Daily Papers Prep Youth-Oriented Spinoffs

By: Lucia Moses

Recognizing that their core products aren’t reaching many 18-to-34-year-old readers, several newspapers, from Melville, N.Y., to Boise, Idaho, are planning or contemplating spinoffs aimed at them. And alternative-weekly publishers are awaiting these new publications with a mix of curiosity and worry about the competition.

The Lansing (Mich.) State Journal, one of two Gannett Co. Inc. testing grounds, has tentatively set an Oct. 23 launch date for its free weekly, which may be titled Noise.

Gannett’s other test site, The Idaho Statesman in Boise, is keeping its plans under tighter wraps. President and Publisher Margaret E. Buchanan declined to comment about her paper’s upcoming pub, but Mark “Bingo” Barnes, who publishes the alternative Boise Weekly, said Buchanan recently told him the paper would come out in late fall and that “she wasn’t certain of how it was going to be distributed at that point.”

The Chicago Tribune reportedly is considering a separate daily youth publication, while its Tribune Co. sibling Newsday on Long Island is narrowing down six ideas for young readers, including both in-paper and free-standing products. “A couple of them involve music and our music coverage,” was all Howard Schneider, Newsday‘s vice president of content development, revealed.

In Lansing, the alt weekly City Pulse isn’t thrilled that the new pub will come out Wednesday, the same day as City Pulse. And Publisher Berl Schwartz said its color-ad rate will be 35% below his black-and-white rate, according to a Noise rate card. “When the dominant paper does that,” he complained, “that’s considered unfair competition.”

In Chicago, however, alternative Newcity Chicago appears unworried about the Tribune‘s plans, poking fun with a parody of the imagined paper it called “Chicag-YO!” But can the Trib and other dailies find the right tone, format, and content that will sell among Gen Xers and younger?

The Lansing team is betting on a soft approach. An August prototype of Noise looks like an alternative paper but is heavy on lifestyle features, with cover teasers such as “Get a yoga butt” and “Lansing’s outdoor whoopee guide.”

Reading young people’s tastes isn’t just a daily-newspaper problem. In the words of Brian Hieggelke, president of Newcity Chicago: “The ‘new generation’ is newly minted every year. Those of us who are writing about them … the older we get, the less we should trust our instincts. Ultimately, the reason it’s really hard to reach that generation is — the Internet’s more important to them than print … and the Tribune knows that better than anyone.”

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