Newspapers are driven by profit, but The Indianapolis Star has taken an unusual step to pad the bottom line — selling ads on the front page.
Starting Aug. 1, a one-inch strip crossing the bottom of Page One features an ad for Mattress Gallery. Non-political advertisers pay as much as $9,068 per week for the prime location, according to The Star’s advertising department. The front-page ads are sold out through the end of the year.
The Star quietly announced the move in the Business section on July 23. Publisher Barbara Henry was quoted in that story: “The integrity of the paper is not going to be compromised. Our readers are smart people. They know the difference between news and advertising.”
Henry didn’t return calls to NUVO for this story. The only person at The Star who could comment on this issue was on vacation this week.
James Brown, Dean of IUPUI’s journalism department, agrees with Henry that the ads — which will also be placed on other section fronts including City-State and Sports — won’t affect The Star’s credibility as long as the ads are clearly defined as such. But he still doesn’t like the move.
“The front page has always been prime display space for news. Why not have more news on it?” Brown said. “This is a news paper, after all, not an advertising flyer.”
Brown isn’t sure how much impact the ads will have. “If they let it go too big, people will ask ‘where’s my news?’ That’s not going to work. But if it’s so small that it’s not noticeable, how effective is that?” he said.
The Star’s Indiana Living section has featured ads along the bottom of its first page for a year. It costs as much as $6,975 weekly to advertise there. The City-State front costs $8,370 and Sports and Business $8,021.