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A fascinating advertising media story broke this morning courtesy of the Philadelphia Business Journal and City Paper.  It encapsulates many of the problems faced by city newspapers struggling with print sales, but has a particularly Philadelphia spin. The brief article in PBJ raises lots of questions, but obviously doesn’t answer all of them, because the issues are far from resolved. has long carried free Inquirer and Daily News content. Now, controversy is brewing. has long carried free Inquirer and Daily News content. Now, controversy is brewing.

Longtime readers of digital content from the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, both owned by the same newspaper group, have conditioned themselves for years to go to In March, without a lot of fanfare, separate sites for both newspapers were launched, and Now, reporters from both papers are upset because people are still going to the more sex/entertainment/sports-driven content of for Inquirer and Daily News stories co-carried there for free. That last point sounds like either a clear contractual sore spot or a grey area mess for lawyers to sort out. has been a long-running web site intended to meld content from both papers. Now, with each paper wanting to establish a separate online identity (separate from each other and from, the plot is definitely thickening.

Drop down to the very bottom of the page on and you see that the site is owned by Interstate General Media. Under About Us and Contact Us, there are many editorial contact numbers for both the Inquirer and Daily News news and sports desks. There are also separate banks of links for The Inquirer and the Daily News, as well as links to additional media partners, Philadelphia City Paper, Philly DealYo, and Parade Magazine. The former links take you directly to the new and home pages; the latter open new tabs to the partner sites.

On, there are advertising links to the advertising media kit. On and, there is no advertising information or media kit link. In fact, there are no ads (possibly there are beyond the home page, but I am not a digital subscriber, so I don’t know with absolute certainty). Ads  appear prominently on, however.  All three sites carry the copyright lines for Interstate General Media, LLC. How’s that for the ultimate separation of editorial and advertising? What a mess! is the new online Inquirer site (playing second fiddle to much of the same content free on is the new online Inquirer site (playing second fiddle to much of the same content free on

So, reporters at the Inquirer and Daily News don’t like to have their content or brand diluted through But yet, for years, subscribers have been conditioned to go to for Inquirer and Daily News co-content. And is where all the advertising resides, along with ancillary sex/entertainment/sports content that seems to be helping to attract additional visitors who are neither Inquirer nor Daily News subscribers.  To that off-kilter branding/business model, you can roll in print versions of both papers. Current cost for an annual 7-day delivery of the Inquirer is just under $250 (while well under a buck a day, it is still a big number on the subscription side).  There are also digital subscriptions for both papers, which can be separate or combined with print subscriptions. When you attempt to go beyond the home pages of the new and, you are prompted to either log-in to your digital subscription or to sign up for one. Yet, that same content can be found on for free. Confused yet? As a subscriber or an advertiser? Subscribers can enter promo codes to reduce their costs.  Who knows, maybe there is even a special offer on Philly DealYo. has its own look, but also shares content (free) with has its own look, but also shares content (free) with

Not sure why the new and sites now exist in their alternate ad-less universes (alternate from All I know is that it currently equates to either a great media buy on, where most of the visitors are (because of free and additional content), or a questionable digital subscriber buy on either and where editorial is purer and ad-free but a lot more expensive. This sounds like it was a business model concocted by the best minds at the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

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Earlier this week, I was distressed to read (online) that long-time b2b publisher Penton had made a decision to give up on print. At first, I thought the move to all-digital applied across the board to each and every Penton trade magazine. Turns out it is strictly their tech group titles. With the cost of paper, ink, and press time combined with the explosion of tablets and e-readers, it is mighty tempting for publishers to give up on their print properties, especially if pages are down and advertisers are off.

I’m a print guy and always will be. I’d far rather hold a newspaper, magazine, or book in my hands, than strain my eyesight scrolling, adjusting screens, and absorbing pixels. Also, as our art director pointed out this week, doctors and hair salons are never going to fill their waiting rooms with stacks of Kindles and iPads.

However, some publishers are making the most of digital platforms and they are making it harder for print to keep up. QR codes and MS Tags are being used (some would say overused) to link ads to relevant online content and measurability. Meanwhile, ICIS and others are producing digital platforms that integrate rich media. Our client, Graham Engineering, was able to run a full page ad in the print issue. Then, we adapted it for their digital issue on the Ceros platform, integrating an extended video clip within the space of the ad (see page 6).  Sure beats banner and pay per click advertising.

