No love for the departed: R.I.P. “MKE”

Journal Sentinel Inc., a branch of media conglomerate Journal Communications, has reached the end of the line with its little-loved weekly rag MKE. The not-a-newspaper MKE was “launched in 2004 and aimed at young adults.” Coincidentally (?) at roughly the same time “MKE” was released, Capitol Newspapers in Madison, Wisconsin came out with a faux alt-weekly of their own entitled Core Weekly (née coreweekly). Unfortunately, publisher Catherine Nelson’s dream of creating “an alternative to the alternative newspaper” did not fare too well. (Did she not enjoy her time at the Shepherd Express?) Madison’s print media market is in some ways tighter than the one here in Milwaukee. A paper there has to compete with, among others, Isthmus, Rick’s Cafe, The Onion, and once upon a time, my old rag The Wisconsinite. While Core may have made my paper’s imminent demise come a little quicker, it didn’t last long either. Nor was its presence particularly desired. As Jesse Russell wondered aloud at Dane101, “If the Journal Sentinel can pull it off, why couldn’t Cap News?” Turns out it didn’t work too well for them either.

Somehow this turned into a lengthy discussion of media conglomeration and marketing in Madison. Turning back to Milwaukee, Journal Sentinel apparently conspired with burnt-coffee behemoth Starbucks to rid its shops of Milwaukee’s long time alt-weekly Shepherd Express. According to the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, “the Sentinel-owned free weekly MKE then ran an ad claiming it was “the exclusive free weekly” available at Starbucks stores around Milwaukee.”

This did not help Journal Communications sinking earnings. The company reported that its first-quarter 2008 revenue had fallen 6.2% to $134.3 million. Ad sales for MKE apparently peaked in 2006 and dropped ever since. MilwaukeeWorld got a copy of the internal e-mail announcing the not-a-newspaper’s demise.

American City Business Journals had an article in 2004 on Journal Sentinel ‘s plan to target the “‘party’ crowd.” Four years later, I have to ask, MKE, was it good for you?

Correction: Core was a Lee Enterprises, Inc. effort. Davenport, Iowa-based Lee Enterprises is a media conglomerate that boats “54 daily newspapers” in 23 states, and is co-owner with of Capitol Newspapers along with The Capital Times Company, in Madison.

Also: Business Wire has a glowing bit of PR from 2004 entitled “Lee Enterprises Targets Under-30 Market in Madison” that talked all about their plans to cater to the kids…

A comment on Dane101 had this revealing tidbit about core:

Coreweekly at a Glance, Volume 1, Issue 43:
Number of people photographed in coreweekly seemingly 23 or younger: 52
Number of people photographed in coreweekly seemingly older than 23: 1
Number of references to drinking or being on drugs: 27
Number of allusions to ipods: 3
Number of allusions to frisbeess: 6
Number of catchy, slang word-combinations: 9
Number of “indie” fonts employed: 4

It’s true… or was true. I wonder if MKE can at all compare. Or could compare. Whatever.


Author: Jason Haas

Jason is an elected member of the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors, occasionally moonlights as an amateur gardener, and is a proud father of two, or three, depending on how you do the math.

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