How Newspapers Work


classified ad
Classified ads are often set in a miniature typeface called agate.

The number of pages beyond a minimum that most newspapers set is determined not by the news division, but by the amount of advertising sold for that day. (Regardless of advertising, however, newspapers add extra news pages for big local stories such as tornadoes, sports championships or other major events.) The advertising division places ads on pages before they are released to the news division. As a rule, newspapers print slightly more advertising than news, although the larger Sunday division may print more news than ads. The ratio of ads to news must be high because newspapers cannot stay in business without advertising revenue. Editors call the space left for them a "news hole." The advertising division and the news division have no influence over each other's content.

Three types of advertising dominate modern newspapers:


  1. Display ads: With photos and graphics, display ads can cost thousands of dollars depending on their size. These ads, generally placed by department stores, movie theaters and other businesses, may be prepared by an advertising agency or the advertising department itself. They are called run-of-press ads and they produce the most revenue.
  2. Classified ads: Often called want ads, these appear in a miniature typeface called agate. These ads come from people trying to buy or sell items, businesses seeking workers or tradespeople offering a wide variety of services.
  3. Inserts: These colorful booklets, which are multipage ads for one store, are trucked to newspapers in huge bundles for distribution with the Sunday edition. Inserts produce less revenue than run-of-press advertising. Newspapers charge for distributing inserts, but otherwise have no control over their content or print quality.

With ads, news and editorials ready to go, the presses start revving up.