outraged readers, no longer content to just "protect innocent civilians" by attacking the newspapers, are focusing on "regime change," removing the problem by searching out the Muammar Gaddafis of newspaper advertising: the advertisers themselves.

The latter blog entry lists the advertisers who were found on the half-piece of newsprint on the front of that issue of the Press-Citizen, enabling blog readers to take such action as they might think most appropriate.

In fairness to Gannett, it's latest offense reduces a little the harm of half-page pieces of newsprint. "A little" meaning that it's kind of like a $38 billion reduction (which turned out to be $350 million) in a $3.83 trillion budget, $1.56 trillion of which is deficit spending (and an addition to a $14 trillion debt).

Last Sunday's Des Moines Register had a half-page piece of newsprint on the front and back of both its main section and another section in the back of the paper. Unlike the Press-Citizen's disaster, however, because the Register's continued as a half-page ad on the back of those sections -- rather than, as with the Press-Citizen, as a full page of regular newspaper -- when the half-pages fell to the floor they at least did not take a full page of the newspaper with them.

So here's the continuing, updated list of Gannett's "Abusive Advertisers":

The Abusive Advertisers of the Press-Citizen and Des Moines Register
April 6 and 17, 2011

Stanley Steemer

Lenoch & Cilek/Ace

Emma Goldman Clinic

(and, given even advertisers lack of interest in this abuse,)

Press-Citizen Media

(which was left no option but to buy most of the space from itself)

Des Moines Register

(front section)

Vision 4 Less (back section)

Let us continue to hope this list will shrink, rather than expand, over time; that our garden zucchini will be the small ones; that our newspapers' zucchini will be easily disposed of; and the news easy to hold and read without disintegration.
# # #

No comments: