Thursday, December 08, 2005

You'd Better Buy Advertising From Us or We'll Give You Bad Press!

Wal-Mart runs ads after publishers complain
Retailing giant places full-page displays in 336 Midwest newspapers
Updated: 2:30 p.m. ET Dec. 8, 2005

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc. placed full-page advertisements in 336 Midwestern newspapers after publishers nationally complained they are ignored by the world's largest retailer. The move comes at a time when the company is trying to address accusations it treats workers poorly and drives local shops out of businesses.

The ads, which ran in smaller papers in Missouri and Oklahoma between Nov. 30 and Dec. 6, were a test for a possible change in newspaper advertising policy at Wal-Mart, which publishers say has ignored their dailies and weeklies for years.

"I think it is a good first step. They are such a big economic force in our communities and were not participating in those papers," said Mike Buffington, past president of the National Newspaper Association and editor and co-publisher of the Jackson (Ga.) Herald.

Consideration of an advertising shift comes as the retailer repositions itself on several fronts — particularly community relations. The retailer regularly faces criticism, lawsuits and organized attacks from labor union-backed campaign groups, making it more difficult to open new stores and grow.

Retail and grocery store ads together account for anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent of revenues for community newspapers, said Brian Steffens, the executive director of the National Newspaper Association.

Grocery stores purchase the bulk of those that advertising, with local grocers often placing full-page ads several times a week. Wal-Mart has grown in recent years to be the nation's largest seller of groceries with the expansion of its supercenter store format, but it generally has not taken out weekly ads to showcase its grocery prices in local newspapers.

"If one local grocery store goes out, a community newspaper loses at a minimum one or two full-page ads or inserts a week," Steffens said.

Wal-Mart said it would look first at whether the new local ads increased sales and traffic at 218 stores in those newspapers' territories. "If there is a significant return, we would consider incorporating the local papers into our overall ad strategy," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Mona Williams said.

Williams said Wal-Mart had traditionally not advertised locally because it had strong customer traffic anyway. Its practice of "every day low prices" also means it does not need to advertise sales and individual items like many other retailers do.

Community relations may also play a role in deciding whether to change the advertising practice, Williams said.

"The question is also whether to advertise to support the local newspaper and generate good will from that. These are probably good, non-traditional reasons to advertise locally and considerations we will also factor in once we have the market test results," she said.

The NNA says it worked out the ad test in talks with Wal-Mart executives after Buffington wrote an open letter in January that accused Wal-Mart Chief Executive Lee Scott of ignoring the association's 2,500 members.

"Wal-Mart built its foundation of stores in many of our rural and suburban communities, the places where I, and many of my fellow publishers, operate newspapers," Buffington wrote in the letter posted on the NNA's Web site.

"Yet community newspapers across the nation are all but invisible to Wal-Mart _ unless the company is looking for some free PR in our pages. Wal-Mart has a fairly standard policy of doing little to no local newspaper advertising," he wrote.

The letter came after Wal-Mart at the start of the year placed full-page ads in major metropolitan dailies defending itself against criticism, then had a public relations firm approach local papers, hoping to place news stories on Wal-Mart's views.

In the spring, the NNA surveyed its members on their relations with Wal-Mart.

Of those that responded, 81 percent said they had a Wal-Mart store in their circulation area. And, of those, 62 percent said Wal-Mart had a negative impact on the community, 25 percent said neutral and 13 percent said it was a positive effect.

The results were similar when asked how Wal-Mart affected the newspapers, with 67 percent saying negative and 4 percent answering positive.

Nearly 60 percent said Wal-Mart never advertised in their papers, but about 80 percent said Wal-Mart sometimes or often asked for publicity, such as pictures in the paper of Wal-Mart presenting a charity check. The NNA did not list its methodology for poll.

Neither the NNA nor Wal-Mart were willing to discuss how much the ads cost.

As a rule, ads printed in the paper make more money for the publisher than inserts, which Wal-Mart has tended to use in the past on the few occasions it did advertise. Inserts require more labor to put into a paper and are usually printed elsewhere, rather than on the newspaper's own presses, so the paper cannot charge for its printing costs.

Wal-Mart last December ran a brief newspaper ad campaign in an effort to boost lackluster pre-Christmas sales. Those advertisements featured toys and electronics on which the retailer cut prices a week into the holiday shopping season.


At December 08, 2005 10:54 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

"Give me money!"

