Kansas City’s former alternative newsweekly of record, The Pitch faces a highly uncertain future come April 1st. That’s when the once-venerable entertainment and news pub plans to go from newsprint to coated stock (magazine quality) paper and monthly publication.
Kinda like its big sister zine, The Nashville Scene.
Never mind that this move was reportedly slated to go down six years back when Pitch parent SouthComm Communications made the disastrous decision to take the alt weekly off the hands of Village Voice Media. The Village Voice – under its former name New Times – had bought it from local record store owner named Hal Brody in 1999.
Unfortunately what was left of the Pitch – which at the point that SouthComm bought it – had long been in steady decline. And it continued to shrink in size, revenue and stature, leading up the the recent decision to throw in the towel on weekly publication.
Throughout an extended series of death throes – and even prior to Village Voice taking over – the weekly had wrestled with the whether to keep the several pages of highly profitable cheesy, raunchy sex ads.
At one point the Pitch did away with its sex ads because hurt the mag both in terms of distribution in desirable locations where locals complained and scared off potential advertisers that refused to be associated with that type of content.
However, money was always tight and the sex advertisers were willing to pay top dollar for access to its readership. Kinda like the local strip clubs who used to advertise in the Kansas City Star sports section until publisher Art Brisbane pulled the plug.
It’s like this, not only does sex sell, it pays quite well.
However in the case of the Pitch, it cost them dearly in advertisers who refused to be associated with things like it’s parent company’s controversial “Backpage” sex ads.
The Pitch dropped the ads a few years back prior to “the release of a blistering report from a Senate panel charging that Backpage.com systematically edits its escort ads, filtering out words that would suggest the site was promoting the sex trafficking of children,” according to a January story in USA Today.
However starting in 2011 the damage was done.
All of that said, in the Pitch’s hey days of 100 page plus issues weekly, the pub could get by without the big gun advertisers that turned up their noses at the sex ads and columns. And they could still manage to choke out tens of thousands of issues each week in enough locations to cover Greater Kansas City and Lawrence sans the businesses that would not allow them to be distributed there.
Of course, all of that’s out the window as the Pitch hangs by a thread.
Its profits are long since in the rearview mirror and short of going toes up, the move to monthly smacks of desperation.
Upscale monthly publications are entirely different animals than alt weeklies.
For one thing, they have to charge a lot more money to cover the decreased publishing schedule and higher printing costs. And businesses like Stanford’s Comedy Club may not be willing to pay as much as four times the money for a small ad.
In addition, printing reportedly 10,000 to 15,000 issues pales in comparison to numbers upwards of 50,000 in days gone by.
So will the Pitch exorcise its sex ads and column in its new monthly?
Hey, they’d better!