Future Bleak for Metromix: The Paper (UPDATED)

Jun 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm


With another round of layoffs hitting The Enquirer and other Gannett newspapers nationwide, time will tell if a separate trend at the media company will occur soon in Cincinnati.

Gannett announced last week that it was pulling the plug on the print editions of two faux alt-weeklies, Metromix in Indianapolis and Noise in Lansing, Mich. Both will maintain an online presence, at least for now.

The move follows the cancellation of Metromix's print edition in Nashville last winter and the end of Velocity as a stand-alone paper in Louisville, which is being folded into The Courier-Journal.—-

The Indianapolis version of Metromix was launched as INtake in December 2003, where it competed with the longtime independent alt-weekly Nuvo Newsweekly. Velocity debuted the same month in Louisville to compete against the alt-weekly LEO. The first wave in Gannett's attempt to target younger news consumers began in 2002 with the launch of two pilot publications, Noise in Lansing and Thrive in Boise, Idaho.

Most of Gannett's faux alt-weeklies were started in markets already served by independently owned weekly newspapers and were widely seen within the industry as a method for luring away advertising and driving those publications out of business, thus giving Gannett a virtual monopoly on print advertising dollars.

In Cincinnati, Gannett launched CiN Weekly in October 2003. It also was folded into the corporate Metromix brand in 2009 after most of its local staff was laid off. In all, the Metromix brand (a partnership between Gannett and the Tribune Co.) was rolled out in more than 60 cities during the past three years.

During CiN Weekly's launch, The Enquirer stated in a press release that it “saw a need for this type of publication after publishing a series of articles called 'Losing a Generation' in June 2003. The series detailed and explored a migration of young professionals out of Cincinnati.”

In reality, Enquirer Publisher Margaret Buchanan had overseen the launch of the similar paper a year earlier in Boise, while she was publisher at The Idaho Statesman.

The press release announcing CiN Weekly's debut quoted Beryl Love, its first editor, as stating, “From its design and organization to its fresh content, CiN Weekly will be a magazine that people can use." But in what perhaps was an omen, the “fresh” cover story of its debut issue was “That's So Cincinnati,” a rip-off of a CityBeat cover story from a few years earlier.

The business model for Gannett's faux alt-weeklies was designed to lure advertisers by offering a national network of article and advertising sharing aimed at the coveted youth demographic, roughly ages 18-34.

But the plan seems to have faltered.

In comments made to CityPulse, the alt-weekly in Lansing, Kate Marymont, Gannett's vice president for news, declined comment on whether more of the firm’s weekly papers were moving to online-only status.

In this case, our young audience has gone very digital,” Marymont said. “We can reach some better with a digital platform than print for something like Noise.”

In an editorial about Metromix in Indy folding, Nuvo wrote, “In Indianapolis and other cities, the transformation to Metromix was accompanied by substantial staff layoffs. In some cases, the papers died as soon as the regional website launched. In others, like Indianapolis, Gannett continued to publish both the website and weekly newspaper. That trend is now coming to an end, however. In addition to Metromix Indianapolis, Nashville’s Metromix weekly print product died earlier this year. Cities like Cincinnati and Louisville can’t be far behind.”

Until this week, Metromix in Cincinnati had a staff consisting of five people. But as part of Tuesday's layoffs, the sole staffer designated exclusively to producing content — reporter Lori Kurtzman — was let go. The site also uses freelancers and some Enquirer staff to generate articles.

** UPDATE: Another Gannett newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., announced June 24 it will no longer publish Insider, its entertainment and lifestyle weekly.