START THE PRESSES: In New Era Of Philly Newspapering, Less Is More, More Or Less

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Inquirer plans to unveil a news “express” section in early February to attract busy readers, one of several strategies to boost readership that also include a sponsored TV guide and new Web sites for local car and real estate listings.

inkybox.jpg“We have a plan to turn this business around,” Brian Tierney, publisher of the Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I don’t want to say it’s going to be easy, and certainly we’re not going to solve the problems of the media industry … but we’re going to fix Philadelphia.”

Tierney said the papers’ former owner, Knight Ridder Inc., cut staff _ as he also did this month, reducing the number of employees by more than 100 in order to save $9 million _ without having an effective plan to turn around operations. When the Tierney-led Philadelphia Media Holdings bought the papers last June, he saw that Knight Ridder had budgeted for an 8.5 percent circulation dip.

“They spent no money last year to try to grow,” Tierney said Tuesday.

Tierney, an advertising and public relations executive whose team crafted the James Earl Jones campaign for Verizon Communications Inc., said he has budgeted $20 million to spend on the papers this year, including $4 million in plant equipment upgrades, stepped-up advertising and marketing and greatly expanded home delivery of the Daily News. The company has also snagged the rights to “Philadelphia,” a song sung by a local rap artist to be used in promoting its Web sites.

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