Defending the Cover Ad

In this week’s issue of Fast Forward (Calgary’s music weekly), Dose publisher Noah Godfrey defends his paper’s use of cover-wrap ads. The article, not available online, is titled “Print media’s new ‘prime real estate'” and is a critique of papers that use cover-wrap ads (Fast Forward does not put ads on its cover).

Since December 2005, Dose has put cover-wrap ads on its paper several times. It all started with one Telus ad.

“Telus came to us and they were in the middle of this big campaign, and they wanted something that was truly going to break through the clutter for them,” he told Fast Forward writer Jeremy Klaszus. “We decided to help them out because they’re such a big partner of ours and so we game them some prime real estate on the cover.”

Klaszus does a pretty good job critiquing Dose’s actions. He speaks to journalism critics and editors at other papers that refuse to partake in the practice.

Godfrey, on the other hand, says that putting ads on the cover is “honest and authentic” and that it is a “healthy” generation that identifies itself through brands.

Dose doesn’t just put ads on its covers. Every time it puts on a cover-wrap, the paper also puts an explanation (complete with product placement) on Page 3. When Batman Begins was released, they created a themed Batman issue, with 70 brand integration points within Dose’s editorial content.

All this, according to Dose is the “gold standard” of print media.

I think it’s crap.

Allowing advertising to physically cover content means that you place more importance on that advertisement than you do on the content it obscures. When you allow editorial content to be purchased, you’re not running a newspaper, and you’re certainly not the “gold standard” of print media. You’re selling out. Noah Godfrey is producing a billboard on recycled paper and passing it off as news.


  1. Nice post, JK. Is it possible to scan the article and post it? It’s a bit of a process but if you send me a pdf of the article, I’ll make it happen.

    Metro does the same sort of thing all the time. I think it’s slightly more acceptable at the level of the commuter daily (though I still despise the practice); I get especially frustrated when I see the Post run half-wrap covers and the like.

    Anyway, I’ve ranted on this topic enough that people know how I feel about it. It’s nice to see people taking the story on somewhere though.

  2. While I agree with you JK, I would like to play devil’s advocate just for a second.
    Let’s say that these ads create revenue that can be diverted into more reporters or in some cases keeping the paper a float.
    If we accept that ad revenue is becoming scarce especially for tradtional media, than perhaps this is part of a new reality we may all be forced to accept.
    Now, I doubt Dose is using the cover ads to hire more reporters and frankly, I hope the thing goes belly-up, as it is a waste of paper, that said if this is part of the new reality newspapers may be forced to accept then perhaps we just need to deal with it.

  3. But when you’re using the Cover Ad as the starting point of an advertising kit that includes insertions into editorial content you’re not using the money for a good use. You’re using it to create a booklet of advertisements that’s labelled as news.

    Further, if putting ads on the cover is your only way of keeping journalists on your staff, you’ve got serious problems. Vanity Fair is 249 pages this month, about 160 of them are ads. And not a single one is on the cover.

  4. I couldn’t agree more that entire newspapers that seem cleverly disguised as ads are bad. I would also argue that we haven’t yet seen newspapers that need to use cover ads to stay afloat, yet.
    If this country were to get into another newspaper war for example things could get ugly. If it comes down to a choice between ads on cover or no newspaper to put a cover on what do you choose. I object to the practice but it is possible, however unlikely that it might be pragmatic.

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