Tribune seeks national ads with 3 new special sections

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Tribune Co. wasn't just whistling "Dixie" when it said its acquisition of Times Mirror Co. earlier this year would let it step up its newspapers' national ad sales.

Over the next six weeks, the media giant's dailies will run three special sections giving advertisers the chance to target key markets.

Last week, Tribune Co. also invested $2 million in Seattle-based DailyShopper Network, a company that provides online information about sales at local retailers. Tribune Co. will sell ads across DailyShopper's online network, which, thanks to the company's investment, will now include Tribune Co.'s 11 newspaper-related sites.

These initiatives are the first salvos in the new Tribune's fight to score more national advertising, the fastest growing ad category for newspapers. For 2000, according to Newspaper Association of America projections, total national advertising in newspapers will increase 14% to $7.67 billion, a rate of growth more than double that of retail and classified. Total 1999 ad revenue for all Tribune Co. and Times Mirror newspapers was about $3 billion; about 20% of that total was derived from national advertisers.


A Tribune Co. executive painted the move as a logical leap forward from the $8 billion Times Mirror deal, which closed on June 12. Tribune Co.'s stable of dailies prior to the merger consisted of its flagship Chicago Tribune, The Orlando Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel and the Hampton, Va., Daily Press. The Times Mirror deal brought Tribune Co. newspapers in Allentown, Pa.; Baltimore; Los Angeles; and suburban New York; as well as in Greenwich, Hartford and Stamford, Conn.

"This was one of the key reasons we felt the Times Mirror acquisition would help us grow our top-line revenue," said Dave Murphy, president of the company's national sales arm, Tribune Media Net. "The national footprint is giving us this opportunity. . . . We didn't have the position to do it before."

Tribune Media Net was created just before the Times Mirror deal closed to take advantage of the national opportunities the increased daily scale provided the company.


In July, Tribune Media Net named Susan Tarrence, a 20-year veteran of ad sales at The New York Times, as VP-sales development. She will focus on goosing national ad revenues across Tribune Co.'s dailies, primarily on Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

"It follows the plan they outlined as one of the reasons they had for buying Times Mirror, a national network they can tap into," said Steve Barlow, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston.

The moves put the company's Chicago flagship "in league with The New York Times, by having coverage outside its inherent market name," said Valerie Muller, senior VP-director of print services at Grey Global Group's MediaCom, New York.

Tribune Co. will run a special section called "E-Business: The Wireless Revolution" on Oct. 19 in Allentown, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Orlando, Fla., as well as in its three Connecticut dailies; circulation is expected to reach 3.1 million. On Nov. 12, it will run a holiday film preview, "Sneaks" -- a section the Los Angeles Times originated prior to the Tribune deal -- in the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and Newsday, for a total circulation of 2.4 million. And on Nov. 16, a special section on e-tailing will appear in all the above titles as well as the Baltimore Sun, Hampton, Va., Daily Press and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.


"Sneaks" is being sold primarily by staffers at the Los Angeles Times owing to their existing studio relationships, Mr. Murphy said, with support in local markets by the Tribune and Newsday. Sales efforts for other special sections are led by Tribune Co.'s national sales organization.

Earlier this year, Tribune Co. produced two e-business-related special sections, but distribution on those was limited to the four newspapers Tribune owned before the Times Mirror acquisition.

"Obviously," Mr. Murphy said, the Times Mirror acquisition "gives us a much stronger sales story." He declined to detail which advertisers were on aboard for the new round of special sections, but said new advertisers in Tribune newspapers were "absolutely" brought on board with this initiative.

The special sections, Mr. Murphy said, will be cross-promoted through Tribune Co.'s extensive TV and radio outlets as well.

One analyst said Tribune Co.'s newspaper portfolio, by creating a national buy from several local markets, gives advertisers an entree into the lives of a different readership than one served by the newspapers that specifically reach a national audience -- The New York Times, USA Today and The Wall Street Journal.

"A lot of people in local areas are capable of buying a national product but are not getting a national newspaper," said Rudy Hokanson, an analyst at CIBC Oppenheimer. "Tribune Co. can give you reach in Chicago, Los Angeles and a portion of New York" in ways The New York Times can't.


By yearend, the Tribune executive said, the company's newspaper-branded Web sites would have a DailyShopper content up and running.

"What we think is compelling" about the DailyShopper deal, said Dana Hayes, VP-sales and commerce at Tribune Interactive, "is it's an extension of what the newspapers' retail display ads have done for many years, that is, providing detailed information on sales at local retailers."

Mr. Hayes added that the Daily-Shopper content on the Web sites gave the print product something else to sell against, with the company offering retail advertisers "more sales bandwidth."

Tribune Co.'s new scope helped drive the deal, a DailyShopper executive said.

"We knew they'd give us excellent distribution in key markets," said Carol Perruso, president-chief operating officer of DailyShopper Network.


That scope is also leading the company to think more broadly on the content side. It recently made an offer to lure away Miami Herald and ESPN sportswriter Dan Le Batard to pen a column that would run across several papers, a move neither Tribune Co. nor Times Mirror, observers said, had made previously.

"My sense is that they're looking for people like that," one media executive said.

A Tribune spokesman declined comment on the offer to Mr. Le Batard.

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