At December 09, 2005 6:15 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

If those loutish editorials and editing in the newspapers seem like familiar union strongarm tactics, I wouldn't be surprised if they were directives straight from the union hall to which they've obediantly appended their bylines.

At December 09, 2005 7:19 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Some people's idea of freedom is the right to force somebody else to do what they want them to -- and freedom of speech is their right to force you to listen to them while suppressing everybody else's right to say anything.

No wonder the age of mass media has passed. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

At December 09, 2005 8:08 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Next thing you know, the newspapers (or affiliated puppets) will be claiming you have to buy your blogspots from them -- and they will assign you a pretentious URL address and maintain your blog for a modest fee of a few hundred dollars a month, depending on how unscrupulous they are.

No, they are free at and are simple to maintain -- as easy and simple as email (the world‘s greatest bloggers are at You don’t need costly web hosting services to blog.. I know some people believe that unless they have a pretentious sounding address and organization they’re spokespersons for, they believe nobody will be impressed and take them seriously.

That may be correct -- in the traditional way of thinking that the objective of communication is to impress and intimidate, rather than share information (intelligence). Blogging is a revolution in that sense: the new form publication that can be as good, creative and authentic as one wants it to be. The big mistake is just mimicking the newspapers; something much greater is possible.

One doesn’t want his blog to be just another contentious letters to the editor page with more vile and vitriol. That’s the franchise of the newspapers; why somebody would want to own that turf, I don’t know. It’s totally dysfunctional and counterproductive, the way it is. Usually they have a control-freak at the helm ensuring maximum offensiveness toward one side -- and suppressing criticism in the other direction. At least they’re not claiming “fair and balanced,” anymore. There’s got to be some truth in the advertising.

At December 09, 2005 8:31 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The newspapers (unscrupulous people) like to sow fear and intimidation to sell their "services."

That's the well-known political culture here in Hawaii that we're beginning to outgrow. It's sustained by the media and other institutions employing the same coercion and enforced monopoly tactics and mentality.

That's their political "correctness" -- or else.

At December 09, 2005 8:56 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Polling a pollster
By Joel Mowbray
December 9, 2005

When the national press devoured a new union-sponsored poll released last week by uber-pollster John Zogby claiming that a majority of Americans believe that "Wal-Mart is bad for America," not reported were serious ethical issues which call into question the integrity of the much-ballyhooed survey.

Perhaps because Mr. Zogby has such a sterling reputation -- which has enabled him to snare contracts with several top media outlets, including Reuters, NBC, and the Wall Street Journal -- his findings were reported largely unchallenged.

But what no journalist would have known without digging is that Mr. Zogby cannot be considered an objective third-party when it comes to Wal-Mart. Without the presumption that the pollster was working solely to gauge scientifically the attitudes of the public, the poll loses much of its luster and becomes just another cog in Big Labor's coordinated campaign against the retailer.

In recent years, Mr. Zogby has pocketed roughly $90,000 to serve as an expert witness for individuals suing Wal-Mart, according to testimony he gave in a deposition last year in an Arizona case. Nowhere is Mr. Zogby's prior work on behalf of plaintiffs mentioned in the press release announcing the poll results.

During a 45-minute phone interview for this column, Mr. Zogby willingly acknowledged when asked about his work on behalf of the various plaintiffs. He repeatedly requested that the column reflect his honesty, which shows that he understands the relevance of his past work.

Which raises the question: If he implicitly concedes that his testifying for people suing Wal-Mart is relevant, then why wasn't that disclosure in the announcement of the poll results?

Though Mr. Zogby insisted that being paid tens of thousands by people suing the retailer did not compromise his objectivity, he was careful to note that the press release announcing the poll results was drafted by the client, Big Labor-backed But when reached the following morning, Mr. Zogby conceded that his staff "heavily edited" the release and even posted it on the group's Web site and put the release out over its wire.

As any pollster can attest, trust is the key issue, as polling -- no matter how transparent or scientific it purports to be -- hinges on the credibility of the wizard behind the curtain. Pollsters are masters of subtle manipulation, and small changes in wording can -- and often do -- yield substantially different results. Or questions can be asked in such a way that produce ambiguous results that can be interpreted in many different fashions.

Precisely because trust is so important, hired Mr. Zogby to give its poll bashing Wal-Mart extra panache and an air of instant credibility. In a phone interview, spokesman Chris Kofinis adamantly maintained that the poll was beyond reproach because Mr. Zogby is "an independent." Which, not coincidentally, is exactly how the pollster described himself -- again and again and again.