The other way to look at this is for publishers being in the content business and connecting with readers (viewers?) in the way(s) that each prefers — print publication, digital version of print publication, web site, video clips, e-newsletters, webinars, in-person at events (and virtual events), and of course, all the flavors of social media.

It can be done and it is working . I had that reinforced by Michael Pitts this week, a hard-working ad sales rep doing his job the old-fashioned way, making face-to-face appointments with new prospects. What was he selling? The Philadelphia Tribune Media Group properties. Yes, the oldest, continually running African- American newspaper (since 1884) is still going strong. It was thrilling to hear that weekly print circulation is at 221,977, the vast majority of delivered to subscribers’ front steps. That’s a loyal and engaged readership.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Philadelphia Tribune is America's longest-running African-American newspaper published continuously since 1884.

The Tribune hasn’t been content to rest on its considerable laurels either. In recent years, it has launched Metro editions taking it to specific Philly neighborhoods, as well as the Delaware and Montgomery County suburbs. It has also added special print publications like the Sojourner, a quarterly visitor’s guide to the region, and the Tribune magazine, with special editions on the Most Influential African Americans, Top African American Attorneys, and Women of Achievement.

Of course, like most newspapers, the Tribune has made its web site its 24/7 news platform, off which to build content for print via what is happening right now, what is engaging readers, and what demands the longer, more thoughtful coverage that print allows. Also, getting two-way conversations going via social media community pages. As Michael noted, the tragic passing of Whitney Houston has generated the kind of interest locally that it has nationally. offers some outstanding run of site ad opportunities, as well as rich media ad units that are going to reward sponsors generously.

I tire of the debate that digital is killing print. I’d far rather see examples like a 125-year-old newspaper continuing to successfully publish by delivering great content that doesn’t divide print and digital, but balances it instead.

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Transport yourself back to kindergarten. When the teacher handed out coloring book pages to color in, there was always one kid whose finished product looked like it was fresh off an eight-color Heidelberg press. Perfectly colored in, no white show-through, and no stray crayon lines. This is not the future artist in the class. This is the completely buttoned-down kid who subsequently earned straight A’s and became a corporate president.

The future artist is the kid in the corner whose scribbling went all over the page. The black lines that formed the image of the pokey little puppy be damned. This kid’s work resembled Jackson Pollack after a five-hour energy drink. This kid saw boundaries then ran roughshod over every single one of them.

This profession is full of the latter kids. Creativity demands that you recognize the expected parameters, then do something totally unexpected. Advertising is full of what we call “borrowed interest” — sexy models, outrageous humor, music that bores a hole in your brain it is so darn catchy. The best campaigns never feel like the interest is borrowed; their attention-getting is right on target and always earned.

In the past week, I saw two such examples during time spent online. Both pushed the actual media they were appearing in, going way outside the lines, and engaging readers and viewers along the way.

Adweek's AdFreak column spotlights 10 boundary-pushing print ads.

Adweek's AdFreak column spotlights 10 boundary-pushing print ads.

The first is an entire collection of ads that get you to rethink print much in the way that the best outdoor boards demonstrate what’s possible beyond the application of ink to canvas. I encourage you to take the time to check out this excellent Adweek feature (courtesy of AdFreak columnist Tim Nudd) on 10 wildly memorable print ads that go way beyond trim and bleed specifications.

The other is a surprising T-Mobile spot from Barcelona created by Saatchi and Saatchi (global agencies are not always known for drawing outside the lines, so even the creator in this case is a surprise). The clip came to my attention from Kerry Antezana in my LinkedIn network, who posted it from Terry Doyle, whom she follows on Twitter, and now I’m blogging about it (see the cross-platform boomerang power of social media?).

You don’t have to be an Angry Birds player on your smartphone to appreciate this clip, but it helps, because the wildly popular but wonderfully eccentric game has had its boundaries expanded, still within a smartphone screen, but replicated in real life with the same Angry Bird characters to a town square set-up. The virtual digital world is suddenly the real world and slingshotted birds really do knock down silly structures. And the black ones really do explode and cause more well-timed damage. There are some great reaction shots from the people who step up to play.

The most hackneyed overused expression of our industry is “think outside the box” but occasionally you come across reminders that it is still possible to do so and still be wildly original.

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