My online (and recently met in person) friend Robert Neff keeps up the criticism of the St. Petersburg Times‘ name change:
The St Pete Times announcement to change their name and rebrand themselves demonstrates how out of touch their leadership is with their readership.
There is no strength in their arguments. For example, the statement that three-fourths of their readership is outside has been incorrectly interpreted. The St Pete Times should be looking inward as to why their local readership is down. Age and demographics are a few examples, but they need to appeal to the spectrum of ages and interests.
If the executive staff were to visit a barber shop or Bob Evan’s they would hear why people don’t subscribe to the St Pete Times. The answer is coverage. Their local coverage is horrible. There is little to offer in the arts, high school sports or of interest to the viewers.
The St Pete Times has avoided hard stories with great intel on the nursing homes. Granted, there is an article here and there, but they have not proven themselves to be a watchdog and protect senior interests. A politico type operation and or weekly or daily segment would be well received.
The strength of the St Pete Times has always been national and they are very well respected. This has been their emphasis. Now that the Tampa Tribune is floundering they see an opportunity to be regional with the name change. The St Pete Times may increase regional subscribers through attrition, however, this opportunity will not be leveraged because of their poor local coverage. However, this is a rebrand – not a relaunch.
One point of interest is that it is speculated that a recent bump in local sales was due to coupons – not local coverage…not better coverage!
Another example is the arts community. The reporters tend to have their favorites and do not hit the streets. It is widely known that requests to the St Pete TImes writers will fall on deaf ears. Locally, editors have not always conducted due diligence on their reporter’s facts. The reporters here have a reputation for leading the reader instead of stating the facts. Locally, we know of one reporter who was not checking facts, nor did the editor. Rumor is that this was handled internally after the fact. Still, this shows a lack of editorial control.
Their local brand efforts have been abysmal. If they want to be a regional and national force, then they should focus on local content. Once more, the St Pete Times has ignored the locals. Hence, the term “Chasing Pulitzer” is used to describe how out of touch the St Pete Times is with the region!
Nationally they are known as the St Pete Times and respected. This rebrand will serve to confuse, not clarify. Locally, the St Pete Times has not stepped up to the plate!
Their regional argument is poor. Two city metro areas can support a region with two papers. Examples are Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis/St Paul and Oakland/San Francisco. DFW easily supports two papers because each provides strong local coverage.
Their solution is to rebrand when they should be re-launching their brand name. The funds used to rebrand should be funneled into relaunching their brand. Their executive leadership has sunk them in the bay!
Far be it from me to defend Gov. Rick Scott, but I think Sue Carlton is missing the point about his recent amazement that this community is referred to as the “Tampa Bay Region.”
“That’s interesting,” Scott said. “Does the region call itself the Tampa Bay region? Is that what it calls itself? The region does?”
Carlton mistakenly believes the Governor didn’t know Tampa Bay was referred to as the ‘Tampa Bay Region.’