Is The News Degrading Its Brand?

The modern newspaper serves three functions: as a news and information source, as an advertising vehicle, and as a delivery system for coupons. The brand’s value comes from the news side, obviously; the money comes from the other two sides. Newspapers (and magazines) long ago figured out that maintaining brand value required separating these functions, hence the “wall” between news and advertising. That wall has been breached in the last couple of years as the News struggles for revenue: Looks, for example, is an “editorial” product published by the ad side, not the news side.

But my interest is in how the News promotes coupons to non-readers. One can’t discount the importance of coupons: thousands of people buy the newspaper just to get them. But coupon advertisers want total market coverage, so the News also sends out thousands of coupon direct mailers. It emblazons its logo across the top of these mailers. So to thousands of non-readers, these mailers are the Dallas Morning News. It is not a news and information source; it is, at best, a coupon promoter (if I want them) or, at worst, an ugly nuisance (if I don’t want them). My question is, what does this do to the brand? I raise the question because very shortly the News, like D Magazine, will have to leverage its brand to serve its readers in new and, perhaps, unexpected ways. That transition won’t be easy for any media company. But one has to believe that brand value is crucial to the transition.  So is it wise to use or misuse the brand in ways that detracts from its value? In simpler times, didn’t they call this eating your seed corn? 

CORRECTION: A commenter informs me (and you) that Looks is now produced by the news department.


  • Insider

    LOOKS is no longer published by the Advertising Department. It was taken over by the same crew that produces F!D luxe. In fact, a former D Beauty staffer (Jessica Elliott) is now the editor.

  • brett

    I, like everyone else in my building, throw that in the trash every Wednesday…or whenever it comes out. It’s terribly wasteful, as the 30 gallon trash can is full of these things every week.

  • DM

    The DMN brand value can’t be lower, can it?

  • Daniel

    Are Homeless People Losing Respect in the Eyes of Society?

  • Jim

    It certainly is wasteful…if you don’t recycle it. But it is a money-maker. All those advertisers are quite happy to get their ads into the mailboxes of hundreds of thousands of people each week.
    In fact, the DMN division that produces these (Design Mail) also prints these ad packets for other newspapers outside Texas.
    I don’t see how providing a service that advertisers and “many” people utilize is watering down the brand.
    The people who poke fun at TDMN always will. The people who read the paper it are not going to think their news is any less newsworthy.
    C’mon Wick, you guys shill full page advertorials to doctors and lawyers all the time…advertising makes the world go round.

  • AJZ

    How much would I have to pay the DMN NOT to put that sloppy, torn, newsprinty piece of crap through my mailslot every week–which I curse, crumple, and carry directly to the garbage (and then wash my hands)? I’m ready to write that check. I don’t take their paper, I don’t live in Dallas, and I don’t yearn for buffalo nuggets. I hate those unwanted, invasive mailers with the heat of thousand suns, and they make me hate the DMN.

  • Emilio Velasquez, Jr.

    How could the DMN possibly be misusing its brand in ways that detract from its value, Señor Allison?

    Only recently the embarrassment of riches that is our DMN enthralled us in lightning succession with Trey Garrison’s hard-hitting exposé of the roles of the funky and the chain in gabacho happiness, with Sophia Dembling’s heart-warming yet sobering account of what it is like to live on three wooded acres in Oak Cliff without even a garbage disposal ($70 at Home Depot, Sophie, and my cousin Angel can give you a good deal installing it!), and with that philosophical analysis of the semicolon we all have been waiting for so patiently.

    As you can see, what you want to suggest is just not possible, Señor.

    Now, where are our cabras?


  • brett

    direct mail, unless its directly targeted and addressed (and doesnt look like direct mail), is worthless trash that 98% of the public throws away without looking at it once. I never understand why advertisers buy direct mail when the response rate is around 1%.

    I get targeted direct mail pieces that I actually read, and sometimes use, and that type of direct mail advertising works.

  • john baxter

    Seems like it is easier for the general public to figure out these are coupons as opposed to bogus “best lists” that are purely paid for by those listed.

  • Wick Allison

    Good point,john baxter. If you find somebody who publishes “best lists” that are purely paid for by those listed let me know and I’ll post it.