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IT'S MIX AND MATCH IN 'THE SALAD BOWL'

Newspapers can add local flavor to almost any media plan whipped up for use in a famously fragmented market

The southwestern Michigan market of Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek has a diverse economy. The region is home to several large automotive- supply companies that support the auto industry in nearby Detroit. The area also boasts a strong agricultural base and produces a variety of vegetables -- some locals even call it "The Salad Bowl."

Major employers in the market include the direct-sales company Amway Corp., cereal giant Kellogg Co., and drug manufacturer Pharmacia Corp. In an effort to attract businesses, the city of Grand Rapids plans to build a new convention center.

The area is considered a single market for the purpose of TV ratings. But the three cities are considered separate markets by their residents, and by advertisers. There are daily newspapers in each of the three cities, with very little overlap among the readers. Each is considered the paper of record in its respective community.

Besides The Grand Rapids Press, the Kalamazoo Gazette, and the Battle Creek Enquirer, there are at least six other dailies in southwestern Michigan, each serving a distinct market. According to Gazette Publisher George E. Arwady, that makes newspapers a competitive buy for advertisers, since any money spent blanketing the entire region could largely be wasted upon consumers unlikely to stray far from their homes. "TV suffers because the market is so divided," Arwady said. "We're a much more efficient buy to reach the markets. If you're only in two, you're better off buying [ads in] two newspapers."

TV often is a good way to reach consumers in Grand Rapids, the largest city in the market and the host city for the region's major broadcast stations, said Pam Knowles, an account manager with Initiative Media Worldwide Inc., a media-services company. Knowles said the logic of buying broadcast time decreases if a retailer is trying to reach only one city or town in the region. In that case, she said, "You need to look at radio, cable, [and] newspapers."

The largest of the three dailies in the designated market area (DMA) is The Grand Rapids Press, owned by Booth Newspapers Inc., a division of Advance Publications. For the six months ended March 31, the Press had average daily circulation of 140,549 and Sunday circulation of 190,828. Both totals were down about 1% from the same period a year earlier.

Booth also owns the Kalamazoo Gazette, and the papers can be purchased in combination by advertisers. The Gazette's circulation for the six months ended March 31 was 57,015 weekday and 74,183 Sunday, flat compared with the year-ago period.

Gannett Co. Inc. owns the Battle Creek Enquirer, whose circulation of 25,126 daily and 34,209 Sunday is relatively unchanged compared with the same period a year ago.

Dailies serving other key cities in the market include Booth's The Muskegon Chronicle (daily circulation 47,180, Sunday 51,666) in Muskegon County and Morris Communications Corp.'s The Holland Sentinel (daily circulation 18,340, Sunday 19,733) in Ottawa County.

All three Booth papers are buying or planning to buy new presses. "There's going to be a lot of offset printing capacity [and the] ability to print pretty papers and print them fast," said Arwady, the Gazette publisher. Arwady said his paper and The Grand Rapids Press have plans to buy MAN Roland machines (a Regioman at Kalamazoo and a Geoman at Grand Rapids), while The Muskegon Chronicle is installing a Goss Magnum. Arwady said the new machines will move Booth's newspapers from letterpress technology, and help them compete in their crowded market. "We'll be able to print full color on virtually every page" once Kalamazoo's presses come on line in early 2003, Arwady said. He said that could bring "a significant increase in color revenue."

Last month, The Grand Rapids Press switched its Friday entertainment section, "Weekend," to Thursdays, following a growing trend among papers across the country. The section features local entertainment events, restaurant reviews, and the like. At the same time, the Press also launched a new Friday section, "Movies & More," featuring movie reviews and news on video releases.

In 1999, the Press converted to a narrower web width to save on newsprint costs. Michael Lloyd, the paper's editor, said the Press will introduce a full graphic redesign to coincide with its new presses coming on line in 2003.

The Press' primary circulation area is in Kent (home of Grand Rapids) and Ottawa counties. However, the paper reaches the entire western half of the state. The Press also publishes half a dozen weekly, zoned suburban editions that compete against a host of weekly community newspapers in the outlying towns.

TV and the local news

Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek is the country's 38th-largest TV market. The market spans 14 counties and is highly segmented -- consumers tend to use media outlets located in or near their hometowns. For those outlets, the fragmented market presents special challenges.

"Localism is key," said Jerry Colvin, president and general manager of WOTV-TV, a privately owned ABC affiliate based in Battle Creek. The station's slogan is "News From Where You Live."

LIN Television Corp.'s NBC affiliate, WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, is the longtime local-news-ratings leader in the market. LIN also owns the market's UPN affiliate, WXSP-TV. The station went on the air in May 2000 via seven low-power translators and is now carried on all of the market's cable systems, thanks to a deal LIN finalized recently with Charter Communications, one of the area's largest cable operators.

Janet Mason, WZZM-TV president and general manager, said that while WOOD remains the clear news leader in Nielsen's household ratings, her station matches WOOD's numbers in several key viewer-demographic groups. Gannett acquired WZZM in 1997 in a four-station swap with Hearst-Argyle Broadcasting. Gannett has poured considerable resources into the station, building a new set and master control room, expanding the newsroom, and purchasing state-of-the-art equipment. The investments are beginning to pay off in WZZM's news ratings. "Now we have a horse race," Mason said.

Cable penetration in the Grand Rapids-Kalamazoo-Battle Creek market is about 68%, well below the 73% average for the top 50 U.S. markets. Satellite-TV penetration is strong in the area, with about 20% of households connected (compared to the average of 14% for the top 50 markets).

Last fall, Charter Communications entered the market by acquiring cable systems from Cablevision. Since then, Charter has expanded its programming offerings to nearly 200 channels from 78. Charter also has launched digital service and high-speed Internet service.

Radio segments

In radio, the same segmentation exists as with other media in the regional market. Grand Rapids is considered its own market, ranked No. 66 in the country by Arbitron. Kalamazoo is No. 179; Muskegon, No. 222; and Battle Creek, No. 245. "It's a very competitive marketplace," said Phil Catlett, market manager for Regent Communications Inc.'s Grand Rapids radio group."

In outdoor advertising, Adams Outdoor Advertising, Lamar Advertising Co., and Viacom Inc.'s Infinity Outdoor Inc. are the main players in the market. Adams operates the most boards, with about 350 bulletins measuring 14 by 48 feet and about 800 30-sheet posters (10 feet, five inches by 22 feet, eight inches) throughout southwestern Michigan, with the majority in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo. Lamar has a total of 866 rotary bulletin facings in the region. Infinity dominates the city of Grand Rapids.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Michigan newspaper marketing
Comment:For advertisers in the area.(Michigan newspaper marketing)
Author:Hudson, Eileen Davis; Shields, Todd
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 13, 2001
Words:1245
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