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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Tuesday, March 5

Gapers Block

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Jerry Logaras / March 10, 2005 5:46 PM

I think it's been here for a while, and it's called the Reader.

Ian / March 10, 2005 5:52 PM

We signed up for a discount subscription to Time Out when the flyer arrived last year. So far, so good, but I am used to the format, as I read Time Out when I lived in London. Not sure if I would want to pay $2.50 a week, but definitely worth the $0.50 we currently pay.

We are still reading The Reader as well. I like the contrast and think Time Out has to win market share, rather than The Reader has to fight to retain its position. I honestly expect them both to survive and flourish.

ellie / March 10, 2005 10:52 PM

I don't think it's TOC v. Reader, more like TOC v. the unredeemably lame Chicago magazine. I liked the 1st issue of TOC and am looking forward to see how it matures. It is slightly irritating how they used the NYC paradigm for Chicago addresses (i.e. Halsted between Waveland and Grace instead of 3750 N. Halsted). Chicago don't play that way, yo. The straight-up address number is enough info for me, thank you very much.

Adam Verner / March 10, 2005 11:29 PM

I love it! But that's probably because my show made the front cover. Come see the puppets!

But yes, it does seem like a slickified Reader - but if the articles are good like the first issue it might very well survive.

Michael / March 11, 2005 2:13 AM

Admittedly, I haven't seen it, but I say let The Reader (local) survive, and let this one die.

steven / March 11, 2005 5:16 AM

Reader, Newcity, UR Chicago, TimeOut...just another one to heap on the pile.

Ian / March 11, 2005 7:23 AM

I forgot to add above, that mentioning 'Time Out', should get you into the excellent 'Universal Experience' exhibitiion at the MCA for free.

paul / March 11, 2005 8:03 AM

ellie's right, it's competitiion will be Chicago magazine. It's audience will be out-of-towners. I personally haven't even seen one yet, much less picked one up, while I wouldn't want to try to count how many free weeklies I've walked past this week.

Emerson Dameron / March 11, 2005 8:35 AM

I love Michael Miner at the Reader, but I had to stifle a chuckle when he predicted Time Out Chicago would suffer, as RedEye and RedStreak have, in a city that's used to getting it's A&E puffery for free. It sounded like sluts goofing on prostitutes. I haven't seen TOC yet, and I'm not buying a copy. I like their travel guides, though. Much better maps than Lonely Planet's.

Tim / March 11, 2005 8:44 AM

Sounds like a publication for Chicago parents with children who have behavior problems.

Benjy / March 11, 2005 8:53 AM

I just wish they could get the delivery of subscriptions on time. I got my premier issue this Wed. and have yet to get this week's issue yet. However, what I saw looked promising! I think it fits a different niche than the other publications, and I much prefer the magazine format to the Reader's 4-section newspaper.

Ian / March 11, 2005 8:58 AM

Benjy, I had a short email discussiom with the Time Out circulation dept, as I didn't receieve my first issue until Saturday. They said they were very aware of erratic delivery times and are working hard to get everyones copy to them by the day of publication or earlier. This apparently will take a few weeks to fine tune however....

kate / March 11, 2005 9:23 AM

there's a section in the back that's clearly trying to imitate savage love, only much more explicit, and i think that's pathetic.

also, a review of a restaurant i read in TOC was suspiciously close to the review for that restaurant on metromix. i mean, they listed the same dishes *in the same order*...

on another note, i'm mad that i missed the last question so i just wanted to say the inland steel building is the most beautiful building in chicago - and i hesitate to say it considering my firm designed it and i hate them.
(sorry i wouldn't normally do that but that was my favorite question so far)

Benjy / March 11, 2005 10:11 AM

Ian, thanks for the update. I figured it was just a launch glitch and was cutting them a little slack. Nice to hear they're already working on the issue -- I probably would have contacted them about it soon.

