Ink Stained Stretch

Back in local TV marketing land, we never went after the competition directly. Oh, it was tempting, and once or twice I even produced promos that weren’t allowed on the air because they took shots at WRGB. Instead, we stuck with advertising that put the spotlight on our own attributes.

This is not a universally accepted practice.

Last week the Times Union started running ads taking aim at the Daily Gazette over their local news coverage.

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This is hardly Hearst versus Pulitzer stuff from the newspaper wars of the 1890s, but by today’s standards, it’s an aggressive position.

The headline:

Award-winning local news from local journalists.

OK. powerful message, accompanied by photos of four unnamed people who are presumably award-winning local journalists. It continues:

When you read your local newspaper, you should expect local, staff-written stories, not just wire stories.

Fair enough! And then:

The Times Union consistently writes more local stories by local reporters compared to the Daily Gazette

Ooof, that’s bold — but in fine print below, it says “Stats are attributed to a survey taken Aug 1 to Aug 31 comparing local stories in the Times Union vs Daily Gazette.” What? All that tells me is that they wrote more local stories in August 2020, not “consistently.”

The message isn’t the only thing that’s sloppy. The ad also contains a pretty huge layout error in the bottom paragraph where some copy is repeated. Mistakes happen, but if you’re going to do an ad about how much better you are than the competition, let’s have somebody proof it, OK?

So, why are they suddenly going attacking the Gazette? These are sophisticated people who don’t do things on a hunch, so I’m guessing that they saw some research they didn’t like and this is a knee-jerk reaction.

It’s fair to compete for readers, but today the stakes in that competition are higher than ever. Winning this swim race isn’t about going faster and finishing first, it’s about holding the other guy’s head under the water so he drowns. There’s no second place anymore.

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