SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. placed full-page advertisements in 336 Midwestern newspapers after publishers nationally complained they are ignored by the world’s largest retailer. The move comes at a time when the company is trying to address accusations it treats workers poorly and drives local shops out of businesses.
The ads, which ran in smaller papers in Missouri and Oklahoma between Nov. 30 and Dec. 6, were a test for a possible change in newspaper advertising policy at Wal-Mart, which publishers say has ignored their dailies and weeklies for years.
“I think it is a good first step. They are such a big economic force in our communities and were not participating in those papers,” said Mike Buffington, past president of the National Newspaper Association and editor and co-publisher of the Jackson (Ga.) Herald.
Consideration of an advertising shift comes as the retailer repositions itself on several fronts — particularly community relations. The retailer regularly faces criticism, lawsuits and organized attacks from labor union-backed campaign groups, making it more difficult to open new stores and grow.
Retail and grocery store ads together account for anywhere from 60 percent to 80 percent of revenues for community newspapers, said Brian Steffens, the executive director of the National Newspaper Association.
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