Steve / March 11, 2005 10:18 AM

I subscribe because I'm one of those dopes who'll subscribe to any magazine that costs less than 20 bucks/year. Screw quality -- gimme quantity (to add to the quantity of un-/underread stuff I end up blue-bagging each week).

I *don't* feel that there's a glut of publications working in this space -- it's nice to have some genuine options, even if they all seem to be offering the same content. Chicago used to have 537 daily newspapers or something like that. Better to have choices than not to, no?

That said, as hinted at above, I haven't gotten past page five of the premiere issue yet....

Kelly / March 11, 2005 10:49 AM

Geesh! What’s with all the negativity? I think we should welcome TOC as another member of the "Weekly" family. In a city as big as Chicago it shouldn't be surprising to have some options for weekly reading. I think each periodical appeals to different people for different things, i.e.. when you are looking for an apartment, you sure are not going to pick up a TOC, but you wouldn't necessarily pick up the Reader when looking for shopping sales or yoga classes. Let us all chill a bit and take TOC for what it is, another option for Chicago readers. It could be worse....

Mike / March 11, 2005 11:12 AM

Haven't read the Chicago version yet, but I think the London version is excellent at finding something to do quick (not so good for casual reading).
That said, I hope it doesn't cut into the Reader too badly, because TO's articles are basically mindless top ten lists and reviews of the new Double Ristretto Venti Nonfat Organic Chocolate Brownie Frappuccino Extra Hot with Foam and Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended at Starbucks.

Krissy / March 11, 2005 11:14 AM

The launch party last week had the worst acoustics of anything I'd ever heard, but did feature chicken-on-a-stick. Yes, it was in a big hall, but it should have been band-less. It was embarrassing.

Maybe I'll get this week's issue today so I can see all of the exciting events I missed last night!

cd / March 11, 2005 11:16 AM

I think it's a bunch of bullshit, myself.

mt / March 11, 2005 11:50 AM

it's actually a little daunting at first, and the design is quite busy, w/ lots of crap to filter through, but it does have a nice, sleek look and feel to it. the new york vibe definitely comes across, but are us stubborn ol' midwesterners ready to accept it? we'll see...

oh, and the billboards on the El and at bus stops are pretty annoying. more annoying than those tilted head ads the Reader had goin' there for awhile.

Shasta MacNasty / March 11, 2005 12:11 PM

I haven't picked up TOC yet, though I'm a little leery. I'm all for a big city like Chicago having choices. However I'm never all that hot on parent publications doing little individual publications for each "hot city." It's one of the reasons why I refuse to visit the Chicagoist blog. In an age where almost every company gets bought out by somebody else, I like to patronize the independents that speak with their own voice when I can. Thas' jus' meh..

Sarah / March 11, 2005 12:41 PM

I've not seen one, but if it just rehashes all the same stuff that the trib and the reader do, that would be lame.

Knee Jerk / March 11, 2005 1:00 PM

Seems to be a lot of negative reactions from a lot of folks who haven't even seen the magazine.

Veronica / March 11, 2005 1:10 PM

I don't think TOC and the Reader are really going to have to compete against each other. The features have a different feel and those people who are loyal to the Reader are going to stay loyal. I don't think TOC is trying to steal them. That said, I've never been able to get into the Reader and I hate feel of newspaper, so I find TOC preferable. It's a bit overfull of things to do, but there are only a few sections I'm interested in anyway. I don't have a subscription, but that's because I'm poor.

Krissy - the acoustics at the launch party were horrible. It was better when you stood closer to the stage. But, oh, the fresh mozzarella...

Mike / March 11, 2005 1:20 PM

Krissy or Veronica--

What exactly is "Chicken-on-a-stick"?

Kris / March 11, 2005 1:22 PM

I'm, uh, biased toward TOC. That said, it's not like I stopped picking up the Reader. I only read Section 1 of the Reader anyway—their listings are a mess. Now, if Chicago magazine died a horrible death, I wouldn't complain.

ljdae / March 11, 2005 1:30 PM

It's awesome.

