Patterico's Pontifications


The Real Meaning of GM’s Decision to Pull Its LAT Advertising

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 2:06 pm

I have updated my post about GM’s decision to pull its advertising from the Los Angeles Times. The update explains more clearly what I believe to be the real significance of GM’s decision.

UPDATE: My commenters still appear to misunderstand my position.

GM is upset that its ox got gored, and pulled its ads. Apparently I am supposed to be concerned about that because it threatens the newspaper’s independence.

That’s the newspaper’s problem, not mine — and not even GM’S. GM, a company I couldn’t care less about, runs several risks here — including drawing more attention to its own shortcomings, and being seen as a bully that doesn’t care about the truth.

But many of us see the Times itself as an institution that frequently resembles a bully who doesn’t care about the truth. Accordingly, it doesn’t bother us much to see another bully try to push it around.

And I think GM knows that.

See what I’m getting at?

14 Responses to “The Real Meaning of GM’s Decision to Pull Its LAT Advertising”

  1. Patterico,

    I love you, man.

    But this is not a liberal/conservative issue. It’s something much more important.

    At the LA Times, the advertising and editorial departments are segregated to different floors of the building. Sometimes the editorial/advertising dichotomy is referred to as “separation of church and state.” Or, “The Wall.” I used to work there.

    Let’s say the U.S. Army runs full page recruiting ads in the LA Times. Should the Times report that 4 soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing yesterday? Or should they kill that story for fear of losing a valued advertiser?

    How about conservative publications such as the Weekly Standard, Washington Times, National Review? Should they alter their editorial slant to please their mainstream advertisers?

    As a newspaper advertising salesman, I can recount many conversations with clients, i.e., “I’m a steady advertiser, I’m having a ribbon-cutting this weekend, and I want a reporter and a photographer … or else.”

    I had to say no to these people, at the risk of losing their business.

    General Motors shot itself in the foot badly by pulling their LA Times ads. All they did was attract more attention to a very negative review, containing valid criticisms of their products and management.

    POP QUIZ: In the last 10 years, 1995-2005, name one (1) important automotive innovation introduced by General Motors.

    Dennis Mosher (be08d7)

  2. GM made a mistake all right. Pulling its advertising from the LA Times was not the mistake. Talking about it was. Perhaps even the timing. They should have waited a few weeks so that there was no preception a connection between news stories and advertising. When asked GM could have just said that adverstizing in the LA Times was just a good use of advertising funds and left it at that.

    If other advertisers start to pull their advertising then the Tribune company might begin to look at the quality of the paper they publish and fix it. Nobody I know reads the LA Times. They get their news from the Internet.

    Not a Yank (a79fe9)

  3. need to edit “When asked GM could have just said that advertizing in the LA Times was just NOT a good use of advertising funds….

    Sorry about that. Post in haste and then repent.

    Not a Yank (a79fe9)

  4. Yes, yes, yes…I totally see what you’re getting at. GM is not obligated by any means to spend its advertising budget at the LAT. Whether or not it was wise of the company to make a big, public “to do” about pulling its $$, though, I don’t know…but it was certainly their right.

    Ann (0a9361)

  5. Yes, yes, yes…I totally see what you’re getting at. GM is not obligated by any means to spend its advertising budget at the LAT. Whether or not it was wise of the company to make a big, public “to do” about pulling its $$, though, I don’t know…but it was certainly their right.

    Ann (0a9361)

  6. GM’s real problem is that the LA Times will still be around when GM isn’t. And GM’s failure will hardly be the LA Times’ fault.

    Kevin Murphy (6a7945)

  7. It was my understanding that GMs position was that the LAT reporting was misleading at best and false at worst. More than enough reason to stop supporting someone who lies about you.

    Davod (c676db)

  8. what about the Times’ obligation to accept advertising from those businesses whose products it approves of? Isn’t it prostitution to accept millions of dollars in revenue from a company and then trash that company’s products? As to the merits of G.M., I think that they will go under the next recession because they owe too much money (209 BILLION dollars) and are making only 6.5 Billion a year profit in the good times. They therefore have little leeway and can ill afford to pay for advertising in a publication that is working adverse to their interests. Why didn’t the L.A. Times have some good thing to say about some of G.M.s’ products? For the same reason that they consistantly get the facts wrong in so many of their stories-because they are so divorced from the real world by their arrogance as the “annointed” liberal voice, they have no interest in providing good service to their reading public or their advertising customers. Don’t you know that liberals can do no wrong?

    john (26c947)

  9. John,

    I think you’ve got the “prostitution” analogy backwards.

    It would be prostitution to accept a company’s money, and then write a dishonest review praising an undeserving product to please the client.

    What’s liberalism got to do with automobile design? I suggest picking up a copy of Car & Driver or Motor Trend to check their reviews of GM cars.

    Clue: It’s not just the LA Times who is giving bad review to GM.

    Dennis Mosher (7e5e48)

  10. First: How about another pop quiz: In the last tne years, name one infamous time where the L.A. Times violated the separation of church and state?

    Hint: it sounds exactly like Staples Center.

    While I certainly do not doubt that Dennis told clients no, I don’t have the same certainty as the Times as a whole.

    Second: Patterico, I think you are overthinking GM’s reasoning. I don’t think they worried about consumer backlash because it’s a spat between two bullies. It’s simpler than that. GM realizes that the vast majority of car buyers don’t care, period. First, I don’t think the majority of car buyers even know about the issue and second, even if they did I don’t see such a mass boycott of GM that it would matter.

    GM knows it can do this and send a shot across the bow of other media outlets because in the end it won’t hurt the bottom line at all. They can ride out one week (if even) of bad press that most people will skip over anyway.

    ThreeSheets (82b923)

  11. Dont forget that GM also went after NBC when NBCs program DATELINE broadcast a false story on GM trucks back in 1993 so this is no different the LATimes is no different then any of the rest of the left-wing news media only with the papers you can line a birds cage with it(not mine squwak squawk)

    night heron (23e1a9)

  12. Dennis- it is true that presenting a false review would be prostitution, but what the L.A. Times did was worse–like a prostitute that takes your money and won’t have sex. Here they offered a business the chance to sell their wares to the Times’ readers and then reneged on the deal by denigrating the product. The Times is a Mugging prostitute.

    john (26c947)

  13. So John,

    If McDonald’s buys advertising space in the Times, you believe the restaurant reviewers are obligated to report that McDonald’s is the finest restaurant in the area?

    You have the right to believe whatever you want.

    Dennis Mosher (7e5e48)

  14. I see GM exercising its freedom to buy what it likes. Good for them.

    Bostonian (a37519)

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