POSTED ON MARCH 12, 2008:
Old Dog Learns New Tricks?
There's a weekly paper due to be distributed throughout the Tulsa metro area every Thursday, and it's aimed at giving Tulsans the rundown on all the latest entertainment attractions in T-town.
It will feature local and internationally known musicians, movie and restaurant reviews, and purport to tell readers where all the cool people and cool entertainment venues will be.
While that might sound like a lot to deliver, it sounds much more like the paper you currently have before you. But what it's not is Urban Tulsa Weekly-it's the Spot, the weekly insert in the Tulsa World.
The daily paper's entertainment insert is in the process of getting a makeover, as well as a new distribution day.
Susan Ellerbach, managing editor of the Tulsa World, denied any alt-weekly influence behind the original creation of the Spot or its upcoming reincarnation.
"I don't think imitation had anything to do with it," she told UTW. "We respect what you guys do, but we're looking at a different audience." She said the target audience for Spot is readers between the ages of 18 and 50. "You're talking to a 52-year-old who likes to read it every week, though," she qualified.
Ellerbach added, though, that there's "probably some overlap" between UTW and the Spot's respective coverage.
UTW has published on Thursday since its inception; and the Spot, is currently published in the Friday Tulsa World. Soon the made-over Spot will debut a day earlier.
Ellerbach said the intent was not to compete with nor imitate UTW, though.
"We did some research and found that readers want to plan their weekends farther in advance," she explained as the rationale for new Thursday release.
"It's hard to get a babysitter that soon when you're making your plans on Friday," she added.
The reason for the overall revamp, Ellerbach explained, is that "when you've been around for 13 years, you always want to freshen up now and then."
Urban Tulsa Weekly founder and publisher Keith Skrzypczak looks at these developments with great interest for the city. Taking in perspective the coverage of the entertainment scene, however, he sees little redundancy.
"When we created Urban Tulsa we didn't have to do any research--we lived it, as part of the audience who weren't being served by the two dailies at the time. We started Urban Tulsa to provide a new voice and coverage of the local scene that wasn't being delivered.
"The re-vamped Spot, from the proto-type samples we've seen, doesn't look too much different from the one currently running in the Tulsa World's Friday edition.
"Bringing it out on Thursday? That has been our publication date from the beginning. It may give their readers a little more time to think about weekend events," said Skrzypczak, "and then once they read Urban Tulsa Weekly, they can decide what they really want to do.
"I always had the notion that the Spot came out on Friday so their staff could read us and make sure they weren't missing anything," he added.
Urban Tulsa was formed as a monthly publication in 1991. It went weekly in 1996. Spot debuted in 1995.
In Skrzypczak's view, the Tulsa World began publication of the Spot and the various Community World editions when its publisher saw by UTW's success that there was a market worth competing for and advertising revenue to be had.
"Urban Tulsa has had, from the beginning, two, concurrent, ongoing missions: To serve our readers with news, analysis, entertainment and arts coverage that they need to be well-informed citizen/participants in a lively, growing, progressive city.
"And, the other, to give our advertising partners an opportunity to secure the high impact advertising they need to attract our influential, upscale, active, vibrant readership.
"Those missions are being accomplished every week," Skrzypczak said.
When the Spot began as a pullout section of the entertainment content that the World had previous printed in the context of the book, many thought it was a reaction to the success UTW enjoyed. "That is good conjecture," he said.
"What I do know for sure is that UTW set the standard for entertainment coverage by the time the Tulsa World realized it had been missing the boat.
"But we have helped make a lot of institutions better over the years, so it's not surprising.
"We have become a force for change and progress," said Skrzypczak. "As we have evolved and strengthened our entertainment and arts coverage, we have continued augmenting our news and op-ed sections."
He said he welcomes the competition today just as he did back then, but surmised that the retooling of the Spot, as well as the recent dissolving of the weekly Community World section (see related article, Page 10) might both be symptoms of unfortunate struggles at the Tulsa World.
Some dailies, he said, in search for relevancy have imitated the style of alternative newsweeklies which have seen incredible growth over the past decade.
Some papers have tried putting out their own version of an alt.
"I know the publisher of the Oklahoma Gazette, Bill Bleakley, dealt with this a few years ago when he learned Oklahoma City's daily, The Oklahoman, was going to publish some sort of alt-looking product," Skrzypczak said about the subsequent launch of the free Look @ OKC, a stand-alone alt weekly-esque publication aimed at attracting readers and advertisers of the Gazette.
In a recent telephone interview, Bleakley denied any similarity between Look @ OKC and his paper. But at the time, he wrote an op-ed piece in the Gazette, pointing to the then soon-to-be-launched weekly tabloid as an attempt to draw revenue lost by readers in the 18-to-35-year-old demographic, who typically get their news online nowadays.
"It's expected to be similar to publications launched by other daily newspapers in an attempt to reach this on-line generation that comprises 24 percent of the population, yet account for 40 percent of online viewing," he wrote.
Skrzypczak said the web and online sources are great for international, national and breaking news, but there will always be a great need for believable, genuine indigenous reporting.
"We are here. We have been part of the new trends since our inception. We have seen the future and are helping develop it," he said.
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