Latest trends shape city guide coverage

Figuring out how to spend the hours outside of work can be a full-time job in itself, especially in some major markets.

Figuring out how to spend the hours outside of work can be a full-time job in itself, especially in some major markets.

Such a fact of big-city life is driving the growth of city-specific activity/nightlife guides that offer a mixture of advice on movies, restaurants, bars, and other entertainment activities.

Even in New York and Chicago, cities that are seemingly saturated with outlets offering advice on what to do and see, magazines like Time Out have been able to find an audience.

"Where other pubs offer selective slices of what's going on culturally and otherwise in the city, we exhaustively serve up the whole pie," explains Time Out New York editor-in-chief Brian Farnham. "We're for the readers who want to feel like they have the whole city at their fingertips, and since that could be said to be a somewhat more youthful outlook, we often end up speaking to a younger reader, but not exclusively."

MWW Group VP Joe Cohen adds that outlets like Time Out serve a dual audience, noting, "They're read by long-term residents, but also by tourists coming to a city like New York for a short period." But he adds that these activity/nightlife guides, especially those online, can be a bit of double-edged sword. They do provide additional media opportunities, he says, but adds: "A lot of these guides come up through search engines, so even one bad review in a blog or small nightlife site can be seen by a lot more people. So you have to do a lot of monitoring of what's out there."

With a presence in 40 markets, the online-only outlet Citysearch differs from traditional review-driven nightlife coverage. "We don't really do chef profiles or concert reviews; it's more capsule reviews. In most cases, it's service journalism," says senior director of content Jeremy Reed. He adds that beyond basic listings, the staff is always looking for trends that allow them to include several bars or restaurants in a single story.

In terms of pitching such outlets, Kathryn Goldstein, VP of strategic communications at Dallas-based Levenson & Brinker Public Relations, says, "Most of these outlets are looking for something fun, innovative, and different, so if it's an established restaurant, for instance, you could focus on a new dŽcor or a new trend, such as ice wines."

Adds Time Out's Farnham, "If there's a personality, trend, movement, or conflict coming out of a show or event that might make for compelling storytelling, we're interested."

PITCHING... Nightlife/activity guides

Don't just pitch the location, pitch the trend; most nightlife/activity guides are looking for the new and novel, so work with your client to localize any national dining, entertainment, or social fads

Don't ignore the activities section of daily newspapers and local alt-weeklies; no one relies on just one source for what to do

Freelancers want to pitch as many different pieces as they can to these guides, so establish relationships with local writers, and work directly with them to develop story themes and trends

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