Hearne: Looking For Real Deal Media Bloodbath? Try The Pitch v. Ink

Forget trivial Tweets by second string radio flunkies, we’re talking survival of the fittest…

The death dance between three decade-old alt weekly the Pitch and three year-old, ad rag Ink is as serious as it gets. The battle lines are drawn, no slap fights here. These two publications are fighting for their lives

In no small part because both are mired in the money-losing world of newsprint – which Tony likes to remind us is a dinosaur industry.  And neither may actually be in the black – not if a hardcore breakdown of costs, expenses and revenues were laid bare. The Pitch has been a money-loser and up for sale at a fire sale price for years, its founding publisher revealed earlier this year on KC Confidential.

Ink on the other hand has long been rumored – both internally at the Star and externally – to be subsidized by the newspaper. Offering sweetheart deals to Star advertisers and freebie promotional ads to concert promoters and the like to prop up the content-weak weekly.

But then Nashville-based SouthComm – publisher of the high gloss Nashville Scene – bailed Village Voice Media out of the Pitch by purchasing the Kansas City weekly three months back. Initiating a wave of optimism in what remained of the Pitch‘s ranks.

There were promotions for survivors and hopes that the pub would take a less tragically hip, more mainstream, upscale approach to journalism. Rather than what had long been an embittered, hippie hand-me-down with a concert calendar with a great food section.

So far, so good...

The Pitch‘s new look is cleaner, its copy more newsy, less caustic. The only thing missing is the coated stock, magazine-style paper (versus newsprint) of SouthComm’s Nashville Scene.

And since the Star prints the Pitch, a possible double bummer appears to be in store.

Because not only will Ink be up against a more formidable opponent if the Pitch goes glossy, the Star would lose one of the best printing customers at its $250 million, still-for-sale print facility.

Meanwhile back in the trenches – let’s take a look at the two pubs head-to-head – the 6/23 Pitch vs the 6/22 Ink.

As usual, Ink beats the pants off the Pitch in page count with a healthy 56 to the Pitch’s paltry 40.

Now let’s follow the all-important money…

On the surface, the Pitch has 26 1/2 pages of ads or 66 percent of its pages in advertising. That’s good. Ink has 30 1/2 pages of ads, but that’s only 54 percent.

But don’t be misled…

The Pitch has 4 1/2 pages of promo ads. Meaning it’s likely hemmoraging red ink with only 40 percent of its pages bringing in any actual cash.

Ink is a bit murkier...

It appears to have only two pages of promo ads and far more upscale advertisers like the Plaza, Baron BMW and Tivol.

However, it has 10 pages of "classifieds" – which even its parent, the Star doesn’t come close to matching. Not since classified ads fled newsprint after the dot com bubble burst of 2003/2004.

The $64 million question being how many of those 10 pages are actually paid for and at what rate? And how many are combo’d with the Star and/or kansascity.com?

So the chances are slim that they’re full blown, paid ads.

In other words, neither of these modern day dinos are likely to actually be in the chips when it comes to the actual bottom line.

As for content – as usual – the Pitch wins hands down.

Readers are lucky to get a single, halfway decent feature story in each Ink to go with its inconsequential array of mostly photos, news shorts, ads and filler.

The Pitch at least provides content that matters with more serious features and columnists that count like foodie Charles Ferruzza and David Martin. But with writers like Nadia Pflaum bailing for more stable paychecks and fewer and fewer pages, it looks like it’s fighting a losing battle…in print anyway.

Which unfortunately is where most of the ad revenue is derrived from.

So, you know, stay tuned…

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12 Responses to Hearne: Looking For Real Deal Media Bloodbath? Try The Pitch v. Ink

  1. Rainbow Man says:

    why they both suck
    mansfield’s contrived masthead signature page with love of cats and predictable liberal icons and the pitch will never recover from the boulevard brewery piece a few years ago… bob sullivan has a long memory.

  2. bschloz says:

    Bring back the 90’s
    Nice Post– I love that the Star prints Pitch, and Steve Rose draws a paycheck at The Star?
    I’ll bet Tom Leathers would’ve had a kick-ass blog and twitterami.

  3. g says:

    Like watching a train wreck
    I publish/own a monthly thats doing just fine thank you. Watching these two rags battle it out in a pool of red ink is not just interesting but enjoyable. They are not above doing anything to make a little money- including Ink directing their distributor to remove and destroy copies of my magazine at the places that would not allow them distribution. Really. I have the emails to prove it, including the ones sent by a KCStar employee from his KCStar acct. . But the point I really want to make is that newsprint “business” isn’t the issue here….its the yahoos running those two businesses. No Content. Deeply discounting ad space. Kicking the competition. all ingredients for a recipe of disaster.

  4. smartman says:

    INK has the feel of a really bad high school paper. That anyone, and I mean ANYONE at The Star could be proud of that product on any level speaks volumes about the lack of vision and leadership in that organization.

    Unfortunately our once sweet Cowtown has engourged itself with a thriving population of Heidi and Spencer wanna be’s which methinks could be a calling card for an Anthony family relocation. Hopefully Kansas will offer appropriate incentives and ensconce them in JOCO where they will fit it quite well.

  5. Hmmmm.... says:

    What monthy?
    G – just curious what monthly publication you own? You’re proud enough to mention it but not tell us what it is?

  6. tacitus says:

    ranbow man ?
    Ranbow Man – Can you tell me what pitch story you’re referring to?

  7. Really? says:

    Seems like they’ve made up
    The Pitch and Boulevard are co-sponsoring the Westport Food Truck Festival and The Pitch just recently ran a cover story called Beer Town that was pretty complimentary toward Boulevard.

  8. Hearne Christopher says:

    C.J & Nadia are gone. The new, out-of-town owner dude seems like a decent sort. Why wouldn’t they make up?

  9. Rainbow Man says:

    It was an 06 or 07 cover feature and it was pretty bad. If you Google away you should be able to find it. Unless they paid to bury it in the search engine plethora.

    If BLVD decided to make up… good for them and I respect them for that. I am surprised. Many wouldn’t.

    Yes… the most recent article must have consummated the reconciliation.

    Sully must be mellowing.

  10. Rainbow Man says:

    it still doesn’t mean the Pitch has recovered…. I know BLVD has..

  11. Sooo.... says:

    What’s your deal
    Sounds like your the one with a beef against The Pitch, Rainbow Man. I’m a fan of Blvd and The Pitch and wish them both well.

  12. Rainbow Man says:

    no personal beef
    No… I have no personal issue with The Pitch… I still think Feruzza is the best… I used to LOVE The Pitch…. I looked forward to Wednesday/Thursdays. But the quality of the publication has just gradually eroded into nothing. It is terrible. And Ink is so contrived it makes me ill… No… it is not personal..The Pitch can win me back over. I still pick it up. It still sucks… This week… a guy that babysits reptiles…. No real issues being covered.

    But… that butcher job they did on BLVD was so out of touch and ridiculous that it showed me how untalented they were. They need to win me over. Sorry…. I am with you… But they are the drunk uncle at the Baptism right now.

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