Mr. Wrong By Joe MacLeod

Mr. Wrong: You Can't Spell Goodbye Without Lowercase b

Mr. Wrong reflects on the demise of b, the on-purpose lowercase-named weekly

I dunno how much you pay attention to Media News, but were you aware the Company that publishes the smudgy inky paper or pixels of City Paper, directly here in front of your eyeballs, also publishes the b paper, the on-purpose lowercase-named weekly?

Yeah, and now they (The Baltimore Sun Media Group, which signs the checks I cash for pooping out the Mr. Wrong Column every week) are not gonna print b anymore, and that makes me kinda sad, not because I ever read b on the regular, but it was something that was there for me to flip through if I was waiting for the bus or whatever, you know? I think a lotta people feel the same way about City Paper, it's not like they love it, but it's there!

The thing I remember the most about b is when I used to be Art Director at City Paper, I always wanted to make sure CP's covers kicked the hell out of the b covers, and not to pat myself on the back too much, I think we did a pretty good job, but then I heard that the b didn't really have an Art Director, so then it didn't seem fair for me to be like, "yeah, our cover is way better than that stupid b this week!" I also remember b seemed to have a mission of wanting Youths who didn't read any papers to read b, because it always had this thing where people would send in texts or tweets or whatever to answer a provocative question of the week, and it might've even been a question of the day back when b was published every day, isn't that crazy? They used to print that b every day!

Occasionally I would count the pages of b and see how many pages were Content and how many pages were Ads. A good general rule is you gotta be running ads on way more than half your paper's pages every issue, ideally more like, say, 66 percent of your paper should be pages that are Paid For, and b never seemed to be even close to that. Plus, it looked like a lotta the ads were just thrown in from The Sun to soak up space. Another thing to look for in a weak product is how many free ads are in there, like anytime you see an ad for stuff the Baltimore Sun does, that's not making the paper it's running in any money, man.

I remember once the b paper put the word DOUCHEBAG on the cover, with a picture of a guy who was supposed to be one, I think, and I feel like that was a high-water mark for it, because that was b trying to get close to what City Paper does, by being a little shocking, but City Paper has always known what it is in the Industry, man, it is an Alternative Weekly, pitting itself against the Daily Paper, and b was sorta muddled, I think, in its Mission, beyond, like, "Hey, let's take ads away from City Paper with this b paper that's aimed at Youths who do not read papers." It's like "b" stood for Baby paper, and someday the Youths would learn to read the Adult one? Always go Adult, man, the kids will Aspire.

The b paper never really made a fist about anything except DOUCHEBAG, and it seemed like every other cover was Ravens or Orioles, and the whole town is already saturated with that stuff, but that's Alternative thinking, to counter-program, and b seemed like it was always just muckling on to whatever the Mainstream thing was.

Meanwhile, I am sad if anybody loses work behind this, because that's what happened to me when The Sun bought City Paper, but I think The Sun is making the right move here, just like they made the right move when they bought City Paper! Eliminate the competition! Plus they are going with the strong Brand, and it looks like The Sun's WKND thing is a good idea, it appears to be a mutation/evolution of the Live! tabloid, with family-centric content and movie reviews and lists of places to eat and things to do.

I'm still sad to see less print on the streets and I think b coulda been something if it came up like City Paper did, which of course b could never do, because City Paper came up as a small independently owned and operated thing, and that's how it became great. You can draw your own conclusions about what's gonna happen to City Paper now, because technically it's in the hands of the same people who invented b.

I always had a hard time with the name "b," exactly because of the whole Branding thing, you know? It's tough to make one letter all yours! Plus, there's a nice restaurant in Bolton Hill called "b," lowercase and everything. I would have liked to be in that meeting when they were looking for a name for this b paper. I couldn't, of course, because at that time I was working for The Enemy, but now the Enemy is us.

Hey, don't forget, The Mr. Wrong Column is having its Essay Contest on Why The Mr. Wrong Column Should be Editor-in-Chief of City Paper, and the Grand (only) Prize is a City Paper Koozie (slightly used) from my own personal Koozie collection. Five hundred words or less. If you don't want or know how to write anything you could make a YouTube, and it could get a million hits, and you could become wealthy! Just send in the link. Deadline is Friday, Aug. 21.

email: wrongcolumn@gmail.com

tweet: @MRWRONGCOLUMN

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