The ‘Sun-Times’ Gets Fluffy to Lure Young Readers

By: Jennifer Saba

Like many dailies throughout the country, the Chicago Sun-Times is trying to shore up its Sunday sales, a day of the week that once was a circulation thoroughbred but today is looking more and more mule-like.

To combat the malaise, the Sun-Times launched two very different Sunday publications on July 17: The serious analysis section called Controversy and the not so serious gossip-oriented Fluff.

Controversy, according to Deputy Features Editor Deborah Douglas, is part analysis of news and part book review. But if you, like yours truly, are more interested in the lighter side of Sunday, the aptly named Fluff tab aims to attract the twenty-somethings that newspapers in print are desperate to get. Douglas describes Fluff as a 12-page full color newsprint product ?that’s sort of like an US Weekly rip-off.?

It relies heavy on photography, with features similar to those found in Star Magazine and In Touch, such as celebrity profiles and snarky commentary on the latest red carpet fashions. Fluff is not Chicago centric. Attitude-heavy Chi-town native Jeremy Piven is likely to show up in the mag, but so are the ubiquitous Brad and Angelina.

The first issue with a skeletal Lindsay Lohan on the cover led with the clever headline ?Eat a Sandwich.? It’s that kind of attitude that just might appeal to jaded youth if they don’t find it in Star magazine first.

The gossip insert is a concept that has been tossed about by newspapers for quite some time. As long as I can remember, the San Antonio Express-News has included the American Media-owned tabloid Star in its Sunday paper. The concept worked, at least on me. It was the first section I would read as a teen. Granted, the Sunday paper was already sitting on the breakfast table.

The Sun-Times might want to give the Daily News in New York a ring. The Daily News found its inner-People with 25 Hours, a short-lived, full color glossy magazine, which also depended on photography and ran in the Sunday paper. It focused solely on the rich and famous that live in and pass through New York City. After a few short months, the paper pulled the plug on 25 Hours, at least in the form of a magazine, because the lead-time was too long. By the time 25 Hours hit the stands, a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker entering her West Village home was old hat.

Fluff isn’t immune to these problems. Douglas said part of the challenge is predicting far enough into the future to keep things interesting. The other hurdle: building up ads. The next issue has three.

But the tab insert is also picking up the not so young. ?A lot of phone calls we get are from older readers,? said Douglas, who also heads up the increasingly difficult-to-find Red Streak. ?Like fifty-somethings,? she clarified.

You can’t blame the Sun-Times for trying, and maybe over time Fluff will gain the youth audience and more advertisers as the magazine grows legs. ?It’s not serious? — like the Controversy section– ?we’re laughing and everyone is on the joke,? she said.

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