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While it’s no news circulation is slipping at major metropolitan newspapers such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, observers are asking why these publications are continuing to raise ad rates as some subscribers head for the door.

But the L.A. Times has a bone to pick with those who wonder whether it is still a viable avenue in which to advertise and obtain news. Looking ahead, a spokeswoman indicated the paper will start thinking more like a magazine when it comes to readers and focus on growing its individual paid circulation. The Audit Bureau of Circulations Fas-Fax report showed that for the six months ended in September, the West Coast paper fell 8 percent in daily circulation, but the spokeswoman countered that ABC’s number included “other paid circulation,” such as copies delivered to hotel rooms. Incidentally, ABC’s statistics also showed that the L.A. Times individual paid circulation is up. “Individually paid copies deliver a more engaged reader to advertisers and therefore a more favorable return on investment,” she said — in other words, newsstand.

And that’s not the only magazine trait the Times will start exhibiting. Looking forward, the newspaper will offer more options for advertisers, including front-section strips in several sections, innovative ad units and multimedia packages. On the edit side, the Times is ramping up its fashion and lifestyle coverage. Late last year, Elizabeth Snead, who has covered fashion for USA Today and E! Online’s Fashion Police, joined its online awards Web site, The Envelope, for its “Styles & Scenes” coverage. The paper also recently unveiled a redesign of its Sunday Calendar. The two-part section was renamed “Movies-TV-Style” and “Arts & Music.”

“The intensified editorial ranges from society events and fashion trends to pop culture and Web discoveries and the rich arts scene,” said a spokeswoman.

But fashion advertisers may really start to take notice once the paper introduces a new weekly fashion and lifestyle section, for print and online. Sources close to the L.A. Times confirmed plans are under way, but no timetable has been set.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal has also expanded its style coverage. Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz previously told WWD that female Journal readers purchase “more women’s fashion items than do all the readers of the women’s magazines — combined.”

This story first appeared in the December 15, 2006 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

As the L.A. Times and the Journal continue to chase those stylish ad dollars, some advertisers are seeking ad rate cuts, especially since newspapers are cutting deals like never before. “I suspect that many, but not all, newspaper publishers are running scared,” said Gene Willhoft, president of Absolute Media. Still, Willhoft said, there is a major hurdle for advertisers who seek lower ad rates. The L.A. Times and New York Times “are very important papers in their respective DMAs [designated market area] and are tough to buy around if the target is an upscale, educated audience,” he said. “Advertisers must be prepared to walk away or the negotiations may not be successful.”

George Janson, managing partner and director of print at mediaedge:cia, said he is open to negotiating rates but isn’t happy about the fact that even though newspaper circulation drops every year, ad rates still rise (the L.A. Times, New York Times and the Journal are all planning increases for 2007). Janson works with clients including Chanel and Xerox.

Regarding its ad rate increase, a New York Times spokeswoman contended the paper “remains one of the best places to reach an influential, educated, high-quality audience. Advertisers continue to value that reach and are willing to pay a premium for it.”

One executive who agrees with that philosophy is Ruediger Albers, president of jewelry firm Wempe. He advertises in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and partially attributes Wempe’s success to his regular exposure in both papers. “What’s the alternative to reaching one million people that have the spending power of New York Times readers?” he asked.

As for the Journal, Albers is partial to its value-added opportunities, such as being invited to an event where he can mingle with other advertisers and consumers. At one event, a chance meeting with S. Epatha Merkerson led to the actress wearing (and being photographed in) Wempe jewelry at major award shows. Albers is considering increasing his schedules in both papers, but negotiations aren’t finalized. Presumably rates and placement remain an issue.

Amid weakening ad trends, the Internet seems to offer more hope. The New York Times Co. recently reported that its Internet revenue might increase 30 percent next year, and a source said the L.A. Times “is in the same ballpark, if not slightly ahead of” the New York Times projection. A spokeswoman said Dow Jones Online isn’t reporting forecasts for 2007, but this year online revenues were up 20 percent.

Ad-tracking firm TNS Media Intelligence projects advertising budgets to stall next year, but the silver lining will be growth in online media (including search), which is coincidentally expected to grow up to 30 percent. Sarah Baehr, vice president of media at Avenue A | Razorfish, said the company predicts that online will outpace other media growth for three main reasons: The share of online media is still disproportionately small compared with offline media, several marketers haven’t maximized their fullest potential online, and the accountability and

tractability of online (compared to other media) are

compelling.

While speaking at a New Yorker breakfast, Sir Martin Sorrell, group chief executive at WPP Group, said people spend approximately 20 percent of their time online, but advertising online budgets are still in the single digits. He cited News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch as an excellent example of utilizing the Internet (MySpace, for one) and said most established agencies aren’t moving fast enough to gain a foothold in this arena. Sir Martin contended the delay is partially due to the fact that top executives at agencies are nearing retirement and want to coast in their jobs and leave the Internet issue to their future replacements.

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