Chicago paper goes local in quest for advertisers, readers

paper-front-0817.jpg_20090817_10_50_28_4348-258-400Chicago’s most comprehensive Southland newspaper is going local.

In an effort to boost advertisement sales, the SouthtownStar, owned by Sun-Times Media group, announced they were relaunching their newspaper today in a new tabloid format with improved local coverage.

The paper will also debut a Weekend Edition on Friday, consolidating weekend news that used to be published on Friday and Saturday into one edition and allowing the newspaper to print one less day per week on a six-day cycle. The Web site has also been redesigned to feature more prominent local news.

In their press release this morning, the paper encouraged readers to use a broad range of new media to receive the hyperlocal news: text and e-mail alerts, Twitter updates and community blogs are highly touted.

Though the SouthtownStar does have a wider distribution than many community papers, the shift to deeper coverage of local news seems to be taking a page from those newspapers that are managing to buck the declining industry. When many broad-based papers are folding, local papers are surviving — some are even thriving — because local businesses are still buying advertising slots on community pages.

Said Jerry Alger, vice president of advertising at Sun-Times News, “Our advertisers will have many exciting choices, from increased advertising possibilities to premium placement opportunities made possible by the new tabloid design.”

Let’s hope advertisers see this advantage, too, since the paper is also launching a contest called “South Siders Stand Up,” an essay competition offering prizes up to $1,000 in local gift certificates for creative reasons why readers love the Southland.

It’s nice to offer such incentive for readers, but that amount of money spent by these local businesses on advertisements rather than gift certificates could support the newspaper for a few days.

Although the opportunity to win a fat prize is —admittedly — seductive, even if a few journalists might go hungry while lucky readers are eating their free dinners and wearing their free clothes.


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