'Times' a-changin': Watermarks in N.Y., triangles in L.A.

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Newspapers are scrambling to deliver new options to advertisers, in some cases using real estate on their pages that doesn't eat into their news hole.

Witness the "watermark" ads that The New York Times has been offering since September. Advertisers pay to have their logos or other images printed faintly underneath a full page of stock listings, with a regular ad from the same client across the bottom. Prudential Securities was one of the first to bite.

"Our new branded watermark unit reflects the Times' ongoing commitment to deliver high-impact advertising opportunities and value to our customers," Jyll F. Holzman, senior VP-advertising, said in announcing the offering.

The faint ad unit isn't totally new; Universal Studios advertised "Jurassic Park III" in 2001 with shadowy images of dinosaurs behind stock tables. Ironically, opportunities are being reduced at the Times, which said last month it will eliminate stock listings from its print edition on most days-an innovation in itself-but would continue to run the tables on Sundays. Other papers are moving to accept watermark ads behind stock tables, sports statistics and movie listings. And speaking of movie listings, Tribune Co.'s Los Angeles Times has introduced a triangular ad unit to its films section, hoping advertisers would consider it more eye-catching than the traditional block-shaped units.

There also has been increasing exploration of selling the white space around front-page news copy. In December, for example, Cox Newspapers' Dayton Daily News in Ohio ran an ad for "King Kong" in the margin around its front-page news and photos. Not every reader liked it-some wrote to complain-but not many readers were likely to miss it.
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