Hearne: 2017 Sucks for The Pitch

“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?

(Original, too.)

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. 

I digress…

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.

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19 Responses to Hearne: 2017 Sucks for The Pitch

  1. paulwilsonkc says:

    Steve was head and shoulders above anyone who’s been on that staff for years.
    Any others currently at The Pitch, shopping their resume at 18th and Grand would be more likely be seeking janitorial and production worker openings.

    • admin says:

      I don’t disagree on Steve except…

      There are/were some other talented people there, Steve was just the marquee player.

      I have it on good authority though that he was not the lone Pitch staffer to try and make the leap to 18th and Grand.

      By the way, Stomper wants to know where you’ve been hiding, column wise

      • Jim a.k.a. BWH says:

        I echo Stomper’s sentiments. What gives, PW?

        • paulwilsonkc says:

          Well, guys, after a poorly implemented acquisition, my branch and 8 others were abruptly close two weeks ago today. So for the first time in 15 years or so, I’m in the job market. I just commented to The Blonde today that I need to write some to offset some stress and anxiety! I may pop up soon.

          And Admin, Steve WAS IT, unless you want to reach back to CJ days.

          • admin says:

            The CJ days so-to-speak were prosperous but far from cutting edge.

            Put another way, lots of ad sales translated into a high page count and certainly more content.

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  2. Kerouac says:

    “Steve Vockrodt” pic

    – nice touch, those Cliff “Charlie Weaver” Arquette suspenders… filed under the category everything old is new again, ditch the specs/add a few decades wear & tear and add a far far left hangover and – VIOLA! – it’s Dan Rather.


  3. The quality of the art on that cover makes oldster Lee Judge over at the Star look like Picasso. Only thing worse is the headline, with all of the depth of thought of a bad Beavis & Butthead episode. Which also had its heyday a couple of decades ago.

  4. Mysterious J says:

    Glad you are not too busy trying to sell cars and dating online to count the pages in The Pitch and recall your glorious history there!

    • admin says:

      And I’m glad MJ wasn’t too busy to waste so much of his time and he did both reading and thinking of something clever and insightful to say about the imminent demise of KC’s leading alternative publication.

      The handwriting’s been on the wall for some time now but when Ferruzza bit the dust last summer it was painfully evident.

      My history at the Pitch was in fact pretty glorious. As in there would have been no Pitch had I not moved it out of a record store basement and convinced the store owner not to fold after selling out to Streetside (which opted not to include the Pitch in the sale).

      However my point was that even in those early formative years – times of great struggle just to establish the Pitch as something halfway credible – we managed to do far better than it now does.

      That in itself is rather shocking and speaks not to my glory but to the current sad state of affairs

  5. John Altevogt says:

    Except now the pathway seems to be leading from 18th and Grand over to the Pitch offices. I used to read The Pitch because it would expose some of the corruption in KCMO government. It actually had the temerity to criticize Democrats and some of the scams and excesses of the metro area establishment, but that seems to be a thing of the past now that Kansas City’s queen of sleaze and handmaiden to corruption is no soiling its pages.

    Now that Shelly is writing for them, The Pitch looks like The Star’s pathetic editorial page when she was writing for it. I’m betting we’ve seen the last critique ever of any leftist organization, or establishment scam with that hag in house.

    • Frank says:

      I’ve always read the pitch to see all the bands with wonderfully odd names that are coming to town…., that and to see what kind of depraved new shi* people are doing to each other on Savage Love.

    • admin says:

      Hey John,
      Good to see you weighing in!
      That pathway from 18th and Grand to the Pitch is one of desperation, as opposed to being anything approaching a legitimate career alternative.
      If seeing your name in print above all else is the game, the Pitch still exists.
      But that’s about it.
      At this stage of the game, the Pitch seems willing to accept just about anything and everything for basically free in the way of writing content.
      Think about it; Barb Shelly is about as alternative as Captain Kangaroo.
      Countermanding the Barb Shelly’s of the world is essentially what the alternative news media rose up to combat.
      Bringing her into the fold waters down what little is left in the way of cutting edge where the Pitch is concerned.

  6. David Nelson says:

    Call me crazy but I used to enjoy Jen Chen and her Night Ranger column. Like many I haven’t picked up a Pitch in years.

    • admin says:

      You’re going waaaaaaaay back in time for Jen Chen, David!

      She had a fun schtick but the expiration date on that single-minded approach could only carry her so far and going clubbing with girlfriends and putting down dudes got old the older she got.

      As I recall she halfway returned and tried dabbling in some different areas but it never really took off.

  7. Laura B. says:

    If The Star and The Pitch used Disqus as their comment management system, they’d find an increase in online page views. Posting comments under real names may be a prudent policy, but it’s ever so much more fun to read the outrageous comments that used to appear under The Star’s articles using Disqus. I’d recommend The Pitch use Disqus instead (along with a solid legal waiver of responsibility for comments).

    • admin says:

      Interesting point, Laura…

      Unfortunately it’s too late to save what’s left of the Pitch, short of a minor miracle.

      And the Star is far too controlling to allow honest, edgy discourse into its pages.

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