Is Top of the Town for Sale?

May 2009
Voting for our 2009 Top of the Town issue concluded recently, and while the results won't be published until our July issue, we've already started to hear what have become the annual whispers that to be a winner you have to first advertise in the magazine. This year, thanks to some unscrupulous competitors, those whispers seem louder than ever, so perhaps it's time to revisit a column I wrote on this very subject back in 2005. The fact of the matter is that 5280 never promises editorial coverage in exchange for an advertising contract. I could bore you with all kinds of lofty arguments about maintaining our integrity and credibility, but, in this case, there's a much simpler reason:
Simply put, Top of the Town awards are a lousy way to sell advertising. Don't believe me? Consider that eight local jewelers regularly advertise in 5280. But our Top Jeweler category only has two winners, one chosen by readers, the other by our editors. Which means that in the next few days I can expect calls from at least six angry clients (and their wives and their friends and their loyal customers). Multiply that by more than 140 categories and you'll start to see why our sales reps dread answering the phones in the days after Top of the Town hits the streets. Of course, smart advertisers understand that Top of the Town is the best place for their message, as this issue of 5280 will sell nearly 30,000 copies on the newsstand alone, which means in Denver it will outsell InStyle, Oprah, and US Weekly combined. They understand that Top of the Town is firmly entrenched as the premier "Best Of" guide in Denver, meaning that readers will refer back to it again and again throughout the year ahead.
As an aside, it's fun to see just how much we've grown since I wrote that column. Back then, we were proud to have received 21,000 votes in our Top of the Town balloting. This year, we topped 97,000 nominations. Top of the Town 2009 will hit newsstands in late June. It promises to be a great issue.