It’s no secret that news light as it is, Ink magazine is kicking the Pitch‘s butt…
That after only three years on the scene to the Pitch‘s 30-plus. Things had gotten so bad at the Pitch last year that after years of trying to dump it, its former out-of-town parent finally unloaded it on the publisher of the Nashville Scene alt weekly.
When I interviewed former Pitch publisher Hal Brody a few months later, he was shocked to learn his former pub was barely choking out 40-page issues. Meanwhile, Ink was knocking back 56-pagers – 40 percent larger than the now lowly Pitch.
So what does Ink have that the Pitch doesn’t?
Let’s examine the two pubs – and the Nashville Scene – through the eyes of a 30-something, female marketing director who asked not to be named.
"When I read through the Pitch the ads appear geared towards a particular audience," she says. "And I don’t want to be associated with advertisers touting random hookups, drugs, bankruptcy and being poor. Ink doesn’t have the sleazy ads in the back like the Pitch. When you get through reading the Pitch you feel a little bit dirty."
"Like the Pitch has a full-page ad for three DVDs for $9.99 from Cirilla’s – as if I want to make a beeline to Cirilla’s to buy some porn."
"You know, if your audience is male, I guess that’s fine. I used to identify more with the content of the Pitch because of the music, but there’s not as much music in there these days."
Now let’s take a closer look at Ink…
"I kinda like it," the marketing director says. "It has short snippets that are pretty digestible."
The $64 million question being, is it hip?
"No, I wouldn’t use the word hip, but I think it’s somewhat relevant and useful," she says. "And I think it skews older – 35 plus. It’s a lot more mainstream than the Pitch."
Which brings us to the Nashville Scene, the Pitch parent’s flagship alt weekly.
"It blows both Ink and the Pitch away," the marketing director says. "It’s hipper than Ink and there’s not a ton of nasty sex in it – the ads that are there are relatively tasteful. It looks nicer because of the coated stock paper and all the color. It combines the best of both worlds in a taasteful way."
When the Scene publisher purchased the Pitch last year, it was assumed it would clear the decks and transform it into a cleaner, hipper, far more upscale alt weekly.
Well, the decks got cleared alright, and the Pitch has been limping along on a skeleton staff for months with very few pages and even less content. And while it’s been cleaned up a bit, it’s still haunted by the trashy advertisers it’s long wrestled with.
Trust me, this is nothing new.
From its earliest days in the mid- to late 1980s when I ran the Pitch, the sex ads have been a struggle.
We would set up new distribution points around the city to increase our reach only to get phone calls from the new businesses asking us to remove our racks because they’d had customer complaints about the sex ads.
At times when the Pitch and New Times battled for supremacy, one publication or the other would refuse to take sex ads to try and claim the higher ground. However in the end, the money was just too substantial to leave on the table. And when Star publisher Art Brisbane did away with strip club ads in the sports section they had almost nowhere else to go other than radio.
What’s more the Nashville Scene trumps both the Pitch and Ink for real deal content.
It’s got six more columns than the Pitch, ranging from art and theater to sports. At 56 pages, the Scene delivers both content and hipness in an upscale manner, sans the sleaze factor. What few sex ads it has are discreet.
The question being, can the dudes in Nashville turn things around in KC with largely the same guys running the show here (with the exception of the better writers and reporters who have either fled or were fired)?
They’re not exactly making it look easy…