Alt-Weeklies Attract Influential Readers

Everybody knows someone who is a step ahead of everybody else when it comes to culture. They always seem to know about the cool band or the hot book first.

Jonathan Berry of the research firm Roper ASW refers to these people as “influentials.” They represent the 10 percent of the population that influences the other 90 percent. In a seminar for publishers and ad reps at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention in San Antonio June 25, Berry said courting the influentials could be the key to increasing the bottom line for alternative weeklies. For his presentation, Berry drew on a study that Roper did at the request of AAN and two groups that sell advertising for alternative weeklies, AWN and The Ruxton Group.

“The influentials are people that show up for things,” Berry said. “They are passionate about culture. And four in 10 of them read an AAN newspaper every week.”

Berry said the perfect example of an influential is Austin Chronicle Editor Louis Black, who was responsible for bringing director John Sayles to the AAN convention.

“That’s the way influentials work: by having a range of different experiences that you can draw on to help a friend,” Berry said.

Following Berry’s presentation, Philadelphia City Paper Publisher Paul Curci moderated a session that taught ad reps how to use the results of the Roper study to sell ads in particular categories. Curci served as AAN Marketing Committee chair until his term expired at the end of the convention.

The 160 people who attended the workshop, “Positioning and Selling Your Paper’s Influence,” divided into groups, each of which tackled one of 15 questions about how to talk to advertisers about influentials. Learning more about alt-weekly readers’ role as culturally active and well-traveled opinion leaders could persuade airlines, performing arts centers and landlords who own property near nightlife that they’ll reach their desired audience by advertising in alt-weeklies.

AAN members can find the executive summary of the study on influentials in the Marketing section of’s Business of Publishing page, along with questions and answers from Curci’s workshop.

Michael L. Jones is a 2003 fellow of the Academy for Alternative Journalism. He is a former staff writer for the Louisville Eccentric Observer who lives in Louisville, Ky. AAN staff contributed to this story, a shorter version of which appeared in the June 26 San AANtonio Convention Daily.