In the achy breaky world of newspaper publishing Sunday is payday…
That’s the day that pays the bills. And in Kansas City, the Sunday Star is far and away the most important day of the week. Which explains why susbscribers have been inundated in recent months with pleadings and discount deals to buy extra copies. Get one for the wife and maybe one for the kids. That’s also why both Star Groupon deals have zeroed-in on discount deals to bump the Sunday circulation.
That’s also why the Star cut a deal a few years back with local rival the Indpendence Examiner.
"Receive a Sunday Kansas City Star with your Examiner home delivery subscription," reads the come-on at the Examiner‘s Web site. Subscribers to both the Olathe News and Lee’s Summit Journal get free Sunday Star’s as well.
And with between 70 and 80 percent of newspaper revenues coming from advertising, those fat, chocked full of pullout ad Sunday Star‘s are where the action totally is.
How important is the Sunday Star?
When I interviewed former Star publisher Art Brisbane two years back he characterized the Sunday Star "as the single most profitable part of the paper…it’s overwhelmingly the most profitable part of the paper."
Of late, the Star has been touting stories in its Sunday edition in its weekday papers, trying to elevate it to the status of the New York Times Sunday edition.
Fat chance, on closer examination the Sunday Star has a long way to go to attain that status.
Yesterday’s Star, for example, had only two stories on its front page.
One about flooding in Elwood, Kansas last summer, the other questioning whether news coverage hurts the economy.
Not exactly must reads….
Meanwhile, in the Local section, a Charles Gusewelle column hearkened back to a childhood friendship in the 1930s. That was 80 years ago. Add to that a massive photo of a children’s Halloween parade, a short about "foreign policy (being) discussed in Kansas City," the winning lottery numbers, a puff piece about a breast cancer run in Platte Coiunty, some filler stories from syndicated news sources like the Associated Press, the obituaries and a shitload of ads.
In other words, nothing really compelling that you couldn’t get elsewhere or live without.
Now I’m going to let you in on a secret and tip off the Star on how it might elevate its Sunday paper to can’t miss status:
Put some boots on the ground on Saturday and try and come up with more actual news stories besides a handful of shorts and a grain elevator explosion in Atchison. And here’s why.
Because for years the Star has fielded an increasingly skeleton weekend news staff. It’s a ghost town down there.
Try getting a live body on Saturday or Sunday and you’ll see what I mean. The weekend shifts are assembled largely on a lottery system and as often as not you end up with a reporter from news, business or FYI being sent out to cover something mundane like a charity race, barbecue contest, etc.
Filler stories, essentially.
Many sections are printed days in advance of Sunday. Sports is the one place where actual news content can be found. But inspite of what KU and Chiefs fans may think, it’s actually one of the lower read sections in most newspapers.
A Readership Institute survey of 37,000 consumers placed overall sports readership at 44 percent, just ahead of education at 43 and well behind obituaries at 64 and "Government, war, politics, international" at 53 percent.
For the record, the highest read columns in the Star – until three years ago more often than not were mine and/or that of Jason Whitlock. And those were generally in the low 30s. As in a third of Star readers read our columns.
So here’s my advice to the Star:
Stop beating around the news bush and field a legitimate team of reporters and editors on weekends.
You know, pretend news happens seven days a week,instead of just five. After all, the readers are paying for seven. And if you’re going to try and showcase investigative and/or major feature stories, try and make sure they matter.
What happened in Elwood last summer and a massive, front-page pic of a too cute baby chick in an old-fashioned reporter’s hat, staring at a giant egg doesn’t cut it.
Then again, maybe it’s just me..