New York Times sells the cover

Call it a sign of the Times.

Today The New York Times began running full-page horizontal display ads on page A1. USA Today started the trend years ago when it stuck small display boxes at the top of inside sections for advertisers such as Northwest Airlines. Most editors have resisted this, especially on the front page, the most hallowed ground for top editorial stories. But with NYT revenue down 13.9 percent in November from the year prior, readers bailing and advertisers retrenching in the recession, it’s natural that NYT would consider selling more space.

This doesn’t always work so well. Front-page ad placement comes at a premium, and when our agency has tracked the actual responses from front-page banner ads for clients, we found that consumer responses often don’t keep up. Large papers typically require 13-, 26- or 52-week commitments for Page 1 display ads, making such visibility a bit of a risky proposition.

Any advertiser considering such placement would be well advised to install a measurement system to track responses from each individual ad. It’s the only way to evaluate whether what feels good — being next to the major news — ends up as a good customer report.

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