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More Tediousness In Re: Alleged Liberal Media Bias

Posted by: Jon Fine on September 14, 2007

Kerfluffle over the (heavily discounted) ad that appeared in the New York Times this week, etc., whatever, so not even close to the craziest ad I’ve seen in that, or any other, newspaper.

But still: Said ad costs $181,000 if you buy it to run on a specific day. If you are willing to fly standby—that is, request a certain day but not be guaranteed it will actually run then—cost drops to $65,000. Which is what MoveOn paid.

The (wrongheaded) politicking over this situation is frankly too tedious for me to get into beyond saying: sorry, people, the Times does not give lefties a bigger discount. But in this Reuters piece, Jeff Jarvis puts his finger much closer to the real issue:

“The quandary the Times gets stuck in is they don’t want to admit you can buy an ad for that rate, no matter who you are,” Jarvis said, noting that with print advertising revenues in decline newspapers generally did offer big discounts.

An advertising rate card is a many-splendored, multi-faceted thing, but what those rates actually are in the real world … well, that’s something media outlets would like to keep under wraps. Any moderately savvy observer of magazines knows that the ad revenue figures provided on this page by the industry’s own trade group—based on magazines’ rate cards—significantly overstate reality.

I should note here that Times spokeswoman Catherine Mathis confirmed to me what already said about said ad—that it cost $65,000, and that it was in keeping with the going rate for ‘open’ political advocacy ads—that is, ads for which the Times has discretion on when to run them. And that she couldn’t divulge what the Giuliani campaign paid for its ad in today’s Times, since the Times doesn’t discuss the price of individual ads. (Exception granted since MoveOn already told everyone what they paid.)

Three closing thoughts:

1. Mathis did a nice bit of jiu-jitsu on a former mayor who’s no stranger to getting all up in the Times’s grill, because …
2… . gee, does anyone think the Giuliani campaign is going to disclose what they paid for said ad? (UPDATE 9/16: Ad Age reports “one person close to the Times” confirms that Giuliani paid the same price that MoveOn did.) And lastly:
3. To piggyback on Jarvis, the Times would much rather have someone screaming about liberal media bias than to have a bunch of news stories pointing out the precise details of how variable its ad rates can be.

UPDATE 9/16: Ad Age’s piece closes with this note:

MoveOn’s next ad buy starts next week, when it will use a TV spot to accuse President Bush of engaging in a “betrayal of trust.” A similarly themed black-and-white print ad is slated to appear in the Times.

I am compelled to note that Election Day is approximately fourteen months away. And that at the rate we’re going, we’re going to keep hearing about discounted Times ads for at least that long.

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Reader Comments


September 23, 2007 09:00 PM

I believe you misunderstand the source of the kerfuffle.

The right is aggravated not merely because the NYT was generous to a liberal activist group. The right is aggravated because the NYT advocated federal laws to limit campaign contributions, then broke those the very laws when it didn't suit their agenda.

It's also worth recalling that while Republican politicians jumped on the minimize-political-competition bandwagon of McCain-Feingold, the Republican base never did.

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