Hearne: Will the Pitch Dump Sex Ads?

Whaddaya think?

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!

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4 Responses to Hearne: Will the Pitch Dump Sex Ads?

  1. paulwilsonkc says:

    If so, this demands a follow up story with regard to its affect on your dating life.

  2. Tom Sawyer says:

    I’m surprised that sex ads are so lucrative when there are absolutely free advertising outlets available on places like craigslist. My guess is that without the sex ads that “The Pitch” is gone in less than a year.

    • admin says:

      Interesting point…

      That said, while there are any number of outlets for sex ads, for what it’s worth the Pitch has an established record that its advertisers can draw upon to determine value.

      Which may or may not continue to work given a likely reduced circulation and entirely different form of delivery.

      Frankly, they’re gonna need a ton of new advertisers to remain afloat and they’re going to have to take the Pitch’s word on how the new readership will unfold.

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