Why Is So Much Money Spent on Ads People Don’t Want to Look At?

By Jack Limpert

Six months ago, in a post about the two magazines that came with the Sunday New York Times, I pointed out that advertisers seem increasingly indifferent to anything resembling good journalism.

On November 15, T: The New York Times Style Magazine was 192 pages, with 110 ad pages and 82 edit pages. The magazine’s editor said, “Travel allows us to see beautiful things, absorb history, connect with another culture and way of living, push our bodies, expand our minds, be swathed in luxury or simply alleviate our exhaustion.”

The New York Times Magazine that Sunday was 90 pages, with 36 ad pages, a promotion page, and 53 edit pages. The magazine’s editor said, “Lots of people pretend they’ve got tomorrow figured out: tech gurus, politicians, C.E.O.’s and (yes) journalists. But if we’re honest with ourselves, the view ahead has never been murkier. That’s because the problems that haunt our world today—climate change and pollution, inequality and war—are problems for which technology, long our spur to envisioning better futures, looks more like a cause than a solution.”

Six months later how are the style magazine and journalism magazine doing?

The May 22 T magazine had 182 pages, with 108 ad pages and 74 edit pages. Down 10 pages, with ad pages down 2 and edit pages down 8.

The May 22 NYT Magazine had 66 pages, with 13 ad pages, a promotion page, and 52 edit pages. Down 24 pages, with ad pages down 23 and edit pages down one.

Was next week any better? The NYT Magazine of May 29 had 58 pages, with 8 ad pages and 50 edit pages.

As a heavy media consumer, I’m baffled. What kind of people place ads in the media and what are they thinking? Every magazine I really read—from Sports Illustrated to the New Yorker to the Atlantic—can’t seem to sell ads. I’m happy to look at the ads in those magazines. They aren’t intrusive and they’re often visually appealing.

I read two newspapers, the Washington Post and New York Times, and look at some of the ads but few are visually interesting.

I watch a fair amount of television but DVR everything so I can fast forward through the ads and any other junk that gets in the way of programming.

With caller ID, I get no marketing phone calls. It’s a good feeling to look at the phone and think not listening to you, pal.

On the web, I’m doing more seeking of information than relaxed scanning so mostly ignore the ads and sometimes stop going to sites where you have to work too hard to X out intrusive ads.

Good magazines are pleasant and rewarding reading experiences. The ads aren’t irritating, like so many are on the web and on television. Why aren’t there more ads in the magazines that readers happily pay for and spend lots of time with? What are the ad people thinking?





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