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Green grows the grass for alternative weeklies

Thu, Apr 22, 2010

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What’s green, transferable and particularly welcome on Earth Day?

That would be good old-fashioned money, a commodity in scarce supply in today’s newspaper business. But for some newspapers, 420 green is good.

Denver’s Westword and the Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado’s leading alternative newsweeklies, are likely more profitable than ever – thanks to the dope business. Today’s Indy has more than seven full pages of marijuana-related ads, most of them in color.

The Indy’s vice president of advertising, Teri Homick, says that the newspaper charges the same rate to all commercial display advertisers.

“We’re making money hand over fist (on marijuana ads),” said Homick cheerfully. “Most of them have signed up for 26 or 52 times, so they can avoid rate increases.”

Whether by accident or design, the Gazette doesn’t run Marijuana ads. The Indy’s younger demographic may be more attractive to “caregivers” – that is, if we cynically assume that purveyors of medical marijuana aren’t really trying to help the afflicted, but to sell to stoners.

Alt weeklies have always made a few bucks by catering to advertisers that conservative dailies wouldn’t accept, such as adult service providers. If you wanted to place an ad for an escort business, you came to the newspaper office and paid cash up front. Taking Cornelius Vanderbilt’s famous dictum to heart, the alts typically charged “as much as the traffic would bear.” The Independent had a special adult rate which was significantly higher than the rate charged to any other advertiser.

The reach, anonymity and convenience of the internet ended that business. But thanks to the citizen initiative that rebranded the demon weed as a medicine, the lost revenue has been more than replaced.

And what about the Business Journal? We’d probably accept a “caregiver” ad, but we’ve yet to run any. I guess that the cold-eyed business owners who operate “dispensaries” must assume that our readers are as careful, conservative and straight as…Cornelius Vanderbilt?

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Green Flash Says:

    I’m willing to bet and give odds that CSBJ’s average reader is more likely to really need medical marijuana than the average reader of the Indy or just about any alternative medium in the country. Think of all that arthritis, chronic stress from business decision-making through the Great Recession, parenting 20-something year old kids and demented moms and dads… not to mention that bad hip and aching back from playing golf in the Spring without adequate core prep. Maybe CSBJ management could strike a premium promotion deal with some of the dispensaries… Buy an extra subscription to CSBJ and get a free lid of British Columbia’s finest! Might even be a good tie-in opportunity with the EDC and the import/export foks.