The Indianapolis Star is folding its free weekly Metromix publication after the June 23 edition.
Metromix is being discontinued because it didn’t attract the youthful audience the newspaper sought when it was launched in late 2003 as INtake, Star Publisher Karen Crotchfelt said, adding that Star leaders instead will invest in appealing to young readers online, where they already are moving in ever-larger numbers.
“It hasn’t accomplished its objectives,” Crotchfelt said of the stand-along section published every Thursday. “We were targeting an audience under 40. Our most recent research showed the median age of Metromix was 45.”
No jobs will be cut as a result of Metromix’s print demise. An online version of the section will continue under the guidance of Star staffer Amy Bartner. Other Metromix employees, Crotchfelt said, are “being assigned to other projects.”
Crotchfelt said the decision to shutter the print weekly is not an initiative across all newspapers at the Star’s parent company, Virginia-based Gannett Co.
Kevin McKinney, editor and publisher of Indianapolis alternative newspaper Nuvo Newsweekly, isn’t surprised Metromix is ceasing to publish.
“We’ve known for several years the readership was declining,” said McKinney. “The product wasn’t being well embraced.”
Citing numbers from a recent audit by Houston-based firm The Media Audit, McKinney said Metromix’s weekly readership was about half of Nuvo’s.
“It was failing and it cost them a ton of money,” McKinney said.
According to Media Audit’s most recent study, which covered November and December 2010, the average age of Nuvo’s readers was 44 and Metromix’s was 38.
Data for that period also concluded that 27 percent of Nuvo’s readers were between the ages of 18 and 34, 52 percent were 35 to 54 and 20 percent were 55 or older.
In the same study, Media Audit concluded that 43 percent of Metromix’s readers were ages 18 to 34, 44 percent were between 35 and 54 and 14 percent were 55 and older.
Media Audit said Nuvo had 157,500 different readers peruse its pages each month during the study period, while Metromix had 71,338.
Metromix and Nuvo have been a contrast in styles. Metromix often contains shorter articles with lots of pictures. Its reporters have written about such topics as coping with holiday stress, living together before marriage, retro fashion from the 1980s and the hippest Super Bowl parties.
Nuvo typically has longer, more in-depth stories on weightier topics such as politics and urban decay.
And, according to McKinney, Nuvo was attracting a younger audience. “The average age of our reader is 37,” he said. “Half are under 30.”
Metromix’s online edition will continue with photo galleries, which Star officials said have proven tremendously popular, and reviews of things like restaurants and movies.
When they launched INtake, Star leaders said one of the main objectives of the publication was to bond with younger readers and eventually lure them over to the Star. It was known as Indy.com before becoming Metromix
That initiative was born out of Gannett’s Generation X Task Force, which formed in 2000 to study how its papers could reach the 25-to-34 demographic. Gannett launched its first stand-alone alternative style weeklies in 2002 in Boise, Idaho, and Lansing, Mich. Similar publications in Rochester, N.Y.; Louisville; Cincinnati and Indianapolis followed.
Gannett’s efforts came about for good reason. The Chicago-based National Opinion Research Center found that in 1972, 47 percent of U.S. residents between the age of 18 and 29 read a daily newspaper. That number declined to 18 percent by 2000 and 15 percent by 2005.
The death of Metromix’s print edition, McKinney said, doesn’t signal the end of the Star’s efforts to reach a younger audience.
“[The Star] isn’t going away,” McKinney said. “They’re going to keep trying to penetrate this sector because it’s too important. It will be interesting to see what their next move is.”
Crotchfelt wasn’t ready to tip her hand, but acknowledged the Star has other strategies either in place or in development to attract the 25- to 44-year-old audience.
“Metromix isn’t the only part of that,” Crotchfelt said. “We have quite a few things to reach that demographic up our sleeve.”