Nightlife coverage in most markets has always had an aspirational quality, focused on rich and often beautiful people having more fun out on the town than the average person.
But the economic downturn is having an impact. Not only is the space devoted to nightlife reduced at many newspapers, but also the tone of that coverage is shifting away from high-profile, velvet-rope venues toward accessible and affordable nights out.
“Nightlife, like every editorial beat, is suffering from the economy; the trend, more in depth, [is that coverage of] clubs [is] being scaled back as non-essential,” notes Alastair Duncan, director of Los Angeles-based Infamous Public Relations. “Outlets are now looking for ways to cover events that don't require much effort, so you have to work with them by offering things such as e-mail Q&As.”
Outlets are also making coverage of cheap nights out easier for readers to find, says Billie Cohen, deputy editor at Time Out New York.
“The way we cover nightlife hasn't changed that much – we're still looking for the most interesting, exciting, and essential,” Cohen adds. “But what has changed is how we're highlighting more affordable nights out, and making it easier for readers to find. We just closed our ‘Going Out for Cheap' issue, and we now have a section on our Web site called ‘Make Money and Save Money,' where all the things that are cheap and affordable are concentrated in one place.”
In some cases, the recession angle is a boon for some nightlife-focused outlets. Jason Fried, cofounder and business development director of Myopenbar.com, which alerts its audience in six US markets to bars where drink specials can be found, says, “We've had a huge amount of print people coming to us looking for stories on nightlife bargains and what people are doing to drink for cheap or free.”
Susanna Homan, a former PR executive and nightlife columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, last September became editor of Michigan Avenue, a glossy magazine covering society and Windy City nightlife. She stresses that Michigan Avenue hasn't shifted its focus.
“You have to have a sensitivity filter on now because of the economy,” she says. “The pendulum has definitely swung back toward inclusivity, because clubs now can't afford to turn people away.”
Nightlife coverage has also always been heavily ad-supported. David Zapata, president of Chicago-based Zapwater Communications, says with print advertising down, he's shifting more of his efforts toward blogs and other online sites.
“We're also pitching different angles,” he adds. “A lot of the venues we represent are now getting covered from a design standpoint. We had success getting one of our clubs profiled in Elle Décor.”
Make it easy for nightlife editors and reporters by providing them with all the information for an event or venue, including phone numbers, addresses, specials, and photos, in the initial pitch
Celebrities always help in getting nightlife coverage, but remember that they can be a double-edged sword. So make sure to go beyond celebrity spotlights
The recession is an effective news hook, so leverage it to push the affordability and accessibility of a club or bar