It blows away the Reader, and it's delivered right to your mailbox. The Reader is cumbersome and a pain. Time Out is organized perfectly, and it's compact, it's in color, and it's not newsprint.

It's $20 for one-year, right now. I love it. It's worth it.

Kevin / March 11, 2005 1:31 PM

Holy shit, TOC will give you Movie and Showtimes? As you know, this information is highly confidential and most other rags have dropped the ball.I applaud TOC for having the journalistic balls to report when "Robots" is playing.

Tim / March 11, 2005 2:07 PM

Gee, do you think 'ljdea' has some sort of interest in TOC? Ease off the hard sell. 'delivered right to your mailbox', wow. It is just another vehicle to carry advertising.

pat / March 11, 2005 2:07 PM

I always kinda thought that Chicago Magazine was for Trixies and North Shore Hausfraus looking for places to go out to eat before or after they go see All Shook Up at Broadway on Chicago.

I've oft been fond of the Reader in all its facets. Metromix is nice in a pinch when looking for a place to dine out.

I used to pick up Time Out NY occasionally, and enjoyed with the overall format and layout; but I have to agree with my compatriot, Ms MacNasty, and say I'd rather pick up a home-grown publication than something that fits into a conglomerate's template. but i'm glad it's there. let's just hope it gives the local publications a little more incentive to keep things from getting stale.

Krissy / March 11, 2005 2:51 PM

Friday afternoon update: my issue didn't come, nor did any of my coworkers'. It will be useless by the time it gets here. I am forlorn. I WANT to like you, Time Out, why do you do this to me? WHY?
Did anyone who blindly subscribed like me get theirs today?

seva / March 11, 2005 4:37 PM

Well, I did read it, cover to cover, and found it deeply informative but snarky. I know they hired hometown talent and I respect that, but the editorial attitude screamed, "Now that we're here, you'll finally be informed about what's cool, because WE are cool."

For the first issue, I wish they had assumed a bit more of a "Why we came to Chicago and why we love it here" vibe. Then get snarky after a few issues we they have some credibility. or not.

JB / March 11, 2005 5:20 PM

It's gotta be the TrixieMale in me, but I think the listings in TOC top the Reader, no contest. Having read the first two issues, TOC gives me a heads up about things I'd like to do; the Reader, not so much.

Whenever I look at Reader listings my eyes glaze over and all I can think is, "I don't care there's a bake sale to raise money for a Goddess-certified holistic birthing center and lapidary workshop in Ukrainian Village."

Having someone else edit for me is worth the 39.1 cents.

Slack-a-gogo / March 11, 2005 5:25 PM

I’m pretty happy with TOC based on the one issue I’ve seen, but, like others, I’m still waiting for the second issue of my 4 issue test subscription. TOC seems to perfectly walk the line between Chicago Magazine and the Reader. Chicago doesn’t have the info I’m looking for – but maybe if I get into Real Estate and reading about successful career folk I’ll come back to it. And for me all the Reader has had to offer for the past few years has been the concert listings. They seem more focused on meeting their own vision of cool than actually being relevant or even interesting. And the quality of writing has been in decline for quite a long time. TOC will get my dollars for a subscription and hopefully it’ll live up to what I like about TONY. I’d love to stop even picking up the Reader – I hardly refer to it and it takes up too much space in my bag anyway.

Veronica / March 11, 2005 9:24 PM

Mike - chicken on a stick is exactly what it sounds like. Chicken strips on skewers. Simple yet tasty.

John / March 11, 2005 11:49 PM

Actually, I find that I get a lot of my A&E info from Gapers Block these days. Like the Chicago Irish film festival, for example: I didn't even know it was happening until I read it here, and then I schlepped down to Beverly for a great documentary. Thanks, Gapers Block!

Angela / March 12, 2005 12:24 AM

I've been getting it in the mail and haven't looked through it yet. Perhaps I'll have to now.

And a couple of you mentioned Time Out London... would you recommend that if you're in the city? I'm spending 2 months in London this summer and if this is their version of The Reader and such, I'll have to check it out.

