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Tampa Bay newspaper competition intensifies as Tampa Tribune debuts St. Petersburg Tribune



st._pete-tribune-lowres.jpgOne name change has seemingly spawned another, with the Tampa Tribune debuting a new, daily St. Petersburg edition Sunday dubbed the St. Petersburg Tribune, aimed at competing with larger rival the Tampa Bay Times in its home market.

The Tampa Tribune had pulled back on coverage in Pinellas County years ago, a cost saving strategy implemented by former owners Media General. But new owners Revolution Capital Group had vowed to bolster the newspaper's operations despite necessary cutbacks; in a press release on the new, daily edition in Pinellas, Tribune publisher William Barker cast the new edition as just such a move.

"Our recently announced private local ownership provides an opportunity to invest in ways that are specifically focused on the needs of our communities, readers and business partners," Barker said in the release. "I couldn't be more excited to announce our added investment in reporting and photography resources dedicated to key communities in Pinellas."

The company said the new edition is created by a Pinellas-based news staff with the aim of increasing circulation and advertising in the county. A story on the new edition in its Sunday newspaper also said the Tribune would present "more moderate to conservative views" in its editorials, compared to the Tampa Bay Times, which it characterized as a "more liberal view."

The Sunday edition featured two St. Petersburg-based stories on its front page -- one on the growing nightlife in the city's downtown and another on the fight over the redesign of The Pier shopping and entertainment complex, now known as The Lens -- with the remaining pages of its A section filled mostly with stories from wire services. The Pinellas edition's Metro section featured two more stories from Pinellas and a commentary from columnist Steve Otto on The Pier.

The new edition highlights the always-percolating newspaper war in the Tampa Bay area, an anomaly in a time when most mid-size cities have just one large newspaper and many are cutting costs to survive (Sunday's 60 Minutes, for example, featured a story on the move by New Orleans' Times-Picayune to slash its staff and focus more on its website news product, limiting print publication to three days each week.) 

By contrast, the Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times continue to fight over circulation and ad revenue daily, with the Tribune's Pinellas edition signaling a turn from the newspaper's previous strategy focusing primarily on Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa, offering reduced subscription rates for the new St. Petersburg Tribune.

Later this month, the company also plans to debut three "Neighbors'' sections -- centered on north Hillsborough, east and south Hillsborough, and the city of Tampa in Hillsborough County. According to the release, the twice-a-week sections will complement the existing five-day-a-week Pasco Tribune.

The St. Petersburg Tribune's name also highlights a move by the Tampa Bay Times to change its name from the St. Petersburg Times in January 2012, identifying more with the region and challenging the Tampa Tribune aggressively in Hillsborough County.

The biggest question left: Can the Tribune compete with the Times on its home turf with fewer resources at a time when all newspapers are fighting to reinvent their business? To borrow a phrase from another industry, stay tuned.




[Last modified: Monday, January 7, 2013 9:29am]


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