Hearne: Can Local Saviors Save The Pitch?

Looks like it’s back to square one time for the alternative magazine formerly known as Pitch Weekly...

The circa 1980s record store rag is circling the wagons (and possibly the drain) under its spanking new fourth owner, while mounting a desperate attempt to make it through the most difficult business conditions the Pitch has ever faced in its more than 30 years of publishing.

Just how bad off are things now that former owner Nashville-based SouthComm has bailed after seven money-losing years?

Here’s longtime Pitch writer / newly appointed editor David Hudnall‘s take in his inaugural column:

“The bad news is that local media is a very difficult place to turn a buck. Over the last decade, Craigslist, Google, and Facebook have essentially destroyed the business model of publications like ours. We’re working with pretty limited resources over here.”

Not a pretty pic.

Even the deep pocketed Kansas City Star has struggled mightily (and unsuccessfully) with those same circumstances for decades. Unfortunately the Pitch is unlikely to have anywhere near that kind of time to figure out how to turn its red ink into black.

Which is a sad prospect for the city of Kansas.

If the current issue’s any indication, they’ve got their work cut out.

With only 48 pages in the January issue – 18 of which appear to be paid ads (with two of those looking suspiciously like trade rather than cash) – the Pitch is a long way from the 24 to 29 ad pages needed to – as Hudnall put it – to “turn a buck.”

Two other significant things worth noting: the core area nightclub and concert ads that have been the editorial and financial backbone of the Pitch lo these many years have all but disappeared. And trust me, that one really hurts.

The new owners need to pull out all the stops to try and lure them back into the fold if they hope to, again as Hudnall says, “continue to do all the same stuff we have always done.”

The thing the Pitch needs to stop doing that they always have is lose the half page of tacky sex ads in the mag’s calendar section.

Won’t be easy.

When you’re starving for cash it’s hard to turn away from your highest paying advertisers.

Advertisers that cause squeamish suburban moms to complain to retailers about distributing the Pitch in their shops and reataurants. And that make upscale advertisers like Tivol adverse to being seen in a zine that caters to low brow sex ads hawking telephone “playmates” and the “hottest gay chat.”

Running those cheesy ads is not a first amendment issue or hip thing to do. They need to go…perhaps to the Pitch’s website alongside “butt plug” loving columnist Dan Savage’s graphic sex columns.

So yeah, turning things around at the Pitch won’t be easy and chances are its 40-something owners have bitten off far more than they can chew…just as Village Voice Media and SouthComm did before.

That said, let’s give credit where credit is due…

In all likelihood the new Pitch owners are in it for the right reasons.

It’s highly unlikely they jumped into this unfortunate fray to “get rich quick.”

And giving them the benefit of the doubt, maybe,  just maybe  they know something no one else in the free alt weekly publishing world knows, and if they can figure it all out things will be magical.

There certainly are plenty of ways to improve the Pitch journalistically. To that end, let’s hope that Hudnall’s wrong about his new bosses having “no interest in changing” and continuing “to do all the same stuff ” they’ve always done.

This is hardly a case of if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

While turning things around won’t be easy, they can begin by further updating the online info box that shows Hudnall as the new editor but continues to list a weekly circulation of 45,000 copies “as of January 2011” and the owner as Village Voice Media (the company that tricked SouthComm into buying it seven years back.)

Best of luck guys…break a leg!

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13 Responses to Hearne: Can Local Saviors Save The Pitch?

  1. whitten pell says:

    well said…..

  2. CG says:

    Boy the world has changed with social media and the written word is fading, so sad…I always enjoyed THE PITCH…they often did stories on my father, me, Stanfords, Westport and related items over the years. They usually treated us well, not always but overall I think they had some good weeks of work. I wish them well.

    • admin says:

      I’m not so sure the written word is fading as much as the landscape for printed-on-paper publications is under siege.

      In days gone by – even as recently as a dozen years ago, daily newspapers were making money hand over fist.

      No mas.

      There are still profits to me made online, but they pale by comparison to what they were before. Thus Hudnall’s confession about how bleak things are at the Pitch of today.

      The flip side of that coin is that life goes on and just as companies like Sears and Barnes & Noble appear to be fast heading towards becoming extinct the dissemination of news and information will find an alternative delivery mechanism.

      In the meantime there’ll be no shortage of economic carnage.

      Like I said however, maybe the Pitch’s new owners will come up with a new game plan and live happily ever after.

      Let’s hope so.

      If not, life goes on…

  3. KCMO reader says:

    Happy birthday, Hearne.
    You failed to mention that you used to work there.
    So bitter and critical.

    • admin says:

      Geez KCMO, thin skinned?

      What’s so sad about taking an analytical look at what’s left of the Pitch?

      What is sad, is the sad state of affairs, outlined in part by new editor Hudnall.

      And let me get this straight, you think it’s like some sort of secret that I built up and ran the Pitch in its key formative years, converting it from record store rag to alt weekly?

      Oh and this just in, I used to work at the Star, too. Full disclosure, right?

  4. Boom Boom says:

    who cares. just an old rag magazine in beat up old boxes downtown that no one
    reads except glaze who needed a date. Now he reads backpage. hahahaha!

    • admin says:

      Bad as things are, it’s not quite that bad, Boom Boom…

      I personally believe there’s still room for an alternative news voice – and not just bloggers tossing it out unsubstantiated rumors and innuendo.

      Guess we’ll see.

  5. admin says:

    Long as we’re on the subject, here’s the thing about most journalists who inhabit media glass houses such as the Pitch and Star: They can dish it out, but they are totally thin-skinned and more often than not can’t take it.

    Two prime examples; former Pitch editor C.J. Janovy and former Star editor Mark Zieman.

    Kinda comes with the turf…

    • Boom Boom says:

      yes sir hearne….lots of space for alternative real news to fight
      back against the under the table dealings going on now.
      But lets be honest…noone cares.
      Unless you’re governor of missour!!!!!!! hhhaaaaahhhhaaaaahaaha

  6. The Guy Who Knew Too Much says:

    Why does it even matter? Print news is dead. Alt weeklies are positively decomposing. What is the upside in trying to save The Pitch?

    • admin says:

      Good question, Guy…

      My take is that society benefits by having disciplined news reporting rather that just bloggers spewing rumors and anything that crosses their minds.

      Truth be known, with some exceptions the Pitch never truly realized the potential of more evolved and sophistication alternatives weeklies like St. Louis’s Riverfront Times.

      By the way, RFT has also struggled and was sold to new owners in 2015 but appears to be doing far better than the Pitch, in no small part because of its far superior reporting and entertainment writing.

      Check it out!

  7. Boom Boom says:

    Hey hearne….the now governor of mo blindfolded his mistress and took pics of her
    to blackmail her about their extra marital relationship the guv had with her.
    That sounds juicy.
    Get your #1 hound….wislon on that story because he has all the “inside” news
    on everything.
    Blindfolded…..nude…..blackmail….now this is going to get interesting because
    that jew boy greitens should never have been elected.
    I think as the last bastion of investigative news in kc you should handle this
    yourself…..would love to see how this “fans” out for the guv.
    I starting to think that glaze ain’t the only one messing around in kc.ahahaha
    what a great story you culd have.
    This will be bigger than the ufo’s and big antenna story you printed a year ago!!!!!

    • Guy Who Says What Others Think says:

      Just when you think this idiot has hit rock bottom, he pulls out a pick-axe and begins to dig. Anti-semitic phrases now. Congrats Hearne. You’ve allowed this nonsense.

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