The Los Angeles Times started publishing e-commerce links in its stories this week.
LA Observed wrote April 27 that the links will only be in certain stories and blogs and that they will not be in news stories or columns. E-commerce links will be colored green, and editorial links will continue to be blue. Each article with an e-commerce link will have a disclaimer reading:
Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.
LA Observed posted a memo from Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton that said the links are only published in health, image, food, travel, books, entertainment and sports articles; photo galleries; and 17 select blogs. The links are expected to be "both a reader service and a revenue opportunity for the company," Stanton wrote.
Some stories featuring e-commerce links include music section pieces on M.I.A., Hole and The Game.
Mark Fitzgerald wrote on Editor & Publisher April 27 wrote that he was glad there hasn’t been (yet) any serious outrage against Stanton’s memo. “Maybe journos are starting to get the message that business is an important part of the newspaper, uh, business.”
The New York Times noted that The Los Angeles Times has “pushed ad-edit boundaries” recently, noting three other controversial ad efforts.
On March 6, StinkyJournalism reported that The Los Angeles Times sold its front page for an Alice in Wonderland movie ad. The “cover-wrap” placed a full-page ad for the Disney movie over its front page. As Reuters reported, "The ad, believed to be the first of its kind among America's leading big-city dailies, dismayed some readers and was lamented by media scholars as the latest troubling sign of difficult times at the newspaper and for journalism generally."
TV Week reported in April 2009 that the Los Angeles Times printed a front-page column advertisement for the then-NBC TV show “Southland.” TV Week quoted The Los Angeles Times as saying at the time, “The delivery of news and information is a rapidly changing business, and the Los Angeles Times is continuously testing innovative approaches…That includes creating unique marketing opportunities for our advertising partners, and today's NBC 'Southland' ad was designed to stretch traditional boundaries."
The Southland column was the first time The Los Angeles Times ran “a mock news column on its front page as an ad, although the paper has been running front-page ads since 2007,” The New York Times reported. In September 2007, The Los Angeles Times ran a scratch-and-sniff ad for the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium, Media Buyer Planner reported.
As the Wrap wrote April 11, 2009, within a week of The Los Angeles Times running that Southland column, it ran a four-page ad for the movie The Soloist in its Sunday calendar section. The Soloist, a 2009 bio-drama, was based on the current Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez’s book. The four-page ad included an interview with Lopez.
According to the memo, the program that places ad links has been used by The Chicago Tribune for about six months.
The memo from Stanton also noted that The Los Angeles Times changed its comment policy. In order to comment on stories in the Los Angeles Times, readers can log in through either an LA Times account or a social media account with Facebook, AOL, MySpace, Google, Yahoo or Twitter. If a comment has two complaints, it will be pulled from the site for review.
StinkyJournalism has contacted The Chicago Tribune for more information on its e-commerce link policies and will update with any response.