Hearne: New, Improved Pitch — All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

Screen Shot 2016-04-27 at 7.14.54 AMSeen the vastly improved Pitch website lately?

Not too shabby for a dying news and entertainment medium. Seriously, keeping the grim reaper at bay for print publications these days is no easy task. Especially when you’re giving away the principle product free-of-charge.

Even big city newspapers like the Kansas City Star that have the luxury of extorting readers for hundreds of dollars each year while offering less and less news product are fighting a losing battle to stave off the red ink.

When the mighty Boston Phoenix bit the dust two years ago – one of the nations top alt-weeklies – it was losing more than $1 million a year, was $1.2 million in debt with only $500,000 in assets and wasn’t even able to sell the publication to try and cover part of that debt.

Not a good sign.

The Pitch on the other hand never came close to approaching the profitability of the Phoenix in its hey day. Although it wasn’t that many years back that 100 plus page issues were the norm, where today the pub is lucky to choke out 36 pages with a small fraction of the advertisers it once enjoyed.

The problem being that the lion’s share of the Pitch’s revenues are derived from it’s fading fast print product, with but a tiny fraction coming from it’s s striking new (and likely better read) website.

The bottom line: It’s all about logistics.

dogandhoodedFor example, when a reader snags a print Pitch – while taking a break at a local eatery or watering hole – in a perfect world, he or she will browse through it, turning the pages while scanning for something of interest with the potential of seeing each and every ad.

That enabled the Pitch to offer a wide variety of advertisers – hundreds of them – the prospect of being seen by tens of thousands of eyeballs in return for their ad bucks.

That’s the way it used to be and that’s why 100-plus page Pitch issues were not unusual.

However with far fewer halfway younger readers picking up print Pitches, far fewer advertisers are willing to  ante up because they’re not seeing anywhere near the results that they once were before the readers migration to online.

Worse yet, far fewer ads are being seen online because readers no longer thumb through the entire Pitch product like they did with print, they simply scan the online headlines and pick and choose which ones interest them.

The problem being that the Pitch can only glom a very few ads onto each online page, the result being that far fewer advertiser’s ads are being displayed and seen.

For example, a small Westport or Brookside boutique that maybe could only afford a small ad got significantly more exposure in the print Pitch but is all but, if not totally lost online.

This isn’t something g unique to the Pitch, by the way.

Have you seen the Star’s website with those ubiquitous, annoying pop up ads?

It’s a losing battle.

So kudos to the gang at the Pitch for fighting the good fight. Maybe one day – and it better be soon – somebody will figure out a new formula for online advertising success.

Until that day, the buzzards will continue to circle and what’s left of its massively diminished staff will continue to work on their resumes while contemplating uncertain futures.

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19 Responses to Hearne: New, Improved Pitch — All Dressed Up, Nowhere to Go

  1. CG says:

    Hearne, Stanford’s has been a Pitch advertiser forever, decades. It was a popular Westport midtown piece of work. Hell me and Stan were on the cover several times over the years. Stanford’s acts were often played up and talked about as were other venues. Today it’s much different. Less stories and much briefer mentions of entertainment venues and stories about them. I always fear our ads are just not seen by that many readers anymore. I also don’t know if Overland Park is a big Pitch area as midtown had been. Yet we stick with them.

    I think as you have reported often on this site, print media is just uphill these days.

    • Frank says:

      I’ve read stories over the years about local entertainment venues. Ohhhhh! You mean more stories about you and Stanfords with more pictures of you on the cover. I haven’t seen much of that lately. Yes there is usually an advertisement in the middle somewhere about upcoming acts, but no picture of you or a story to go along with the ad. Those incompetent bastards.

    • Harley the Great says:

      jezus glaza…another old story about old happenings and old
      Here’s the facts….all media are having to overcome changes.
      TV/radio/print/even the internet is having to change it’s
      news and advertising.
      Your ads are so small in the pitch they don’t stand out.
      Comics you once could afford are out of your price range now.
      You’re in a different market now…fighting all the other entertainment
      options and getting destroyed by the royals.
      Your advertising is 20 years old….being on those radio stations that
      still let you in the door are losing audiences quickly. You can
      think you’re reaching thousands but many of those could care less
      about comedy when with certain streaming programs people can get
      12 comedy channels.
      Yeah ….yeah….yeah…..weget your schpiel….but your stories are as old
      and dated as dinosaurs in today’s society.

  2. Kyle R says:

    I have a hard time seeing how the print news medium will survive unless they are able to adopt a NPR-like model. People will have to come to the realization that the news is a service worth paying something for, regardless of blogs, social media and other online sources. The thing people forget about all that is that, behind most of the blogs, social posts, etc., there’s still a news story that gives out the basic information expanded on by other people later.