But how "independent" is it to, as Mr. Kofinis described it, draft poll questions "in consultation with", even though the reason Zogby polls are held in higher esteem is because they perceived to be more objective, more "independent?" And by Mr. Zogby's own admission, wrote the press release that he put his company's name on and subsequently sent out. Mr. Kofinis knew this wouldn't look good, and he didn't fess up that his group wrote the Zogby press release until he was told that Mr. Zogby admitted it.

The Wal-Mart poll is not the first time Mr. Zogby has taken money from one party and conducted polling where his objectivity ostensibly would be compromised. According to a November 2000 Village Voice article, the pollster collected "$54,000 in payments from the 1997 Giuliani campaign after polling the race for the [New York] Post, and picking up another $5000 this year from the State Republican Committee while polling the Senate race."

Of course it's entirely possible that Mr. Zogby could take significant cash from people suing Wal-Mart and then turn around and conduct an objective poll. There's no reason to believe that was the case, however, based on anything other than faith. And such faith is diminished when the potential bias is conveniently clipped from the press release.

Without the Zogby magic dust sprinkled on the poll, most would see it as yet another grenade lobbed at Wal-Mart by the unions, who have, thus far, failed to push the retailer's million-plus employees into their ranks. The tantalizing prospect of landing billions in new compulsory dues has sprung Big Labor into action, crafting a campaign to give Wal-Mart a black eye and, they hope, forcing the retailer into submission.

Near the end of phone interview, Mr. Kofinis became quite agitated and yelled, "You can't say that the poll isn't objective!" But given the facts, it would seem better to ask: How can anyone say it is?

Joel Mowbray occasionally writes for The Washington Times.

At December 10, 2005 7:19 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Can you believe these guys?

"I was just called by an NBC pollster. I found it interesting that I was first asked if I think the country is headed in the right or wrong direction, and only after I answered "right," did the man ask my age, and then tell me, "Oh, I'm sorry. The computer is screening for age groups and we're not looking for opinions from your age group at this time. Maybe we'll call you for your opinion later."

Now, it seems to me that they're screening for right way/wrong way opinions as opposed to age group. Why else would they have asked that question before asking my age.

I suspect the computer is programmed to allow a certain, lower, percentage of right way responses than wrong way, so they can report that the American people believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, and use that poll "result" as a club with which to beat this adminstration.

THere are many things I believe are bringing this country in the wrong direction. I mean, the media themselves, including NBC, are the very ones I hold most responsible for the country headed the wrong way, but I was not about to give them ammunition to make things even worse."

This tactic is called cherry-picking the population sample -- in first predetermining those likely to give the responses the pollster is seeking, and then only asking that biased sample questions. So they go through the motions of conducting a sample when the questions are so vague as to be highly questionable.

What does "right" and "wrong" mean? It means different things to different people. A good question means the same thing to whomever one asks -- such as, "Are you making more money this year than last?" -- and not opinion piled upon opinion upon opinion -- which are the manipulations of the propagandist. The respondent is not sure what question or concern he is responding to but are directed and encouraged to make a hasty and thoughtless response.

And by this, we should rule the country -- or first off, be informed? Mass media is suited for propaganda and advertising purposes -- and in an age in which people are empowered and competent to pull their own strings, thank you, the old media autocrats won't let them go, still echoing the refrain from another era, "Don't turn your back on me; I own you!"

At December 10, 2005 7:35 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Did they also threaten to sue you if you divulged the nature of their polling?

That's the next step in the mass media debacle. Any wrongs they do, they will sue for anybody revealing them to others.

"Editors reserve the right to assume as many aliases as they deem necessary to make the story flow more smoothly or give added emphasis to their point."

At December 10, 2005 7:46 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The line of demarcation is no longer left and right, conservative or liberal, but old media mentality and new. The old mentality insists that the people can only communicate with their duly elected officials, and vice-versa, through self-appointed media demagogues, as necessary intermediaries.

So the establishment media was not so upset that the government was paying for "propaganda," as they were not paying THEM for THEIR propaganda. Not paying them off first and exclusively, is absolutely scandalous -- and a violation of all the Ten Commandments and Amendments -- written and upheld by the mainstream media themselves, of course. Who else can be trusted?

