Sunday's L.A. Times featured a trio of Twinkie-like characters meddling with the paper's sober, storied masthead in an advertising first for the paper, L.A. Observed reports.
The promotion is part of Universal Studios' campaign for its "Minions" movie, featuring the popular characters from the 'Despicable Me' franchise.
The move immediately set off concerns on Twitter that leasing out the newspaper's masthead impinged on its credibility as a source for news. L.A. Observed led the charge, with a story reporting the decision was unpopular among some of the paper's top editors.
Others chimed in online:
L.A. Observed's Kevin Roderick — a former L.A. Times writer himself — notes:
Personally, I'm not sure this development is all that disturbing. The LA Times stopped respecting its visual brand and sold it to movie marketers a long time ago. Notice you don't see other respected papers going as far as the LAT does. You could imagine [L.A. Times publisher Austin] Beutner et al saying it's just the print paper. They need the money, and ads are running away from print, although that might be fed in part because the Times doesn't take that side of its brand as seriously, as readers move increasingly to digital.
Of course, promotions on the Times' website have also made for controversy in recent years. In 2013, Disney paid for a "takeover" of the site for the release of its "Gangster Squad" film that raised the ire of some readers.
The Times is also not the only newspaper that's sold unconventional ad packages in print and online, and it's not the first to intermingle an ad sale with its logo.
Some saw the Universal/Times' promotion as an innovative way to interest advertisers at a difficult time for newspaper ad sales. The chief revenue officer for the Bay Area News Group, which publishes over 11 daily newspapers, most in Northern California, tweeted he thought the minions masthead was a great idea.
What do you think about the Times' decision? Does a change to the papers' masthead make a difference to you as a reader? Let us know in the comments.