Last week’s unfortunate news about another round of pay cuts at the St Pete Times prompted me to revisit a story I have been watching unfold for five years.
I can find nothing written and have only discussed this with a small number of people in the past five years it is time to put the prediction out there.
I have written critical reviews of journalism in the past, however in this case I have been quietly waiting to see if my prediction for how Tampa Bay’s newspaper war would finally be won would come to true.
Five years ago it was possible and I feel very likely, however the current state of the economy and industry should make it certain.
If you are not familiar, the Tampa Tribune and St Petersburg Times have been in a constant battle for supremacy over the Tampa Bay region. We are one of the largest markets in the country with two significant and viable daily newspapers.
That may all change in just two months when a restriction placed on the Times usage of the name “Tampa Bay Times” during mediation with the Tampa Tribune in 2006 will be lifted.
The current restrictions require the St Pete Times to…
…publish “tbt” in type seven times larger than “Tampa Bay Times.” In addition, it must increase the size of the words “published by the St. Petersburg Times” or “published by the St. Pete Times” as part of the nameplate. The name “Tampa Bay Times” must be used with the name “tbt” in all advertising.
St Pete Times Re-Brand?
The Time’s office on Ashley Drive and the St Pete Times forum often criticized for confusing people by being located in the wrong city are my most public indicators; my secondary indicator the name of the actually paper distributed in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
Re-branding is a huge and expensive decision for an organization, however in the case of the Times I am not predicting that.
The St Petersburg Times over the past 11 years has perfectly nurtured multiple brands in a slow and calculating yet not overly obvious manner.
The Tribune also agreed to transfer to the Times three Internet domain names containing “tampabaytimes” and the Times agreed not to link them to any Times Publishing site for five years.
Changing signage on their Ashley Drive property would be an inexpensive and strong statement considering the drive by traffic and keep in line with the paper’s previous decision to leave the words “St Pete” off of the current sign.
Sports Arenas are a Buyer’s Market
Signage at the St Pete Times Forum already screams tampabay.com and tbt* louder than the actual name.
If you’ve not been following sports arena naming rights deals in Tampa Bay, you know that the market is definitely a buyer’s market. Last year Ford gave way to the I’m not even going to type it here Amphitheater estimated at $375k yearly and USF backed off a subpar brand’s estimated offer of $598k yearly in 2007 – well before the recession.
Compared those recent deals to the estimated $3 million annually Raymond James paid and the estimated range of $700k to $2 million yearly that the St Pete Times contracted for and you can see that arena naming rights have certainly gone down.
In 2014 the 12 year deal between the Forum and the St Pete Times comes to end and you can bet the Times organization will be in the driver’s seat regarding its option to renew as the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
What about St Petersburg and their beloved St Petersburg Times?
How will St Petersburg residents feel about the changes? The short answer is unaffected and proud.
The Times in St Petersburg will not change anything and the residents there will be happy to know that their home town paper won the battle. Yeah the Tampa Bay Times will be what is delivered to subscribers in North Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties but that won’t matter anymore.
The residents of St Petersburg will relish in the fact the paper they read will be the only daily remaining in Tampa Bay to be named for the actual city it is written for, published in and delivered to.
With all the above stated I don’t see how pushing the Tampa Bay Times as a brand will not be a top priority for the St Pete Times later this year.