At December 10, 2005 7:50 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

In short, the mainstream media has become the largest and most powerful extortion racket -- making the teachers' union and university professors look like rank con-artists.

At December 10, 2005 7:52 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

No wonder they are leading the cries, "Free Saddam!"

At December 10, 2005 8:08 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

Does this have a familiar ring, "Free Barabbas!"?

At December 10, 2005 8:13 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

They were incited by the Pharisees (union officials) and the Scribes (mainstream media).

The usual suspects from time immemorial.

At December 10, 2005 8:38 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

By getting us to condemn and crucify the innocent, while exonerating and liberating true evil, they demonstrate their control and power over the masses.

That is Satan's delight.

At December 11, 2005 9:55 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The media professionals are the keypunch operators (stenographers) of the present time. They're only getting in the way trying to make themselves indispensable to the information and communication process -- with their meddling, control, bias, partisanship, distortions and manipulations.

The healthier segment of the population is the first to liberate themselves from that co-dependency -- leaving them with the least desirable loyal base. So every downward tick of 5%, is 95% of the best and the brightest. Thus, the newspapers suffer from the flight of able contributers as well as readers and devotees. So when they go to enlist the endorsement of respected authorities to reaffirm their status and legitimacy, they find that they've burned those bridges thinking they would always have the upper hand in the information equation.

Finally, there's nobody there but their ragtag staff gathered around the Kool-Ade punchbowl, convincing each other that everybody else should go first and they'll be right behind them.

At December 11, 2005 10:41 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

The newspapers don't have a choice of whether to publish online for free or to charge. Their competition is not with themselves. If they charge, there're a lot more people who will go to whatever is free -- with the reasonable possibility that what they find may be better. The newspapers don't want their readers to explore those other possibilities and so they have to provide free online to keep their readers -- because the readership is what is valuable and not the news, or the paper.

The mistake of the newspapers was in thinking that they could force people back to the old model -- instead of evolving and taking quantum leaps to stay ahead of the game. Usually, a workforce that rewards seniority over merit and innovation, is certain doom in a highly competitive environment, that information and communications have been transformed into because of today's technologies and understanding.

Instead, they've chosen to fight and exacerbate the old battles between the left and the right, conservative and liberals, Democrats against Republicans, when the leading edge of thinking has moved beyond those "issues."

The news has to be the new -- and not the old, repackaged daily as the new.

At December 11, 2005 11:30 AM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

You wouldn't "put together a new, credible, local media (on the order of a daily newspaper)" -- because it is possible for an individual to produce a publication with virtually no capital investment now. That's what Craiglist is all about. It is even a mistake to mimic the traditional publication merely moved to the Internet -- because something much greater is possible. Already, the online newspapers are becoming obsolete because they can be surpassed by blogs.

Trying to be a publication, is more restrictive than just being a blog. Everyone is entitled to their freedom of expression. Pretending to be something other than one is, gets one into trouble. If I claim to be the speaking for the people of Hawaii, or with some kind of inputed authority, I can be challenged. If I claim to be speaking for myself, I am the ultimate authority that is indisputable. That's the problem of the newspapers: in presuming to be the moral authority of the community, they are vulnerable to challenges on all fronts. If they only revealed their own truth, and didn't try to suppress, distort and undermine everybody else's, they would not be under relentless attack.

The premises of their organization are rooted in another era -- hundreds of years ago, just as schools and universities are. They are based on rigid hierarchies and autocratic organizations that are not found anywhere else in contemporary society anymore. An undertaking established now, is done so with today's present evolved understanding and has no baggage of precedent, habit and tradition to uphold. That is a tremendous advantage to have in today's world -- of information and communications possibilities.

At December 11, 2005 12:10 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

A lot of people think that what gives them authority is pretending to be one -- rather than allowing the reader to decide that for themselves.

At December 11, 2005 1:09 PM, Blogger Mike Hu said...

They created us -- created our opportunity.

I think most of us were quite content to let them play their traditional role as intermediaries -- but they got greedy and power mad, and wanted the whole pie. We kept pleading with them for fair play -- and they kept backing us into the corner, where anybody is most dangerous.

When they had the power, they could not handle it well. That's a skill -- like money management. That's why those people who often win millions in lotteries manage to ruin their lives. What's valuable is the skill at money management and not the money wielded irresponsibly. What is useful is not power itself but the skill at managing it. The essence of power is responsibility.

One can't force anybody else to be smart; they have to want it for themselves.


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