Kansas Paper With Tiny Circ to Produce Weekly Youth Tabloid

By: Jennifer Saba

Large metro newspapers — eager to gain street cred with put-off young adults — have been spinning off youth-targeted publications for the past few years, but The Stir, a new free weekly tab aimed at 18-to-24-year-olds, is a different sort of publication. Its “parent” is tiny The Hays (Kan.) Daily News, an evening paper with a circulation of 12,514.

“The Hays Daily News is not immune to the national trends,” said Patrick Lowry, editor and publisher of the paper, about the plunge of young adult readership plaguing the nation’s newspapers.

That trend is particularly alarming in Hays where 35% of the town’s total population of 20,000 is in the 18-to-24 demographic. The reason for the high numbers: The city is home to Fort Hays State University, which has two campus publications.

With such a high young adult population, Lowry knew he had a problem on his hands — or a future problem on his hands — and was encouraged by the Daily News’ owner, Harris Enterprises, to come up with a new business venture the Hutchinson, Kan.-based company might fund.

Instead of injecting the Daily News with youth-oriented content, Lowry decided it would be best to create a new product. “I never got the impression this younger generation is even picking [the daily] up,” he observed.

After a presentation to the board in October, Lowry got thumbs up approval along with a budget of $125,000.

With the money, Lowry turned a storage space into a new soundproof studio for video and audio reporting. The Stir will have several components including podcasts for the online companion.

He and his staff have been working towards the Stir’s launch on Jan. 10. “We have six very talented individuals in that age bracket ready to rock and roll,” Lowry said.

One of those staffers includes Micah Mertes, one of three newsroom employees who migrated to the Stir from the Daily News. (Lowry is hiring to replace the three positions).

An articulate 21-year-old, Mertes says, “The sheer audacity of trying something like this in a market this small is definitely going to fill the needs of this demo.”

He explained the paper will feature one “anchor” piece while drawing on the work of about 25 freelancers and the Associated Press’ youth-oriented asap.

The Stir will be distributed in 30 locations including the campus of Fort Hays State University.

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