AAN member papers report that once again classified advertising sales, especially real estate and rental, are keeping overall revenues steady. At the two alternative newsweekly industry national ad sales networks, AWN and Ruxton, sales are running well ahead of last yearâ€™s first quarter, but that was one of the worst quarters on record for the industry. â€œNormally Iâ€™d be excited about 20 percent growth,â€ Michele Laven, president and COO of New Timesâ€™ Ruxton Group tells AAN News. â€œWe have a long way to go.â€
If you started at the beginning, in 1955, when The Village Voice was founded, and ranked companies by how much they spent on advertising in alternative newspapers, Tower Records would probably end up at the top of the list. After several years of financial difficulty, the Sacramento-based chain that has long been a beacon of pop culture was recently put on the block. "I expect that the new owners will keep the values ... we stand for," Russ Solomon, the company's founder and owner, tells The Sacramento Bee. "(W)hich is the idea that, as much as you can afford to, you represent as many kinds of music, video and books as you possibly can."
Columbus Alive Inc. is launching an e-mail brand campaign to call attention to its five-month-old redesign, its new focus on arts and entertainment and its new name: Alive. Publisher Sally Crane says the ad sales have climbed about 18 percent since the campaign began and projects an additional 25 percent through the end of this year. Alive's 2002 ad sales were more than $1 million, Kathy Showalter of Business First of Columbus reports.
Howard Altman, executive editor of Philadelphia City Paper, describes for AJR how a Saint Jack's Bar ad featuring the Thai King in hip-hop regalia nearly severed relations between the United States and Thailand. "It certainly was not the first advertising complaint City Paper had ever received, considering that we once printed an ad for a bar depicting the Virgin Mary with udders," Altman writes. "But this complaint was different. It was from an unhappy representative of a foreign government."
From a rebellious underground paper in the '60s, The Georgia Straight has grown to a 120,000 weekly circulation institution in Vancouver, B.C. It hasn't gotten that way by resting on its hippie laurels. Publisher Dan McLeod demonstrates that by once again shaking up his sales department, firing a vice president and parting ways with the consultant who helped double the paper's sales. "There's going to be some loud howling, but it's a way to grow the business," McLeod tells AAN News.
The Stranger this week publishes its First Annual "Best of [our advertisers in] Seattle 2002" issue, taking a few pot shots at Seattle Weekly's recent "Best of Seattle" issue in the process. "We know when we're licked," the newspaper says in its introduction to the feature. "Dump the irony, screw the humor, and cut out the fucking middleman. Kissing the asses of advertisers is a game that two can play."
Thailand has threatened to cut off relations with the United States beause of an ad run in the Philadelphia City Paper. "The ad -- which depicts [Thai King Bhumibol] Adulyadej as a bling-bling hipster with bleached highlights, lines shaved into his hair, stone-encrusted glasses and a shirt that sports an Adidas logo" was run by a suburban housewife for her restaurant, Howard Altman writes.
Does the alternative newspaper business have a problem in the back of the book? A lengthy disquisition on the subject in Fort Worth Weekly doesn't draw any conclusions, but reporter Jeff Prince finds an "evolution" in the alt-weekly universe, with many papers "reducing the number of adult ads and restricting their size, display, and content."
After a devastating drop in advertising sales in January, the first-quarter of 2002 is beginning to look better at the two major alt-weekly advertising networks. AWNâ€™s Executive Director Mark Hanzlik projects a first-quarter sales decline of 37 percent, up from a more than 70 percent drop in January. Ruxton President and COO Michele Laven has also has seen a slight rebound.