Newspapering By The Numbers p.11

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By: Mark Fitzgerald ALL ART Wible has to do to monitor market growth in Chicago's far western suburbs is glance out his office window.
In any direction the president of Copley Chicago Newspapers looks, bulldozers scrape the topsoil of old cornfields and framing crews throw up the skeletons of sprawling upscale houses.
Signs lining Route 30 sing the fanciful poetry of real estate developers, their subdivisions' very names mixing memory and desire: The Country Homes of Illowa Farm, International Homes at Luther Grove, The Mews Townhomes at Ogden Pointe.
"This is a market that somebody's going to own," Wible said the other day in his Plainfield, Ill., office. "So why shouldn't we?"
Copley is rolling out a sophisticated and somewhat unusual strategy to capture this market in its backyard: In addition to redesigning its four daily papers and converting them to morning publication, it is giving daily subscribers a free weekly paper, and it is defying conventional wisdom by folding a decently performing shopper.
But its most audacious move to win the loyalty of the families buying all those new homes is creating the nation's only newspaper named after a ZIP code ? 60504.
The full name of the free newspaper mailed to 11,300 households even sounds like a subdivision: 60504/Fox Valley Villages.

Clarion Call?
There is a message in the 60504 part of the flag as well: This is no Herald, no Tribune, no Examiner, no Times ? this is a newspaper conceived, designed and sustained by ZIP code-linked demographic research.
It is a message as much for the newspaper industry as the neighborhoods of Aurora and Naperville, Ill.
"If our idea works," Wible said, "hopefully, it's not just for Copley Newspapers, not just for the Chicago market, but perhaps it's a model for the whole industry."
The early returns on 60504 are encouraging.
"We figured 60504 would start with 48 pages and move to 60 pages in year two and then 72 pages in year three," Wible said.
"Well, it's never gone under 100 pages," he said.
Similarly, the weekly was launched as a free paper with the idea it would go to paid circulation eventually.
"We may never go paid," Wible said.
60504, he added, has posted enviable profit margins.
"We figured we would lose a little money in year one, break even in year two ? and make 18% to 20% margins in year three," Wible said.
The reality? The free paper is operating at a 30% margin. So confident are Copley officials about 60504, the only worry they will confide is that the weekly will grow physically too big for mailboxes.

Counting
Cul-de-Sacs
More and more newspapers use research to tweak their design or editorial mix, but few owe their creation and week-to-week content as much to demographics, psychographics, surveys and focus groups as 60504.
When Copley Newspapers' Fox Valley Press first considered the idea of a ZIP code paper, it engaged the demographic research firm Claritas Inc. to paint a detailed portrait of this market.
What Claritas discovered was that 60504, the ZIP code, is a remarkably homogenous area composed nearly entirely of a demographic group it calls "Kids & Cul-de-Sacs." These are white-collar and professional married couples with children ? and income and spending levels considerably above the average American.
"They are high-end consumers," said Jeff Mollway, research director for Copley Chicago Newspapers. "They are feathering their nests. They are a good target for advertisers."
Indeed. According to Fox Valley's research, the households getting 60504 are far more likely to spend big bucks on clothes, travel, investments and consumer electronics. For instance, they are about twice as likely as the average American to own a cell phone, a computer system costing more than $1,000, an American Express card and an airline frequent flier number.
But a lot of newspapers circulate in up-market neighborhoods. What sets 60504 apart is its disciplined application of research to attract both readers and advertisers.
In every issue, readers know the tabloid 60504 will devote sections to ? among other topics ? health and fitness; education; parenting; home maintenance; dining and entertainment; and community news. And advertisers know they will be able to buy specific adjacencies to lead articles in each of those hot-button categories.

