Three attempts at glossy city magazines--then the vogue in bigger cities--came and went in the '70s and early '80s. Ditto for two short-lived local business journals that came along a few years later. Chris Whittle "knew" the Knoxville market wasn't big enough for more than a Nutmeg, but his more expansive Tennessee Illustrated also came a cropper. Even the Knoxville Journal, after getting megamillions from the News-Sentinel to cease daily publication in 1991, couldn't make a go of a reconstituted weekly in 1992.
Why has Metro Pulse flourished where so many others (the full list runs much longer) have foundered?
It's hard to answer this question without appearing boastful. Vision, dedication, ingenuity, integrity, talent--we've been blessed with all of these, but the words all sound pretentious.
Metro Pulse would much rather be known for its lively style and straightforward approach to connecting with our readers. We try to tell it like it is--but with a lot more depth and with a lot more flair than other local media. No, we're not the publication of record in Knoxville, except for the entertainment scene. But when Metro Pulse tackles a story on any of the vast array of topics we've covered over these past five years, we do our best to make it more enlightening and engaging than the daily newspaper's frequently humdrum fare.
Metro Pulse's mission is to enlighten and enliven this community--including the lives of the people who work here. I didn't use the word enrich because we haven't turned a profit yet and can't afford to pay our people as much as they deserve. Thank goodness, journalism is a field that attracts people for whom psychic satisfaction can outweigh monetary reward.
Attracting enough readers to attract enough advertisers at rates sufficient to pay the bills is what survival is all about at publications such as ours. And Metro Pulse's award-winning mix of well reported, well written stories and columns has enabled us to do just that.
Readership has grown to more than 70,000, and their attributes are just as impressive as their number. Metro Pulse readers are better educated, more affluent, and more concentrated in their prime years than the News-Sentinel's. Nearly 60 percent of our readers are college graduates, compared to 31 percent of theirs. Well over half our readers have household income in excess of $35,000, compared to 41 percent of theirs. Nearly 90 percent of our readers are in the 18-54 age bracket, compared to less than 70 percent of theirs. These statistics, by the way, are drawn from a readership survey conducted for Metro Pulse this past spring by Simmons Market Research, a national leader in the field.
Please don't jump to the conclusion from these numbers that Metro Pulse has an elitist bent or even defines itself in demographic terms--or any other terms, for that matter. Truth be told, whenever we try to engage in self-definition, the best we can come up with is that diversity and variety are our hallmarks.
Cultural, political, generational and gender differences get so much ventilation at our editorial meetings that I sometimes worry we may suffer from multiple personality disorder. But our ad sales staff has managed to keep its sanity and to keep Metro Pulse's revenues growing along with our readership. Indeed, revenue growth has exceeded 50 percent in each of the past three years. If only our expenses hadn't managed to keep pace ...
I cannot resist closing on a highly personal note. From my office in the Arnstein Building on Market Street, I look across Krutch Park at the Fidelity Bankers Trust Co. Building where my father presided for most of his career over estates and trusts that owned a lot of Knoxville businesses and real estate. My view extends down the block on Gay Street to what I still think of as the Farragut Hotel, which was Knoxville's finest for many years after my grandfather, William Ross, and two partners built it in 1915. Looking west of Clinch, I can see the third floor of the Customs House which houses the McClung Collection, accumulated over a lifetime by my great-grandfather, Calvin McClung, and donated to the Lawson McGhee Library by his widow. The library, in turn, was named in memory of a daughter of my great-great grandfather, Charles McGhee, who gave Knoxville its first public library in 1885. My personal goal for Metro Pulse is to add in some small way to the contributions that my forebears have made to this community.