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Context in Newspaper Advertising

Yesterday, some of my friends were featured in an article in the Star Tribune for creating a movement called Summer of Dresses. Looking at the article got me thinking, not about social media, and only a little bit about women in cute dresses. Instead I noticed the ads at the bottom of the article. An ad for a comedian performing at a church, a jewelery trunk sale, and ad for Monique Lhuillier.

My thought, why didn't the paper reach out to the local shops in town, the places where many of the ladies who participate in summer of dresses shop, and sell them advertising for that page.

I posed this question on Twitter today and received this response from Dan Lind, the Managing Director of the MN Newspaper Association. "It's done for special sections, but typically not articles. Need to avoid appearance of endorsed/paid editorial content." Which is a very fair point.

First, I should note the only newspaper experience I have was when I worked on my high school paper. I may have filled every roll imaginable, but doesn't mean I have a clue what I'm talking about. Still, here goes.

Why can't papers do something similiar to what Google does? Instead of selling ad space in specific sections or pages, why not sell it based on context. Basically once an article is written, someone reads the article and assigned 3-4 tags to it. In the case of Summer of Dresses they could have been dresses, local, clothing, and maybe summer. This would need some thought to make this really work.

Then, once an article has been flagged as ready for print, the tags go up and it's possible for advertisers to bid on ads that will be placed next to the article in question. You would need a system to handle allowances for size, color, and even the possiblity that no ads would appear next to the article. This would allow the potential for contextual advertising next to articles. And if the process was known to the public, it would limit the chances someone would think an advertiser was sponsoring content.

It may even be possible for advertisers to put in a timeframe where they want to bid X number of dollars on spots next to any articles with certain tags or combination of tags available to them. I still think newspapers could allow day of bidding, but this would allow advertisers to relax and not worry about being online at 7 o'clock bidding on articles they think are useful.

This would likely need to be limited to specific parts of the paper. Maybe just the special insert section. So it wouldn't be that much different than it is today, but if even the special sections had more relevant advertising, it would increase advertising revenues.

I'm just throwing ideas out there. I want newspapers to succeed, because we need them. Anyone can decry the death of main stream media, but the truth is "new media" still doesn't know how to track down a story. Journalists can't work for free, and we need someone to pay their way. This idea just came about because I saw an article and thought, why isn't a local shop being advertised? The logistics and technology behind something like this would be massive. But as we slowly move to an online world were every ad is more and more focused at the individual, maybe newspapers need to find a way to do the same.


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