Washington City Paper Capitalizes on Inauguration Fever

Washington’s only alt-weekly is putting on a full-court press as the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama draws closer. The City Paper released a 120-page special inauguration issue this week and had staffers hit the streets to hawk it. Publisher Amy Austin says the issue attracted a lot of great new ads and was “phenomenal,” revenue-wise.

The issue includes a 16-page insert called “The Obama Reader,” which culls much of the Chicago Reader‘s reporting on Obama, dating back to a 4,300-word profile published in 1995. (The insert also includes a 1991 profile of Obama political adviser David Axelrod.) Austin says it is one of the few times in their history that the sister papers have shared content. The special insert was also published in Chicago, and was paid for by a single advertiser in each city. In Chicago, Loyola University was the sponsor, and in D.C. it was Verizon Fios.

Austin explains that the paper has been doing a lot of prep work online for the past six weeks or so, working on an inauguration aggregation page, which helped build sales for the special print issue. The special page combines inauguration news from dozens of disparate sources along with the original reporting City Paper has been doing on matters ranging from the inaugural rental-housing market to a woman who offered her ovary (along with her friend’s) for tickets to one of the inaugural balls.

In an alt-weekly version of “flooding the zone,” City Paper correspondents will fan out across the capitol for the next several days to report on inaugural events and parties, with coverage transmitted in real time via blog posts and Twitter feeds. House ads in this week’s paper tout City Paper’s “outside-in” perspective: “(N)ot a Washington insider? Don’t have front-row tickets for the swearing in?” asks the promo. “You’re in good company. Washington City Paper is an outsider too. We don’t get invited to these things. But that doesn’t mean we won’t cover them.”

Austin says this sort of undertaking wouldn’t have been possible a few years ago. “With the combination of platforms, you can give the newsprint edition and then feed up-to-date coverage through the whole event,” she says.

AAN members who want a web icon to link to City Paper‘s ongoing inaugural coverage should email Amy Austin at aaustin (at) washingtoncitypaper.com.

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