Contact: Brooks Cloud
Greenville, S.C. — May 17, 2004 — At Greenville’s Metrobeat, the adage holds: The only constant is change. The South Carolina alt-weekly recently named a new publisher, hired a new music editor, and implemented a complete redesign.
“There were nights I thought our entire staff might not come back in the morning,” laughs Publisher Brooks Cloud. “But they’re professionals, and they’re committed to this paper and to putting out a good product.”
Cloud, who is also publisher of the Tuscaloosa, Ala., A&E monthly City Magazine, replaced Metrobeat publisher Clinta Carmichael in March 2004. Carmichael has been named associate publisher and now leads Metrobeat’s sales effort.
“I’m excited about the redistribution of responsibilities,” Carmichael said. “My main focus now is to generate revenue, and that’s where my strength is. I’m excited about Brooks’ being here because he brings a lot of new ideas to the paper — when you don’t have that, you can get stagnant and stale, and I think that’s where Metrobeat had gotten to.”
The hiring of a local musician as music editor rounded out the staff changes, adding “a connection to the area’s music scene and a renewed sense of energy to our music coverage,” said Editor Chris Haire.
Among Cloud’s first priorities as publisher: a redesign, spearheaded by award-winning designer Katherine Topaz of Portland, Oregon–based Topaz Design.
“The spirit of the redesign was twofold,” Cloud said. “The first and most important part was to make the back of the book — the music, movies, and listings — as high-quality a product as the news sections up front, and to make it as comprehensive as possible. The second part was to bring people into the stories in a way that helps them find what they want to read quickly.”
Topaz worked closely with the Metrobeat staff, interviewing them individually and in groups to create a format that combined her vision with that of the alt-weekly’s production and editorial departments. The redesign evolved into something of a re-creation, as the editorial staff reworked several sections based on what they discovered while rethinking the design. The result: a Metrobeat that’s “sleek, reader-friendly, and revitalized,” Cloud said.
“The back of the book was being sacrificed for the front of the book, and although the news section was award-winning, we couldn’t afford to continue to operate that way,” Cloud said. “Beefing up the back of the book was the purpose of the redesign, as well as a way to reclaim the momentum The Link had stolen from us.”
The Link is one of a new breed of daily-sponsored free weeklies. In January, Metrobeat published an article (featured on the AAN Web site) on the Gannett Corporation’s strong-arm competitive strategy leading up to its February launch of The Link. Gannett has undercut Metrobeat’s ad prices, given away ads and editorial coverage to Metrobeat advertisers, and told Metrobeat advertisers the alt-paper is going out of business.
But Cloud is confident Metrobeat will prevail. “They won’t be able to keep that up forever,” he said of The Link’s price war. “We have news. They have ‘top 10 Friends episodes.’ We have comprehensive listings. They have AP filler copy. We’re local, we’re more flexible, and we’re going to be able to do things editorially and promotionally that they can’t, because they’ve got to get the corporate stamp of approval to go to the bathroom. Metrobeat is part of this community, and it has been for 11 years, and our readers respect that.”