Having worked for both New Times and Creative Loafing, I feel that the readers are often misled by stories like Cleveland’s Free Times'”Follow the Leader.” Alternative papers by nature support local establishments, local artists or musicians who play in smaller venues, and the area’s “mom & pop” type businesses. These same businesses support the paper with advertising that reaches their target audience. In an economy where small businesses are struggling to compete for shrinking disposable incomes, cities with multiple alternative papers are fighting an increasingly tough battle.
Just as in most businesses these days, company spending is reduced by eliminating variables such as duplicate work and by creating affordable sales packages for a variety of customers. I don’t see why there should be shame in that. Most profitable alternative papers also spend a considerable amount of money and time to create a reader-friendly and stylized version of the paper and a recognizable brand – call it “cookie-cutter” or smart business. From my experience, successful papers welcome competition over complacency and prefer to win business based on integrity and the paper’s merits over shady business practices any day.
Without risk there is rarely reward… and don’t think that the competition (no matter which alternative chain it is) won’t be there to snap up the weaker papers if they fail. The employees who weren’t participating in creating a profitable paper won’t likely have jobs when the new company takes over. It’s business as usual in the real world, my friends, and I don’t see how spending one’s energy bashing the competition will get you ahead. At the end of the day, it’s all about the readers and the advertiser… and if asked, they are probably more interested in planning their weekend or gaining new business rather than the paper’s internal politics.
Amber Abram, Operations Manager
Weekly Planet, Tampa, FL