EDITOR’S COMMENT: The ad/ed divide is crucial but no arseholes please

I had landed an interview with the chief executive of Argos - a bit of a result for a junior hack at a regional business-to-business publisher.

I had landed an interview with the chief executive of Argos - a bit

of a result for a junior hack at a regional business-to-business


Given that my average assignment consisted of writing advertorials for

jacket potato restaurants in Aylesbury, I was pretty excited about

having a crack at a ’proper’ feature.

Questions tucked away in my new Burtons suit, I was all set to leave

when the publisher (who doubled as the sales director) announced that he

was going to drive me to the Argos HQ in Milton Keynes.

It was the first time he had ever shown any interest in me - I was,

after all, filed in the cost column on the balance sheet (albeit for a

measly pounds 8,500) rather than in the sales column. But not wanting to

seem ungrateful, I accepted his offer.

En route I was given a lecture on ’getting value’ from every single

feature the company published. I wasn’t quite sure what he was

blathering on about until he came to his main point: ’So, if we are

going to make this feature worthwhile, we need to get Argos to advertise

against it. This is a perfect opportunity for you to speak to the man

with the purse strings.’

I threw my toys out of the pram, point blank refusing to even try to

sell space to the chief executive of one of Britain’s biggest retailers,

and made a mental note that I had to leave my job. The feature never

appeared, I left the company within a month, and it was wound up by

creditors soon after.

The main reason for the company’s failure was the absence of a division

between editorial and advertising, which meant that the titles lacked

any credibility - and consequently any loyal readers. To say ad response

rates were pathetic was an understatement. Failing to maintain the ad/ed

divide can be a huge mistake; it is vital for the long-term health of

any title.

But just as it is impossible to understand why some publishers cannot

see the need for metaphorical walls between the two departments, it is

also incredible that there is still so much bickering and even animosity

between editorial and advertising.

As our feature on editorial arseholes illustrates, hacks are often

guilty of behaving like precocious children, and it is hard to argue

with the conclusion that too many of our clan suffer from the

paradoxical problems of enormous egos and raging paranoia. Too many

people who are running little trade and consumer titles seem to think

they are Kelvin MacKenzie.

It would be nice to think that the culprits will be embarrassed if they

read Paul Simpson’s piece.

But sales people who fail to recognise the value of independent

editorial are equally at fault, and will cause their titles no end of

damage in the long term. Just ask my ex-boss.


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