Remember that stuff I wrote about the Pitch and its many problems and woes?
Well, you can forget about that now, it’s time to move on. That’s exactly what’s about to happen, if my examination new Pitch owner SouthComm‘s alternative news weekly Nashville Scene is an indication of what’s in store for Kansas City. And more to the point, for the now-nervous wretches at Ink.
Oh yeah. Sources say the Kansas City Star owned Ink is shaking in its shoes, having taken the measure of SouthComm’s handiwork in Nashville. SouthComm may only be a four year-old firm, but its doings down south run circles around what Village Voice‘s Pitch has failed to accomplish here. Same goes for Ink, only different.
For starters, let’s run a few of the numbers.
Last week’s Pitch had 36 pages, 20 of which (61 %) were ads.
That’s a fairly healthy number, until you factor in that three to four of those ad pages looked promotional in nature, possibly bringing in little to no money. That would drop it to as low as 50% ads. That’s still liveable within reason, but we were doing 40 page Pitches and more in the ’90s when I was running the show.
Bottom line: the Pitch is hurting and it’s plain to see why editor CJ Janovy and Village Voice both bailed.
Now let’s look at Ink…
At first blush Ink looks like it’s kicking butt with 68 pages. Au contraire.
Only 32 of those are ads, a paltry 47 percent.
Of those, there doesn’t appear to be more than a page, page-and-a-half of ads that might be freebies. That only brings it down to 45 percent, but that’s still a very low ad-to-editorial ratio. Add to that, insiders have long said the Star has used its ad clout to steer combo and or bonus ads (freebies) to Ink and you begin to wonder just how much real revenue Ink is staining its bottom line with.
One local venue, for example, recently turned down three free, full-page promotional ads in INK because it didn’t think Ink was a good fit for the band playing there – wasn’t hip enough.
Remember what I said about Ink being vacuous? Outside of its cover feature on 610 Sports host Nick Wright there’s practically nothing of substance to read in last week’s Ink outside of the ads.
Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks and the Nashville Scene…
Last week’s Scene tipped the scales at a healthy 56 pages, 35 being ads. That’s a 62% kill rate.
That blows away both Ink and the Pitch.
Factor in Greater Kansas City’s 25% population advantage over Nashville and that translates into a 70 pager. In a perfect world, that is. Couple that with the Scene’s dramatically superior, upscale, coated-stock cover and inside pages – full color on each and every one – and you can see why Ink is worried.
The fact is that SouthComm gets it.
The Scene‘s features, columns, general news and entertainment content are far better presented than either the Pitch or Ink. And you can tell by the quality of the advertisers and the ads that it’s working. The Scene‘s got all of the hipness of the Pitch (and probably more), sans the dated hippie look and content and sub par printing quality.
At the same time, the Scene totally trumps Ink in appeal to upscale to mainstream advertisers. Something that the Pitch sorely lacks. And to say that the Scene blows Ink away in meaningful content is a huge understatement.
In short, the Scene is everything good about the Pitch and Ink, minus the two local publications glaring weaknesses. If SouthComm can work its magic on the Pitch, Kansas City is in store for a major upgrade and Ink a formidable new competitor.
The days of financially viable and healthy print publications may be numbered but the medium is far from dead. And things appear to be on the verge of getting a whole lot more interesting in the world of local alternative news weeklies.