Hate it or love it, it’s here…advertising is making an appearance on the covers of Time Inc.’s flagship publications, Time and Sports Illustrated.
“The ads are tiny, but their arrival puts a big crack in the longstanding tradition that kept ads off magazine covers,” reports Michael Sebastian in Ad Age.
And it may not stop at the cover.
“The company is also shopping around a ‘native placement’ ad for the table of contents, a Time Inc. staffer said. As editorial territory, the table of contents is also usually considered off-limits to ads,” Sebastian writes.
Like the ongoing debate over native advertising, reaction to the news runs the gamut. It’s understandable that publishers are getting creative for new ways to bolster revenue, especially as ad pages have been slow to recover from their post-recession heights. With fewer ad pages and smaller circulation numbers the gap has to be closed in new ways.
Editorially, though, the cover has always been sacrosanct. Daniel Joseph Cruz writes in International Business Times that the move breaks a century-long taboo against ads on magazine covers, and is raising eyebrows throughout the industry.
“Time followed the print industry’s guidelines of excluding ads on magazine covers for 91 years,” he notes, adding that this move goes against “American Society of Magazine Editor’s (ASME) strict guidelines of not putting ads on magazine covers.”
To be fair, these initial ads are tiny, appearing just under the mailing label or bar code.
“But Time Inc. has pitched media buyers on ads that would run across the bottom of its magazines’ covers, according to people who have seen mockups,” Sebastian notes.
Why the uproar? It comes down to maintaining that firm line between advertising and editorial. And that line, when it blurs, can have a huge impact on your brand and your readers’ experience of it.
Like native advertising and other sponsored content, advertising must be handled with full awareness of its impact to editorial integrity. If the ad is relevant and welcome to the readers, it just might work. Publishers need to be highly conscious of readers’ reactions and adjust accordingly.