‘Star Trib’ Ends Suburban Inserts, Will Add Front-Page Ads

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By: The Associated Press and E&P Staff

The Star Tribune plans to shut down its suburban weekly inserts and begin targeting the daily paper to particular geographic zones, one of its unions said on Thursday.

The Star Tribune will replace the weekly sections with zoned sections in the daily paper. “Zoning” in the newspaper business refers to distributing sections to readers in a particular area. The practice gives advertisers the option of buying ads in one area rather than across the entire circulation territory.

Earlier this year the Star Tribune reassigned reporters away from beats such as architecture and aging toward more suburban coverage, and it reduced its Washington staff to one reporter.

In an e-mail to The Associated Press, newspaper spokesman Ben Taylor declined to discuss the weekly inserts in detail because the newspaper has just begun discussing the matter with workers. But he said the changes are “an expansion effort, not a cost-cutting effort.”

The Star Tribune had employed a separate staff of reporters to write for the weekly inserts, and they were paid at a lower rate than reporters for the daily paper. Management now wants to move most of those reporters into the daily newsroom and begin moving them up the higher daily report pay scale after a year, the Newspaper Guild wrote in a message to members.

“The company also acknowledged that zoning will complicate production of the newspaper quite a bit, and it’s making plans to deal with that,” the union wrote. The union said the newspaper is asking for an agreement on the changes by Sept. 14, to be implemented by Oct. 3.

Meanwhile, in a memo to staff (first published at the Romenesko site), Publisher Par Ridder announced a return to front-page ads in the paper, starting this Sunday.

“This Sunday at the bottom of the front page of the Star Tribune we will be running a Macy’s ad. While this will be a departure from our recent tradition, we will be joining many other newspapers who now allow page-one ads in order to be more responsive to changing marketplace dynamics.”

The rest of the memo follows.

The primary reason for this decision is that we, like the rest of the industry, must offer more creative, innovative solutions for advertisers who have many choices about where to spend their money.

As you know, we have been running ads on section fronts since September 2006 – a policy that has been well received by advertisers and well accepted by readers. And, off and on throughout our 140-year history, we have run front-page ads, so we are not breaking new ground.

We also will be joining several of the nation’s largest newspapers that already allow page 1 ads, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Francisco Chronicle. Both the Tribune Company and Gannett now have a corporate policy allowing front-page ads.

In adopting this new policy, we are especially mindful of the value of this ad position and will be pricing it accordingly.

We believe this new policy will help considerably in growing our ad revenue, which in turn will support our continued investment in the highest quality journalism.

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