This is the weirdest thing to come out of Seattle Times headquarters in a long time:

Seattle Times launches Initiative to Demonstrate Effectiveness and Value of Political Advertising in Newspapers


SEATTLE – The Seattle Times announced today that it will develop and place political ads in the newspaper in support of Yes on Marriage Equality R-74 and Rob McKenna for Governor in an effort to convince political campaigns how valuable advertising in The Times can be.

“In recent years, political consultants have not been placing many campaign ads in The Seattle Times, and we think they’re missing out on the most effective way to reach voters in the Puget Sound region,” said Alan Fisco, Executive Vice President, Revenue and New Products for The Seattle Times. “We decided to try to tap into this important source of advertising revenue by demonstrating how effective advertising with The Times can be.”

The paper will be reporting these ads as independent expenditures and in-kind donations in support of McKenna and marriage equality, says Jill Mackie, spokeswoman for the company.

Among many questions this new initiative poses:

- What will it end up saying about the power of political advertising in the print edition of the Seattle Times if McKenna and/or marriage equality end up losing at the polls in November?

- What kind of sense does it make for the paper to make donations to both the marriage equality movement and the candidate for governor who opposes marriage equality?

- And will people really believe the Seattle Times when it says “this is a business decision that is completely separate from journalism functions of the newspaper"?

I'll ask Mackie about all this and update. Full announcement in the jump:

Seattle Times launches Initiative to Demonstrate Effectiveness and Value of Political Advertising in Newspapers


SEATTLE – The Seattle Times announced today that it will develop and place political ads in the newspaper in support of Yes on Marriage Equality R-74 and Rob McKenna for Governor in an effort to convince political campaigns how valuable advertising in The Times can be.

“In recent years, political consultants have not been placing many campaign ads in The Seattle Times, and we think they’re missing out on the most effective way to reach voters in the Puget Sound region,” said Alan Fisco, Executive Vice President, Revenue and New Products for The Seattle Times. “We decided to try to tap into this important source of advertising revenue by demonstrating how effective advertising with The Times can be.”

The Seattle Times has the widest reach of any media company in Seattle; 88 percent of Times’ 1.8 million adult readers in Western Washington are registered voters. Seattletimes.com is the most visited newspaper website in the Northwest.

“In addition to being cost-effective for campaigns, advertising in print provides a forum for facts with context that the public wants and deserves in making important decisions on candidates and ballot measures,” said Fisco. “That’s a real contrast to sound-bite spots on TV that often contain half-truths and innuendo.”

The Times is looking to tap into the millions of dollars spent on political advertising each year to help finance the quality journalism and information that has helped the newspaper maintain a national reputation for excellence for many years. Seattle Times staff members have won the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s highest honor, nine times since 1950 and have been finalists 14 additional times since 1982.

In formulating the advertising initiative, The Times decided to feature one statewide candidate and one statewide issue for which polling showed to be fairly close races.

“We chose the race for Governor and Marriage Equality because our company believes they are important to the future of our state,” said Fisco. The two specific campaigns The Times will support were chosen in part because The Times has editorialized in support of each one, and because they cover a range of political and social perspectives through the constituencies of the two statewide elections.

The McKenna for Governor ads will be conducted as an independent expenditure with absolutely no coordination between the newspaper and the campaign. For Yes on Marriage Equality, the Times’ contributed ad space will be an in-kind donation to the Approve R 74, Washington United for Marriage campaign.

“This is a business decision that is completely separate from journalism functions of the newspaper,” said Fisco. “The ads will be clearly identified as ads and there is no intersection between the advertising and our editorial commentary or news reporting.”

The Times will analyze the impact its ads have in the election and present the outcomes to political consultants and candidates to make the case that advertising in The Times is an effective and cost-effective way to reach voters.

The Seattle Times is a 116-year-old locally owned journalism and community service company. Founded in 1896 by Alden J. Blethen, The Seattle Times is a fourth and fifth generation family business. The family's flagship newspaper, The Seattle Times, is the 2ND largest newspaper on the West Coast. The flagship website, seattletimes.com, is the largest local news information web site in the Northwest. The Seattle Times digital content is available in multiple formats: website, digital replica, smartphone app and tablet app. Other Blethen-owned newspapers in Washington are the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the Yakima Herald-Republic, The Issaquah Press, the Newcastle News, the Sammamish Review and the SnoValley Star.

More company information, including links to the newspaper Web sites, is available at http://www.seattletimescompany.com.