    Without that, we’re all misinformed.

    As far as The Pitch, they are indeed doing good work, especially the reporting from Steve Vockrodt and others. Great investigative work not being done elsewhere.

    • admin says:

      Well said, Kyle…

      Unfortunately people like Steve V are going to have to land a far bigger paycheck than the Pitch can muster or he likely won’t be there much longer.

  3. Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

    “Even big city newspapers like the Kansas City Star that have the luxury of extorting readers for hundreds of dollars each year…..”

    I get my KC Star 7 days a week for about $90/year. Somewhere around $.25/day.

    Is it the newspaper it was 10 or 15 years ago? Of course not. But…..it’s a quarter a day!! My expectations aren’t that high at that price.

    Extorted? Oh, please.

    • Do Da Do Da says:

      You must be an ex-employee with a discounted rate. Even someone who’s had a sub. for years doesn’t get off that cheaply.

      • Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

        Just a regular Joe with a computer…….


        • Alphonse Tooty says:

          $94 for 26 weeks, so more like $.50/day … still cheap.

          • admin says:

            You may be just a “regular guy” with a computer, Jim aka BWH, but your mathematical and reading skills are horrendous!

            For starters your link cites a 26 week rate. So you’re off by at least half (or double).

            However, if you read the somewhat fine print, you’ll see that after the 26 week honeymoon is up, the rate skyrockets to $11 a week.

            That’s extortion, one definition of which is “excessive price.”

    • admin says:

      Let’s do a little math, Jim…

      So you are paying less than half the least expensive published Star subscription rate.

      Good for you, but most people are paying more than double that rate…for substantially less news and information than a scant handful of years ago.

  4. Frank says:

    “Worse yet, far fewer ads are being seen online because readers no longer thumb through the entire Pitch product like they did with print, they simply scan the online headlines and pick and choose which ones interest them.”

    I’ve got an idea Hearne, how about a pop up ad which forces the readers eyes on an ad, if just for a second?

    “Have you seen the Star’s website with those ubiquitous, annoying pop up ads?”

    Nevermind. Let’s face it, without an annoying pop up ad that forces a reader to see it until they figure out where the little x is to make it disappear, readers aren’t gonna look at ads online or in print unless they have the intention to look for an ad at outset of looking at the paper or online media.

  5. JP says:

    Interesting article. Some tough headwinds for news journalism.

    Perhaps journalism can look to music for what the new normal may look like. The music biz is pretty much over as a thriving industry with room for tens of thousands of journeyman, middle class jobs. Those that are still in it are either deluded about their prospects or are in the “labor of love” mindset that most musicians had before the 1930s.

    There is talk of a form of “micropayments” for news on the internet, say a few cents per article, that would monetize good journalism. Like a toll road pass, you just pay $100 into a fund and read all you want and each publisher gets a small fee. Would it be enough to add up to something worthwhile? I am pessimistic.

    One other approach that might work is to bundle a dozens or hundreds of newspapers and magazines into a single subscription, so that a wider audience is willing to pay for an annual price for an all-you-can-read option. Maybe the major publication owners could figure something out along these lines.

    As it stands now, I don’t see how even the NY Times will continue on as a large business from their digital publication. So far it doesn’t seem that any of them are making comparable money from online paywalls and advertising.

  6. lee says:

    I pick up the Pitch at the library every week. I love Charles Feruzza’s restaurant reviews because he covers smaller establishments the Star never used to. And once a month or so, their cover story is really fascinating with a subject I was totally unaware of.

    Well worth the effort to pict it up.

  7. paulwilsonkc says:

    I’ve had coffee with Steve Vockrodt a couple times, once with Mayor Sly at The Filling Station. For my money, he’s a rock star in local news and a writers writer. Not to mention, just an all round good guy.
    I still grab a Pitch to scan the music section. Sure, you can scour the inter webs and find it too, but the Pitch does a nice job in a compact area of who’s coming and when.

    • the dude says:

      For some reason Steve seems to be the only guy writing muckraking articles these days. Der star is more worried about add revenue and new ways to justify keeping Hoopz employed. What a fustercluck.

    • Harley the Great says:

      BFD! I met President Bill Clinton and spoke with him for 20 minutes at the
      carpenters union.

  8. Harley the Great says:

    I can tell you this. The star will survive. Right now 2/3 of their revenues are
    coming from print and 1/3 are coming from digital. I look for digital to explode
    once more business people understand the transition taking place and once
    the kc staffs are at full strength.
    The things they (the star) are able to do digitally are far beyond anything any other
    digital company can do in this country.

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