Hearne: Pitch Getting Better, Still Struggling with Print Content, Sex Ads

Give it up for The Pitch...

The record store rag I ran and built into an alternative newsweekly was on life support for years before Village Voice (aka New Times) unloaded it last year on some dudes in Nashville named Southcomm.

The betting money being that Southcomm would evolve the aging hippie rag into something fresher, flashier and less formulaic than it had become under its former owners. And that it would go after the upscale advertisers the Star‘s upstart weekly Ink was attracting. Advertisers that wouldn’t advertise in the Pitch at gunpoint.

To do so, the Pitch would need to start dialing more content into its all-important (revenue-producing) print paper, clean up the tacky sex ads in back and start printing on magazine stock instead of newsprint like it does in Nashville.

Well, one out of three ain’t bad – not in baseball anyway.

Just a handful of months back the Pitch was barely getting in a single feature story every issue and its poor editor was stuck writing all the movie reviews. And printing a paltry 40 pages per week (to Ink‘s 56) doesn’t allow much room for news or arts content – or ad revenues for that matter. But it’s looking a little better.

This week’s Pitch, for example, is cleaner, has two stories instead of only one, a bit more music writing and a dialed back sex section.

But while things are looking up at the Pitch, Ink‘s still cleaning its clock in the all-important ad game.

The Pitch is hanging on for dear life to a small handful of syndicated national ads and most of the key local live music bars and concert venues. Meanwhile Ink – though news content light -is loaded with full page ads nowhere to be found in the Pitch. Huge, coveted advertisers like Baron Mini, Starlight Theatre and the KC Royals.

Frankly, having run both the Pitch and a competing local alt weekly, I can tell you that for the Pitch attract big, mainstream advertisers like Ink, it’s going to have to bite a seriously big bullet and banish the dirty business sex ads to the Internet.

It’ll hurt, but in the long run it’s the only answer.

Unfortunately its dialed back print content has already cost the Pitch both eyeballs and money.

And repackaging generic local news stories online won’t pay the Pitch‘s bills.

So it’s a struggle and won’t be easy, but little by little the Pitch is inching the right direction.

Here’s hoping they make it!

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2 Responses to Hearne: Pitch Getting Better, Still Struggling with Print Content, Sex Ads

  1. mike says:

    I wonder how much of a future ant alternative paper has. They seem to be aimed at a younger crowd and younger people prefer the internet. I remember when not only the Pitch did well, there was even another alternative paper called the New Times put out by Steve Glorioso. I think papers like that are in a catch 22. Less content and the advertising and readership drop. More content and the costs go up. Would the extra content actually pay for itself?

  2. Hearne says:

    Funny you should mention it but…
    I named and ran the New Times, sold it and later Glorioso bought in. For like a year before he skee-daddled out amidst a tidal wave of red ink.

    Your question is legit.

    The Pitch appears to be putting most of its resources into its Website but that’s not where the money is. It probably is where the future lies in the long run – if there is a future – but not until they can’t figure out a way to make it pay, which right now it doesn’t.

    The revenues and profits (and overhead) are on the print side – just like at the Star. Meanwhile, everyone is milking the print cow while nursing the Internet baby and hoping and waiting for it to somehow become profitable.

    Tough game. Very tough game.

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