Hearne: The Rise & Fall of INK Magazine

Last one out, turn off the lights…

Forget about the Kansas City Star rescuing what’s left of The Pitch. The beleaguered, former alt weekly threw in the towel last month, but instead of merely curling up and dying, embarked on a path of monthly magazine publication on high quality, coated stock paper.

Fat chance thats gonna work out.

Which leaves INK magazine, the Star’s contribution to what passes for a watered down alt weekly. INK sprang to life during the inopportune year 2008 – a year in which big city newspapers and print publications were already hemorrhaging red ink (speaking of “ink”) and laying off staff by the thousands.

Yet somehow or other, the dudes with the fat paychecks at 18th and Grand calculated that there was money to be made by trying to eat The Pitch’s lunch via a cleaner cut, F word-free weekly.

And for a little while that almost seemed to make sense.

But not for long…

Because while from the get go, INK attracted the kind of advertising The Pitch thirsted for but could never land (mainstream retailers to whom being seen alongside sleazy sex ads was a deal killer), the newsprint format combined with free  distribution rendered profitably unattainable.

So as The Pitch withered away, shrinking from 100 page plus issues, chock full of ads each week, to 32 pages with not enough ads to even justify weekly publication, INK became – as the Star claimed anyway – “Kansas City’s best source for entertainment, lifestyle, food & music options for people in their 20s & 30s.”

Just one problem…

Despite its token online presence, like The Pitch, INK needed those fat revenues print pubs had historically attracted. Rather than the relatively puny ad dollars available online. 

INK’s other big problem was its editorial content never rose above the level of small time fluff. It never shed its baby teeth and waded into the gathering of edgy news and information. Thus outside of kissing up to potential advertisers, there was just no there there.

So what’s left of INK now that The Pitch is history? 

Not much.

While few were paying attention, INK shrank to a meager 24 pages – far less even than The Pitch on its death bed.

Here’s the bottom line: 

INK was destined to doom from the moment of its conception by the folks at 18th and Grand who had just poured like $200 million into the sink hole of a printing press at a time when newspapers were fast becoming dinosaurs.

Because the reality is, hipsters and hipster wannabes in their 20s and 30s are not the ones running around picking up free entertainment weeklies.

Oldsters are the ones who pick up Pitches and INKs. Oldsters who by the way are probably the least likely to saddle up for a Bring Me the Horizon show at the Midland or Xenia Rubinos at RecordBar.

All of that said, there’s nowhere left for INK to go now except out of biz.

That is after the parent company finally wakes up, takes a stern look the mirror and admits that after nine years of red ink and a meager seven pages of ads in a 24 page issue (less than 30 percent, when at least 50 percent is needed to break even), the handwriting’s on the wall.

As for who if anybody will miss INK most, that answer seems obvious:

The entertainment, fashion and arts entities that benefited to whatever extent from its coverage and the 40 and older readers who picked one up from time to time.

And that’s about it, ladies and gentlemen.

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7 Responses to Hearne: The Rise & Fall of INK Magazine

  1. INK needs to realize its audience, and start tailoring itself to the oldsters (like the Star already does). We like ads for things we can use, like funeral parlors, group rate cremations, and graveyard plots. The Yellow Pages can only get us so far anymore.

  2. James G. says:

    Why would anyone take your advice? You haven’t worked in journalism for almost 10 years?

    You don’t seem like you know what’s going on, just a lot of opinions on events to which you are not connected.

    • admin says:

      Do I sense a bit of thin skin, James G?

      Uh, get a clue. I haven’t been out of journalism since 1985.

      Besides, who says I’m trying to advise anyone? I’m reporting and giving an overview of the situations at INK.

      • paulwilsonkc says:

        Ahhh, I pulled out my solar powered calculator. Out for ten years would be 2007. Not ’85.

        • admin says:

          And that, dear readers, is why we pay Paul the truly big bucks…he never strays off topic!

  3. ThePitchWeakly says:

    There once was another alt weekly named “The New Times” ; the main rival of the Pitch.
    It was chalk full of well-researched investigative journalism. When it went under, the Pitch stopped all pretense of being politically relevant. Preferring not to ruffle the feathers of anyone in power. So goodbye Pitch, Star, Ink. And good riddance. Even selling out won’t be enough to keep you afloat.

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