Gannett Continues Free-Weekly Rollout

By: Lucia Moses

Having launched youth-aimed weeklies in two of its smaller markets, Gannett Co. Inc. wants to see how the concept does in a larger city.

The Cincinnati Enquirer is looking at launching a free, standalone weekly for 25- to 34-year-olds by year’s end, said Mark Wurzer, vice president of advertising and marketing for the Enquirer and its joint operating agreement partner, The Cincinnati Post.

The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., plans to launch a freebie focusing on lifestyle and entertainment news, the alternative weekly Louisville Eccentric Observer reported, citing a staff memo to Courier-Journal staff. Courier-Journal Vice President of Marketing Linda Pursell wouldn’t confirm the story.

Increased attention to declining levels of young adult readership in recent years has led some publishers to investigate or launch standalone publications to reach that age group.

The percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who spent money on newspapers declined 21% from 1995 to 2000, versus a 17% drop in spending on newspapers overall, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data compiled by Peter Francese, founder of American Demographics magazine.

Gannett has already tested weekly spinoffs for young readers in Lansing, Mich., and Boise, Idaho. Work on a Cincinnati weekly sped up after Margaret Buchanan, who oversaw the Boise launch as president and publisher of The Idaho Statesman, became president and publisher of the Enquirer in May.

Wurzer envisions a paper that will be cross-promoted with the Enquirer and its Web site, http://www.cincinnati.com. The Enquirer has been talking with groups of young opinion leaders in its quest to figure out what their primary interests are.

“There’s a very strong creative class that really wants to make Cincinnati a better place,” he said. “We think our publication can help in that movement.”

Wurzer stressed that Cincinnati’s product won’t be a copycat of existing youth-oriented offshoots. Like its Gannett cousins, however, Wurzer said it will be free, although he declined to give reasons.

The Washington Post also is betting on a free model for Express, the weekday tab it plans to launch in August to target young readers.

Chicago’s dueling youth-aimed dailies, meanwhile, carry a 25-cent cover price. RedEye and Red Streak were launched last fall by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times, respectively.

As long as the Reds continue heavy sampling, though, it will remain unclear whether readers will support such a paid product.

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