'Chronicle' touts Sunday best

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The San Francisco Chronicle, now under the ownership of Hearst Corp., next week shows off the new look for its Sunday newspaper.

A TV and radio campaign breaking this week, themed "Sundays will never be the same," is targeted to a 25-plus audience.

Debra Hall, Chronicle marketing director, said the effort is the first touting changes, starting in the April 29 issue, under Hearst management. The campaign has estimated spending of $1 million over four weeks and will run in a range of programming. "This is the first shot out of the Chronicle's cannon to show we are the Bay Area's newspaper," said Brian Hurley, principal at agency Grant, Scott & Hurley, San Francisco.

In one spot, a priest calls in sick for Sunday services because he is reading the paper. Other spots show a man missing brunch and a goalie forgetting to show up for a soccer game.

The radio campaign will focus on changes made to the paper including a new lifestyle section called "Living," a new job section called "At Work" and a real estate section that includes a tabloid pull- out on for that day's open houses.

Perhaps one of the biggest changes is the end of wrapping the newspaper in the comics section, a practice that gave the paper its local nickname, "the comical."

David Cole, editor and publisher of News Inc, a Pacifica, Calif.-based newsletter, said the Chronicle will now try to sell its Sunday paper with "a story or two" on the front page. "What's at stake for them is getting back to 750,000 circulation."

The Chronicle's daily circulation has held steady in recent years, at 457,028 for the six months ending Sept. 30, 2000, up 300 from the same period a year earlier, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Sunday paper, previously produced under a joint operating agreement by the Hearst's Examiner staff and the Chronicle's staff under the previous owners, had a circulation for that same six-month period of 552,400, down from more than 700,000 in 1990. Hearst last year bought the dominant Chronicle and sold the Examiner to a local publishing entrepreneur, ending the papers' 35-year joint operating agreement.

Over the years, the Chronicle has lost circulation to suburban papers, among them Knight Ridder's San Jose Mercury News.

National papers, such as The New York Times and Dow Jones & Co.'s The Wall Street Journal, also compete for higher-demographic readers. Some of that competition has subsided, however, as the Mercury News, as part of its financial difficulties, has scaled back on last summer's ambitious push into the San Francisco city limits.

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