Just as it has since it launched more than six years ago, Nashville’s free, five-day-a-week daily newspaper continues to hemorrhage money—“We’re still losing money, but we’re losing less money,” says City Paper publisher Albie Del Favero. But according to newly released audit figures, the paper’s readership continues to grow, and its management and owners are, in fact, confident enough about the paper’s increasing traction in the community that they’re investing in a wholesale website redesign set to launch next week.
Gone will be the static, blue-and-white template that readers have grown accustomed to, and in its place will be a new home page that directs readers to top stories, to four blogs and to an e-paper driven by the software Olive Active Paper, which is used by publications such as The Chattanooga Times Free Press and The Denver Post.
“What you’ll see the first week or two in July is the first step, it’s not the last step,” says City Paper editor Clint Brewer, adding that he’s also researching a video project for the website. “Really, we’re not relaunching a website. We’re really launching, arguably, six websites.” The home page, e-paper and each of the four blogs all will have separate URLs.
“We’ve got a pretty healthy online readership,” Brewer says, “particularly when you consider we’ve never promoted [the website] and it looks five or six years out of date…and we just need to serve them better.”
The media audit shows the newspaper reaches 252,900 unique readers over the course of a week and that another 30,000 read the paper exclusively online. (For context, The Tennessean’s A section reaches 365,700 readers over the course of a week while the Scene’s cume, as it’s called, is 258,200 and calculated over the course of the month.)
“So many people are reading the paper online that it’s not fair to our print advertisers for people to bypass their print ads,” Del Favero says, describing the e-paper as an interactive PDF of the print edition. “All the things that we don’t have room for in the paper will be on the dotcom site. The idea is to drive traffic to the dotcom site and then to the e-paper.”
Sources tell the Scene that as recently as a couple of months ago, the newspaper’s owners—the Thompson family, of Thompson Machinery fame—were looking for a partner to share ownership. Del Favero and Dewitt Thompson V, chairman of the CP board, deny that—sort of—and say there are no current plans to sell the paper.
“If this is about the paper being for sale, I’m not going to talk about it. It’s not for sale,” Del Favero (former Scene publisher), says when first reached on the phone. “It’s like the 10th time this rumor has come up, and I don’t want to talk about it. It’s not going to happen.”
“Clearly, The City Paper is not strategic to our core business, which is selling tractors,” says Thompson V. “If there was someone who thought they could bring some value, we’d listen. But if there’s people out there saying they want to buy us, that’s news to me.”
As of last June, when Del Favero took the publishing gig at CP, the paper had lost nearly $11 million during its brief life. All Thompson will say is that the number is “significant.” But, he says, “we’re privately held, so we don’t pass out those type of numbers.”
At any rate, the Thompsons are upping the ante. Readers can expect to see two “team” blogs when the sites launch in July: a sports blog called “Nashville Ballers” and a political blog called “Political Animals.” Writer (and former Rage editor) Libby Callaway will author a fashion blog called “The Style Arbiter,” and music writer Ron Wynn will author a pop culture blog called “Giant Steps” (so named for the John Coltrane album).
At least one CP staffer won’t be reading.“What is it that [Wall Street Journal writer] Walter Mossberg said about citizen journalism?” Del Favero says. “Kind of like citizen surgery. That’s how I feel about blogs. But I’m 53 years old….”
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