The Star tries to shine up its circulation numbers.

Star chores 

The Star tries to shine up its circulation numbers.

A couple of weeks ago, bleary-eyed Sunday morning newspaper readers stumbled into their nearest convenience stores to find that, mysteriously, The Kansas City Star suddenly cost only $1.25 instead of a buck-fifty.

The discount rate is obviously an attempt to increase the paper's circulation, but at the Total store across Grand Street from Star headquarters, the paper still isn't exactly flying off the shelves.

"People do notice the price," says cashier Cedric Edwards. "They walk in and be like, 'It's $1.25.' But the sales haven't got, like, higher or anything like that because it's $1.25."

Perhaps the paper should consider giving readers the same sort of discount it's offering its own employees. The new single-copy newsstand price is a 17 percent reduction, but Star employees now get a 70 percent price cut on home delivery.

"This year, our focus is on growing circulation," publisher Art Brisbane told his fellow ink-stained wretches in an April 26 memo that had Star staffers blabbing last week. "I believe all employees should subscribe to The Kansas City Star."

Not only is he discounting the already-cheap employee subscriptions; he's reducing employees' parking costs as an incentive and offering a complicated menu of package deals. The bottom line is that those who don't park in the company lot will get the Star for $5 a month, and "the combo price for parking and subscribing will be what you currently pay for your subscription, $8.50 [a month]," the Brisbane memo says.

But the company can't predict how many more employees will sign up for subscriptions that cost regular folks $16.50 a month. Lisa Parks, vice president of circulation, says, "We're not really certain at this point. We're kind of early in the process."

Star staffers can gain more than cheap parking and low-budget news from Brisbane's campaign. They can "Win Big in the Kansas City Star Brainstorm Contest" by coming up with ideas to boost the number of subscribers. The top prize is $5,000; second place is $1,000, and any employee has a chance at sex in the lap of luxury -- everyone who presents a credible idea gets dinner for two at McCormick and Schmick's on the Plaza and a free night at the Fairmont Hotel.

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