Nation's Big 3 Newspapers Boost Ad Rates For '04

The country's three national newspapers have implemented single-digit increases in ad rates for 2004, a year in which they're confident ad demand for the medium will finally pick up for good.

There will be a 3 percent increase in display advertising rates at The Wall Street Journal, which puts it at the low end of the three. The New York Times will come in with a 5.8 percent rise, while USA Today plans an 8 percent rise in ad rates.

It's not unusual for newspapers to increase ad rates, even in a down economy. But for each of the nation's Big 3 newspapers, it's telling a story of confidence in the product and the ability to sell print advertising when there are so many competitors in the marketplace, from direct mail and Yellow Pages to television and the Internet.

The Journal raised rates for 2003 at about 3 percent as well. The Journal's across-the-board increase doesn't include a premium for color advertising, which has been a success since it was expanded recently. Color advertising pages increased 34 percent in 2002 and is so far up 27 percent this year.

"Our new rates are aligned with the value we offer by category, by customer, and by section of the paper, producing a more customer-friendly and profitable rate card," said Karen House, The Journal's publisher and senior vice president of parent Dow Jones & Co. Rich Zannino, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Dow Jones, said after the presentation that The Journal's goal was to keep its base advertising rates reasonable.

Still smarting from the business-to-business recession, The Journal is trying to increase its consumer advertising and reduce its dependence on B-to-B. Just as there's a premium for placement in the A section, The Journal is using discounts to snag consumer advertisers like home electronics and travel-related companies who advertise in Personal Journal and Weekend Journal. Discounts also reign in emerging advertising categories like apparel, House said.

The focus on consumer advertising seems to have paid off, even in the poor economy. House said consumer ads increased slightly this year, with new advertisers like Flomax, Frito Lay, Michelob and Victoria's Secret.

"The goal of our new rates is to take market share from competitors and grow revenues from advertisers who value The Journal most," House said.

But don't count one of its competitors, The New York Times, as being too worried that consumer advertising will flow from The Times to The Journal.

Janet Robinson, publisher of The New York Times, told MediaDailyNews on Tuesday afternoon that she didn't think The Times would lose consumer ad market share to The Journal.

"We are in a very advantageous position," Robinson said. According to CMR, The New York Times has a decided lead in market share for display advertising among the three national newspapers. The Times has 49 percent of the market, a 10 percent increase since 1998. The Wall Street Journal has seen its share fall from 39 percent in 1998 to 31 percent in 2003. USA Today's display-advertising market share has dropped 2 percent since 1998 to 20 percent in 2003.

The New York Times' 2004 increase in rates of 5.8 percent is slightly below the 2003 increase, which was around 6 percent. The Times has a 25 percent premium on color advertising, which is also a growing part of its business.

Color premium revenue rose from $6 million in 1997 to a projected $62 million in 2003, which is an increase of 44 percent over 2002. Fractional color, a capacity that was fully implemented last year, rose to $9.9 million in premium revenues so far in 2003 and $14.6 million since January 2002.

USA Today Publisher Craig Moon told the MediaDailyNews on Tuesday afternoon that his paper's ad rates would rise 8 percent in 2004.

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