Confusing logic

Jeff vonKaenel

My sales staff tells me that The Sacramento Bee is now accepting medical-marijuana ads online. That’s funny, because previously their ad reps had been telling businesses that they shouldn’t run ads with the Sacramento News & Review because of the medical-marijuana ads in our paper. As a reader of SN&R, you’ve probably noticed that medical marijuana has been quite an economic stimulus package for this newspaper.

Now, according to the Sacramento Bee ad reps, the Bee is a family newspaper. That’s why they won’t accept medical-marijuana ads in print. But apparently, the website is a different story. I’m not the brightest guy in the world, so I am having a hard time figuring out the Bee’s logic on this one.

Having competed with the Bee for more than 20 years, I have seen this confusing logic over and over again. When we first ran personal ads, the Bee reps made a big deal about the fact that we had risqué personal ads. Then the Bee management found out that personals were both popular and profitable. So the Bee introduced personal ads.

But, at that time, there were quite a few clients who didn’t like being in a newspaper that had gay personal ads. SN&R had “women seeking women” and “men seeking men” ads in our personals section, and it caused quite a bit of controversy. But the Bee figured out a way around this. They listed only “ads from women” and “ads from men.” At first, I assumed this was to hide the fact that they had gay personals. Or were the Bee’s readers so desperate for a date that they didn’t care if the person posting the ad was straight, gay or married? Somehow, I find that unlikely.

While it turned out that accepting medical-marijuana ads and gay personals was profitable for SN&R, we had no way of knowing this in advance. We’ve lost both advertising income and numerous distribution points because we allowed gay ads to run in our personals section. We were also boycotted by a conservative religious group. When we first started running medical-marijuana ads, we knew that we would lose advertisers. But we didn’t realize just how popular and profitable it would be for us.

Part of the reason that we allow, and even encourage, controversial advertisers is that we believe our readers should make their own decisions about marijuana use and what consenting adults do in their bedrooms. This confidence in our readers has directed our advertising policy. And in my mind, it makes us the real family newspaper.

Our family includes the gay cousin; the opinionated, tattooed little sister, and the conservative, freethinking business-type uncle, to say nothing of the all of the diverse in-laws. We probably do not agree, but we are all family.

The Bee may have better china at the dinner table, but we have more fun.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.