Hearne: Pitch Hangs on For Dear Life as Advertising Drys Up

ThePitch_Small_900First a compliment…

I’ve got to hand it to Pitch editor Scott Wilson for cleaning up and breathing content life into the local alternative weekly this past year.

But make no mistake, the Kansas City Star may get all the ink when it comes to sinking ship print pub stories, but times have been equally tough at the Pitch. Which was sold by longtime owner Village Voice Media two years ago this March to a small, Nashville publisher that goes by  SouthComm.

In recent months Wilson has actually been able to add features to the Pitch‘s print pub – where the lion’s share of the zine’s revenue is derived. Instituting a questionaire featuring interviews with interesting locals, a “news” section and theater and art columns. All while battling mightily to keep the wolf away from the door as the paper’s page count has dwindled to next to nothing.

Keith_Negley__The_PitchIn better times the Pitch published upwards of 100 pages and more per issue. Last month – during what is considered to be the most opportune time for advertising – they were lucky to print 40 pages – roughly a third of what they once published.

Then shockingly, this past week the mag put out a 36 page issue.

Worse yet, with a scant 17 pages of what appears to be paid advertising.

“I know,” says one prominent local entertainment advertiser. “I took two or three flips through it and I was already at the dirty ads. Print anything is dead. They may hang on for 10 years but none of them have a future.”

The unfortunate bottom line for the Pitch:

“It’s done, it’s over. I give it two years max. They have no sales people and they’re down to 36 pages. I’ll never advertise with them again and I was one of their biggest advertisers.”


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13 Responses to Hearne: Pitch Hangs on For Dear Life as Advertising Drys Up

  1. paulwilsonkc says:

    Six or seven years ago, and going back 3 or 4 prior to that, I had reason to be in Charleston, WV monthly for several days. Some of the most beautiful mountain hiking and stream trout fishing you can find anywhere here in the lower 48 and I spent a good deal of time doing just that!

    Charleston and the State in general has a very vibrant art and music scene across all genres. Their version of “The Pitch” was and is “Graffiti”. It’s still highly successful though smaller than Pitch.

    I think there are a couple of things you can attribute that to. For one, given the demo out there, most of the people still rely on Graffiti for up to the minute venue and date information on concerts and where the bands are playing. There isn’t the media coverage there is here and local venues don’t have as dominant a space in the internet, so they are still doing well. Great local stories about the legendary political scene and really bizarre stories that can best be put under the headline, “Only in WV!!”.

    Another related reason, in my and only my OPINION, is that when you got to the back of the Graffiti rag, there wasn’t the preponderance of trash ads that there are in the Pitch. I’m not a prude but from about Savage Love on back, it’s a little questionable!

    Maybe one reason Graffiti didn’t take that path to this ad dollars is that market is built IN in parts of West Virginia. There’s simply no need for a Cousins4Cousins or Man4Sheep hook up ads out there! Where the favorite pick up line is “Sis…. you awake?” some things just don’t need advertisement!

    I hate to see it go; but it surely will. I loved some of the investigative things they used to do. CJ had some great stories! But over the last few years, it’s disappeared from where I used to get it. The local Starbucks stopped carrying it. Einstein Bagels dropped it. Why? Customer complaints about the sex ads! I think it hurt them a great deal in recent years. And now, it may be too late for anything to save it, even though I still think print HAS a place still.

    • admin says:

      Paul, in the early 1990s when I was running the Pitch and New Times here and in Lawrence, that was one of the biggest issues both for distribution and for (some) advertisers.

      When the Pitch and New Times were battling it out, I remember the Pitch dropping all of its sex ads to try and get a leg up on the New Times. Once the New Times bit the dust though, the money was too great to pass up and the sex ads were back.

      We routinely got calls from distribution points to stop delivering the Pitch and/or New Times because they had gotten complaints from customers about the ads.

      The Pitch is on such hard luck times today that they obviously feel they can’t afford to drop the ads. They did do a pretty good job of cleaning them up, but…

      I was talking to a former local alt weekly publisher here earlier this week about the low page count and low ad count in the Pitch. And he noted that back when he was doing 36 and 40 page issues there was very little overhead. No high dollar rent offices, no (relatively) highly paid editors and full time staff writers and support staff.

      Back then, most of the hierarchy was working for all but, if not free and the few full time staffers were on minimum wage with zero benefits.

      That’s not the case today and if you saw how suddenly Pitch parent SouthComm pulled the plug on its year-old women’s monthly anything could happen at the Pitch.


      The Her Kansas City staff had just put out their first anniversary issue and held a lavish party to celebrate when the walls came tumbling down.

      The $64 million question is, how long can or will SouthComm be willing to absorb the kind of losses it appears to be suffering.

  2. harley says:

    hearne..youre a pro journalist…please get spell check!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11
    adverising???????????????????????????????? whats that…
    hearne…you make my spelling look great. hahaha

    • admin says:

      Nothing could make your spelling look great, Big Guy

      • harley says:

        sorry hearne…didn’t mean to get your goat. Sorry..
        but come on dude…screwing up the main point of the story
        in a headline and spelling it wrong.
        I’m not a journalist…you are.
        The pitch/new times are so old hat and so beat up.
        move on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
        it’s like wondering whether your cassetttes will ever come back.

        • Tom Little says:

          The term is, get your “goad”, moron. Get the log out of your own eye before you try to get the splinter out of commenters.
          To be so important you’re sure uneducated.

  3. Mysterious J says:

    Oh my god! This is a column about the Pitch in which you FAILED to pat yourself on the back for your history there. Is everything ok, Hearne?

    Meanwhile, when I was interning there in the late 80s you had ZERO to do with the content.

    • admin says:

      Guess again. My title then was executive editor and I wasn’t working with interns but very much did have a limited role in content.

      But you’re talking more mid-late 80s because by 1988 or a little before I was running the show.

  4. Gal says:

    Agree with Mysterious – this is the first time you haven’t mentioned your time at the Pitch. I think you get off when others fail.

    • admin says:

      It’s called journalism, Gal.

      Ever heard of full disclosure? That said after 20 years it’s not like I’m carrying some kind of grudge with people who had absolutely nothing to do with the former ownership and or management of the Pitch.

      Probably the only dude there I had any dealings with was Joel Hornbostel, who was booking bar bands back then!

  5. Zak says:

    Did not see any Glazer stories?

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