Sunday, April 20, 2008

Has Harrah's Stopped Advertising in the R-J?

A week ago, we were under the impression following interviews with folks from Harrah's and the publisher of the Review-Journal that the decision by Harrah's not to give their guests the R-J and not to allow the newspaper to be sold on newsstands was a cost-cutting measure amid trying economic times.

It was not, Harrah's spokesman Gary Thompson said, a result of the tough coverage the paper has committed on the issue of building permit problems and the like.

Publisher Sherm Frederick assured in that interview with me as well as in a quote in his own newspaper that if Harrah's was upset with the paper, they'd let him know it. Maybe he was too busy correcting nonexistent errors in other people's publications and picking out juvenile names to call writers with whom he disagrees, but it looks clear he missed this memo. It's not a surprise that someone who just discovered that newspapers ought to offer blogs -- but doesn't bother to equip them with the standard RSS feeds -- would be a little clueless.

Harrah's has not had an ad in the newspaper for at least the past four days and probably longer. I only started noticing when I realized the entire Neon section -- the Friday entertainment guide usually saturated with show, restaurant and nightclub ads -- was Harrah's-free. I went back to look in all the papers I still had in my house, and there was nothing. I waited to look at the Sunday newspaper before I posted this and all I found there was one ad from the Harrah's Foundation, a charitable arm that by law must operate separately from the company's marketing, and something taken out by the Nevada Hotel & Lodging Association for the Epicurean Affair, an event coming at Harrah's-owned Flamingo.

No Cher ads. No Guy Savoy ads. Nothing about Pure, Bette Midler, the Rio's revamped and locals-beloved buffet. Nada.

The result of tough economic times? Perhaps. But the Las Vegas Weekly, published by rival Greenspun, carried expensive full-page ads for the VooDoo Lounge (Rio), Risque (Paris) and Pure (Caesars Palace). Anyone out there with a copy of CityLife want to tell me whether Harrah's has any presence this week in that weekly published by the R-J's parent company?

So, is the newspaper being punished? It seems obvious, and that's sad because the journalism in this case has been very important and has made the city safer for millions of tourists. It may be painful for Harrah's, but it's not the newspaper's fault they made so many disastrous mistakes.

But a newspaper that has lost 7.2 percent of its daily circulation since 2006 and is now at the same Sunday circulation level as a decade ago despite the valley's having added more than 1 million new resident ought to worry anyway. What if Harrah's finds out that not advertising in the R-J makes no difference? Might other companies realize that this is one great way to save some dough? You know, in these trying economic times?

And more importantly, will the publisher even notice while he's thanking his shrinking print audience for a "nice" circulation gain?


Anonymous said...

Went back and checked out a few weeks of LV City Life and that rag does not have any of the nightclub ads that the LV Weekly has. No other Caesars/Harrah's related ads unless you want to count the UNLVino ad that mentions the grand tasting at Paris.

If you ask me, I think venues are taking their limited advertising budget and focusing on the better product. Why bother to blanket the market with ads in all the alternative weeklies when just hitting the best one for your market will do. Most of the strip clubs are advertising only in the Weekly (or if it's a really small budget, just in City Life) but not both. The new Badda Bing Mens Club had a full page ad in the recent Weekly but nothing in City Life.