“This Week Sucks!”
Talk about ominous headlines. That’s the cover blurb that graced the January 19 to 25 issue of Kansas City’s alt weekly The Pitch.
Full disclosure: the accompanying cover art was a cartoon illustration of Donald Trump holding up a President of the United States pillow.
Funny stuff, right?
Who said the mainstream news media doesn’t mostly march in lockstep anymore?
Because when it comes to Trump and liberal issues of the day, you can pretty much count on alternative rags like The Pitch to mirror the thinking of “mainstream” news outlets like the Kansas City Star.
About the only thing halfway alternative about The Pitch these days are its use of the F word, the tasteless sex ads at the back and the odd criticism of the local newspaper for not being hard enough on Trump.
That said, the irony of putting a headline “This Week Sucks” to the right of The Pitch masthead is that given the paltry financial performance of the newsweekly – a mere 32 pages of content, less than 13 pages of which in paid ads – financially speaking, the week really did suck for The Pitch‘s bottom line.
Look January is a slow month for ad sales, but when you have however few remaining mouths to feed – as in Pitch editorial and sales staffers – and you’re performing at these paltry levels, how long can you survive?
It’s no secret that major metropolitan daily newspapers and freebie alt weeklies have struggled mightily for survival in the Internet era.
However in the case of the Star, at least it can squeeze a couple hundred bucks a year out of its waning print subscriber base and a handful of million more from Internet ad sales and paid readership.
That’s nowhere near enough of course to keep the ship of state afloat without hemorrhaging staff month in and month out. Not much more than 10 years ago the Star had a staff of more than 2,000. I’d be surprised today if it was much if any over 400 (or less).
Ladies and gentlemen, those are French Revolution numbers.
Back to The Pitch.
Ten short years ago the alt weekly was putting out 100 plus page issues chock full of ads. Yet even then, it wasn’t a cakewalk and profitability was elusive. But at least it was promising.
When I ran The Pitch in its post record store rag formative years, we set the weekly bar at a minimum of 50 percent of the pages in paid ads. And 40 page issues and well over were commonplace.
It’s “This Week Sucks” issue featured maybe a weak 39 percent in paid ads (at gosh knows what kind of discounted rates).
And don’t look to the Pitch’s website for much in the way of relief. Because by far and away the lion’s share of its ad revenues are to be found in the dying print pub that fewer and fewer of its so-called younger readership even picks up anymore.
The sad reality being, The Pitch is fighting a losing battle with few remaining full time paid staffers, most of whom are out shopping their resumes at 18th and Grand and elsewhere, like departed former top gun Steve Vockrodt.
For many – perhaps most – of those once young guns, their futures in the news media may be approaching an end. Which while sad, is an all too likely eventuality, with far larger alternative weeklies like The Boston Phoenix long since six feet under.
So yeah, in some respects Donald Trump does suck…but so does dying on the vine one miserable week after another.