Seeking Sunday Shoppers Sooner

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does all the things most metro dailies are doing these days to expand ? or at least hold on to ? young readership. Plus a few more things, such as hiring a class of graduate students at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism to develop MKE, a youth-oriented tab that now distributes 60,000 copies a week.

Yet the metro has also been successful in getting young adults to read the core Journal Sentinel in big numbers. The latest evidence: The 2006 Scarborough Multi-Market Report finds the Sunday edition is read by 58% of all young adults aged 25 to 34 in its circulation area. That’s the fourth-best penetration among the top 50 metro markets.

Journal Sentinel President/Publisher Elizabeth Brenner acknowledges that’s quite an achievement, but she says as much credit belongs to Milwaukee itself as the newspaper: “Everyone tells you their market is unique, but our market really is unique.”

Perhaps its most important characteristic for a newspaper: Those who grow up in Milwaukee stay in Milwaukee. “They move in around the corner from their in-laws,” she notes, and they take the paper that their parents took.

These days, the Journal Sentinel is serving its unique market a unique Sunday product. Newspaper redesigns, especially the radical ones, are like tattoos ? they don’t change from day to day. The makeover launched on a Monday will carry through to the Sunday paper.

But the newspaper had a different idea a few years ago. They introduced an extreme makeover of the paper not only just for the Sunday paper, but for only part of that day. “Early Sunday Journal Sentinel,” as the edition is called, hits the streets for single-copy sales mid-morning on Saturdays.

Don’t look for breaking news ? or, actually, any hard news on the front page of “Early Sunday.” The biggest news is that this is not the Final or Wisconsin editions delivered to front porches and newsstands on Sundays.

Instead, the front page is entirely made up of large and small graphics and refers, almost always steering readers to features rather than news. The inside package reflects that as well.

“This is an edition for people who want to get a jump on weekend shopping with coupons,” says Brenner. A note to readers every Saturday reminds them that they’ll need to look into the regular Sunday editions or the paper’s Web site for the freshest news. But Brenner contends these Saturday readers appear to be content with the softer news anyway: “It’s intended to look more like a magazine than a newspaper.”

“Early Sunday,” she adds, almost always sells out, averaging sales of about 10,300 copies. Those are counted as Sunday circulation, which in the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations FAS-FAX was reported as totaling 411,749.

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