Beginning next month, the City Paper is going to have a little company — one rack over from where you picked up this little gem.
The Post and Courier's weekly entertainment section, Preview, will become Charleston Scene. Other than a new name, the expanded section set to launch on March 11 will be breaking out of its insert status and expanding its distribution in bars, restaurants, and stores.
This isn't the first time that a daily newspaper has had eyes set on the barroom/restaurant reader in an effort to reach the neglected readership that independent, alternative weeklies were designed for. Nationally, there's been mixed success for these daily-made weeklies. Many only offer a watered-down version of the alt-weekly already in the market. But a few have successfully driven local weeklies out of business.
Yet the Scene is at a different starting line with someone else behind the wheel. Usually, these faux weeklies are a calculated move driven by the daily paper's advertising department. Executives at The Post and Courier are certainly looking for a profit, but the bean counters are in the passenger seat this time.
Local spoken-word artist — and current Preview editor — Marcus Amaker is driving the product.
"I feel like it needed to reach another level," he says of Preview. "It needed a radical change. It needed a new energy."
In a big-picture sense, that energy is coming from the "young, hip" Charleston community, but, on a practical level, that energy is Amaker — and he's happy to own it.
"I wanted it to be my baby instead of somebody else's that I was taking on," he says.
The new product is going to be in full color and a lot thicker than Preview — the section is expected to more than double in size. That's going to necessitate more content, hence new columns, reader contributions, business features, and expanded movie listings.
"It's not just going to be Preview in color," Amaker says.
But a lot of the new real estate will be filled with pictures. Amaker drew his inspiration from magazines, not newspapers.
"I want something that could be a poster on every page," he says.
The move to that new rack next to us was also Amaker's idea, particularly in a day when it's so hard to get anyone to pick up the paper, particularly the targeted hip crowd.
"I don't think Preview was grabbing the casual reader," Amaker says.
Again, he doesn't see the new weekly as competition for City Paper, referring to the Scene as a "little brother" that's offering a different perspective in a big market.
Best of luck, Charleston Scene. Stay on your own rack.