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Stribulations: What can you get for a dollar?

Say what you will about our daily newspapers in this old cowtown, but it was always easy to distinguish between the two of them in at least one regard: The Pioneer Press is the cheap one.

The enemy paper across the river isn't quite ready to drop down to a newsstand price of a quarter a day, but the Star Tribune is lowering the price of its Sunday fish wrap to one lousy buck. The reason? Trying to get all the subliterates out there to look at the shiny new object the Strib is now, post-redesign.

One internal memo circulated last week among Stribbers listed quite plainly what the strategy is, and also offers a glimpse into the Strib's desire to crush the PiPress:

"Starting this weekend, the price of the Sunday paper will drop to $1 for a limited stretch to get a jump on the year and help put the new paper in the hands of more readers," the memo notes. "While the most competitive region is to the east, the price drop will be on all Sunday papers for the coming weeks."

The missive goes on to conclude that "single-copy sales" are actually up, which would make the price change seem counterintuitive.

But post-weekend, the powers-that-be were pushing all employees to push the new price--suggesting that while circulation may be up, it's probably not up enough given the considerable time, energy and resources devoted to revamping the paper.

A pep talk was posted on the Strib internal web site on Tuesday, telling employees that "If you have friends or family members who don't subscribe, this is a good time to suggest they try out the Sunday paper."

Tuesday's directive was more detailed in the Strib's grand plan. It began: "Getting the redesigned Star Tribune newspaper into the hands of new readers is a primary objective of the Sunday single copy promotion that began last weekend."

Then someone named Matt Robinson, identified as "single copy director," was quoted as revealing the most overt purpose of the redesign: get the women, and the men will follow.

"We're doing this promotion metro-wide to encourage non-readers to try the redesigned newspaper," Robinson was quoted saying. "Our goal is to build awareness and sustained readership, which eventually results in more subscribers. The promotional materials for this sale feature young women, as they are one of the specific audiences we're trying to attract with new product features, but we think the special price should have broad appeal."