Shylo / March 12, 2005 8:00 AM

I read TOC and thought it would be perfect to put in suites at cool hotels like the Monaco. I wanted more long-form articles.

But one way TOC trumps the Reader big time? No fucking Liz Armstrong.

Ian / March 12, 2005 9:43 AM

Angela, I think Time Out is still the leading listings paper in London. When I was there at the end of the ninties, there was not a strong free listings and event paper culture, like there is here in Chicago.

Naz / March 12, 2005 11:04 AM

Like Ian said, Time Out London is definitive. Get it while you're there. It is the standard.

Jill Horsemaster / March 12, 2005 4:00 PM

I read it in Jail 5,000 times and I can give you a solemn guarantee that it's a little bit better than the Bible just because it's more realistic in certain ways.

jeff / March 12, 2005 4:04 PM

its pretty weak all around

Rudiger / March 13, 2005 11:55 AM

Where'd people get the $20 deal? The subscription cards in the magazine say $40. Am I too late?

Ian / March 13, 2005 12:19 PM

Rudiger, I think you can still get he $20 deal on the website Time Out Chicago

rubinow / March 14, 2005 10:18 AM

TOC is great (but so is the Reader) quit your bitchin'.

TOC has managed in 2 issues to uncover a whole ton of Chicago stuff that other publications won't even mention. It makes the city seem so much more interesting than other pubs seem to let on.

If you go to or just do a search for "Time Out Chicago subscription" and you can get a $20 deal...I'm glad I waited and did'nt do the $30 deal they offered me a long time ago.

rubinow / March 14, 2005 10:19 AM

TOC is great (but so is the Reader) quit your bitchin'.

TOC has managed in 2 issues to uncover a whole ton of Chicago stuff that other publications won't even mention. It makes the city seem so much more interesting than other pubs seem to let on.

If you go to or just do a search for "Time Out Chicago subscription" and you can get a $20 deal...I'm glad I waited and didn't do the $30 deal they offered me a long time ago.

Kris / March 14, 2005 10:28 AM

The $19.99 deal is available directly here, for those who were interested.

ljdae / March 14, 2005 12:40 PM

Tim wrote: "Gee, do you think 'ljdea' has some sort of interest in TOC?"

No. But having TOC delivered in the mail is a huge plus. The mag is compact and consise, small, no newsprint ink.

I don't know about everyone else, but picking up the Reader: I either forget to do it, it ends up in my car on the floor, it's an almost out-of-date issue....what else? I usually toss section 4 immediately. TOC weekly at $20 for year seems great on all levels. That's all. I don't work there.

Sarah / March 16, 2005 3:34 PM

I am loving Time Out Chicago. I was pretty cynical about it before it came out, fearing that it would turn out to be a rag for yuppies. (I like Time Out London, but Time Out New York seems to always be writing feature articles on "what gift to bring to your hostess if you want to get invited again to her beach house in the Hamptons. Puh-lese.)

However now that I've actually gotten a copy of Time Out in my hands, I'm really excited about it.

What I am loving about Time Out:

1) Nearest public transporation given for most listings

2) More pages and a large staff means expanded coverage for the arts

3) I am finally going to be able to tell what's going on at the Chicago Cultural Center, without having to navigate their terrible website

4) I feel like they're doing a better job of covering events and destinations in South Chicago and West Chicago.

5) Were I to compare it to the Reader I would also add: no Chicago Anti-Social column. That column drives me nuts.

I should say that while Chicago has a smaller market than New York, New York is able to support both Time Out New York and a whole range of alternative newspapers, including the Village Voice. The Reader is still going to have really compelling stories about local news, people, and events. I am guessing that part of the reason that the Reader developed it's new format was in anticipation of the release of TOC. If anything, hopefully the competition will spur them to keeping making the paper better.