No chicken dinners
60504 managing editor Sue Schmitt says the paper eschews the bread and butter of most community papers ? lists of graduating kindergarteners, for instance, or town council meeting coverage ? in favor of broader stories on the local topics. Rather than cover all the Fine Arts Night activities by area schools, for instance, the paper published a cover article on what local parents are doing to nurture their children's creativity.
"We try to stay away from some of the traditional weekly newspaper staples," Schmitt said. "Actually I think of ourselves as a magazine rather than a newspaper."
After publication, research director Mollway vets the articles to see how well they hit ? or strayed ? from the target topics revealed by research. Both Mollway and Schmitt are quick to add, however, that this process is more a subtle set of signals than a formal judgment.
"I don't have a Claritas book on my desk and say, 'OK, [60504 households] read boating magazines. Let's do a cover story on boating,' " Schmitt said.
Consider, for instance, Pop-Tarts. Kids & Cul-de-Sac'ers eat these toaster pastries at a rate way above the national average.
"But we don't run stories like, 'The top Pop-Tarts Recipes,' " Schmitt said. "Instead, we look at topics like nutrition vs. convenience or what to do when there is no time for breakfast or kids and nutrition: what they eat vs. what they should eat."
Copley executives are also pretty sure 60504 readers don't miss the Cub Scout Pack 14 outing articles or the grip-and-grin photos.
"We have a savvy audience. They can tell the difference between mediocre and good graphics and photography," said Randy Chapman, director of marketing services for Copley Chicago Newspapers.
60504 is mailed to about 11,300 households right now, and appears to have overwhelming acceptance. A few days before the paper marked its one-year anniversary, one customer asked to have delivery discontinued.
That was the first time anyone had asked for a delivery stop, Wible said, and the Fox Valley Press president wanted badly to keep the perfect no-cancellation record.
"I sent her a $50 restaurant certificate and said I was considering this a non-cancellation," Wible said.

Good Morning Redesign
60504 is just one thrust in Copley Newspapers' drive to dominate Chicago's far western suburbs.
More recently, in April, Copley completed redesigns of its four daily papers: the Beacon-News in Aurora; Herald-News in Joliet; News-Sun in Waukegan and the Courier-News in Elgin. The Beacon-News and Herald-News also were converted to morning publication.
The redesigns gave a common look to the papers, an effort to make the market more aware of the Copley presence.
To further heighten market awareness to the new-look papers and their conversion to mornings, the chain in April delivered a Copley-Os breakfast cereal as a promotion. The outside of the box (pictured below) used such phrases as "Now opened all day," "Chock full-o-News," "In town. In touch. In the Morning" and "Read daily for a healthy connection to your community." One side panel contained assorted reader demographic information.
"If you were back here five weeks ago," Wible said in a late-May interview, "people would tell you, 'What's a Copley Newspaper?' The Herald-News used to look one way, the Beacon-News looked this way. Now we are finally getting a family of newspapers."
Herald-News subscribers also began getting something else in April: a free-standing Wednesday local paper included free in their daily copy.
The Sun papers are tabloids with modern graphic design and bulked-up local editorial that also are sold as single copies.
In Lockport, the Sun replaces what Wible calls the chain's "ugly shopper," the Town Talk.
The Plainfield Sun put Copley in head-to-head weekly competition with the Enterprise, a 6,000-circulation paid paper.
All the Copley products, Wible suggests, are also aimed at competition over the horizon.
"In a way, we are branding new products because of the market realities," he said. "The [Chicago] Tribune is going to get some circulation out here, the Daily Herald some, the [Chicago] Sun-Times probably very little. But more than likely our own daily products are not going to grow enough to own this market."
That's the reason, Wible said, for the saturation strategy of 60504, the daily redesigns and what Copley calls the "blended strategy" of combining free-standing weeklies with dailies.
"If we do all these things right . . . no other local paper need get started," Wible said. "And while everyone else is talking about the Internet ? and we'll be doing that, too ? we will be putting out a lot of newsprint out here in the cornfields."

?(The nation's first ZIP code newspaper) [Photo & Caption]
?("If our idea works, hopefully it's not just for Copley Newspapers, not just for the Chicago market, but perhaps it's a model for the whole industry." [Caption]
?(-Art Wible, president of Copley Chicago Newspapers) [Photo]
?("We try to stay away from some of the traditional weekly newspaper staples. Actually, I think of ourselves as a magazine rather than a newspaper.") [Caption]
?(-60504 managing editor Sue Schmitt) [Photo & Caption]
?(An April redesign of its daily papers was intended to give a common look to Copley Chicago Newspapers.) [Photo & Caption]
?(Copley-Os breakfast cereal was delivered as a promotion in April, when the chain's four suburban Chicago dailies converted to a.m. publication) [Photo & Caption]

?( E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo.com)
?(copyaright: Editor & Publisher June 21, 1997)

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