One Thing Craig’s NOT Good At

Note: A version of this story originally appeared in the June 18 edition of the AAN Convention Daily newsletter.

Remember the days when scooping the daily and having the definitive answer to the question “what’s goin’ on?” was all an alternative weekly needed to attract readers? Unfortunately, today’s reader’s penchant for prose is about as great as the visual appeal of what’s-his-face’s

Alternative papers have to work harder than ever to get love, then they gotta work their asses off to keep it.

At a session for AAN Convention attendees titled “Marketing, Branding and Promotions: AAN Best Practices,” moderated by Isthmus’s Linda Baldwin, 50 alt business staffers shared some secrets behind their most effective marketing events.

The increase in demand (or rather, expectations) has put pressure on alt- weeklies to produce more, better events, which is starting to show in papers’ marketing budgets: $20,000 here, $40,000 there — previously unheard-of amounts to spend on events.

Just as alt-weeklies have changed the way they market, who they’re marketing to is also changing.

“Sometimes, there are two generations reading a paper,” Baldwin says. Of course, there’s the traditional demographic of young singles with a few Jacksons to burn at pub crawls and music festivals. On the other hand, “a wine tasting that costs $50 a plate is obviously targeting an over-35 market.”

So what’s a winning formula for a successful event? “Music plus free food plus some free alcoholic beverages,” Baldwin offers. “And it has to be fun.”

R.L. Nave is a 2004 fellow of the Academy for Alternative Journalism. He works at the Illinois Times.