Steve / March 18, 2005 9:23 AM

Third issue arrived in my mailbox on Wednesday. So they seem to be getting quicker....

ljdae / March 21, 2005 12:11 PM

Reader? Less so, as circulation dips
Retail crackdown, news box shift nip alternative weekly

By Jeremy Mullman
March 21, 2005

It's getting harder to give away a newspaper nowadays.

Circulation has tumbled 8% at the Chicago Reader, the city's venerable free weekly, as retailers balk at letting stacks of newspapers clutter their entryways and as the Daley administration retools Loop news boxes.

Last year's circulation decline — to 119,486 from 129,437 in 2003 — comes as the Reader faces more competition than ever in the form of free publications such as UR, Chicago Social and the Onion, as well as the major dailies' tabloid editions, online outlets such as Metromix and the recent entry of glossy entertainment magazine Time Out Chicago.

The Reader's circulation slipped despite a bold redesign and a rare marketing campaign. It's the 34-year-old paper's sixth consecutive annual circulation decline since 1999, when circulation stood at 138,100.

Publisher Michael Crystal says that because of the circulation dip, the Reader has been unable to raise its ad rates for four years.

Reader executives say the main reason for the drop is consolidation among major retailers. Many chains have made a top-down attempt to control clutter. At many booksellers and grocery stores, once mainstays of the Reader's distribution, mountains of free newspapers piled by the door are a thing of the past.

"Just during the past few months, Borders (Books & Music) moved us from the lobby to the cafe or the bathroom," says Reader Operations Director Mary Jo Madden, who has overseen circulation since 1985. "There are so many free publications now that some regional manager comes in and says, 'This is just a mess.' And now, a lot of people who might have picked us up don't even know we're there."

In addition to Borders, retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Jewel-Osco and Tower Records have cracked down on displays of free newspapers. "We asked the stores to use discretion about which papers they carry and where they display them," says a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders. "When someone walks into the vestibule, that's their first impression of Borders. The first impression shouldn't be papers on the floor."


The Reader has an outdoor distribution problem, too. City Hall is banning individual newspaper vending boxes from the downtown business district, replacing them with multi-unit news racks that hold far fewer copies of each paper. The Reader's familiar yellow news boxes hold about 90 copies each; the city's racks can stock 15.

"We try to refill them," says Ms. Madden, "but it's hard."

Mr. Crystal says the paper's recent decision to add more free content to its Web site may also be a factor in the circulation decrease. But freebies elsewhere, such as New York's Village Voice and LA Weekly in Los Angeles, have put much more content online than the Reader does without seeing circulation plummet.

Newcity, Chicago's No. 2 alternative newsweekly in terms of circulation, saw an even steeper decline during 2004, as circulation during the last three months of the year fell 37%, to 30,258 from 48,284.

Publisher Brian Hieggelke says he slashed the paper's press run after severing ties with a distributor to lakefront high-rises and ending distribution in the suburbs. "We're trying to figure out what our distribution should be right now," he says.


Neither Mr. Hieggelke nor the Reader's Mr. Crystal attributes lower circulation to the mostly free Red tabloids distributed by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. But both executives concede that the additional publications join a crowded marketplace that offers readers more choices and forces retailers to control the mess.

"There are just a lot more free-circ pubs out there than there used to be," says Richard Karpel, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Assn. of Alternative Newsweeklies. "Apartment finders, auto traders, senior mags, the Onion and the Internet — all these things make circulation more difficult than it once was."

©2005 by Crain Communications Inc.

jlc / April 13, 2005 3:41 PM

Time Out Anywhere is lame. It is a gentrified weekly whatever that seeks to have a space at newsstands in any worthwhile city on the globe. So what happens? Your alternative newsweeklies begin to suffer. And then what happens? They disappear. Then what happens? You are fed crap stories suitable for graduated sorority sisters who need to know where the coolest place to go is. Yes competition is a healthy aspect of a cut-throat publishing world blah blah blah. TO is a McListings with some fluffy articles that support their advertising revenue dollars. Ya Esta.

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