- "Express," a free, tabloid-style daily newspaper targeted at Washington-area commuters, is expanding in the face of dropping circulation at its parent paper, The Washington Post.
Express, launched a year ago in part to encourage 18- to 34-year- olds to read the Post, has added 25,000 copies per day, bringing its daily circulation total to 175,000. Company executives said they will look to distribute more of the papers at college campuses and other places with heavy foot traffic around Washington in coming months.
"The paper is doing great financially. We've brought in a lot of new [advertisers] that weren't or had stopped using the Post," Arnie Applebaum, general manager of the Express, said. "The cool thing is that many of the readers didn't read the Washington Post much beforehand. We've been trying to grow the audience for the Post."
But the success of Express, which embeds references to the Post in stories from The Associated Press and other wire services, has not spilled over to its parent paper.
In the six months leading up to the launch of Express, the Post saw a year-over-year circulation drop of 1.9 percent for its daily and 1.1 percent for its Sunday edition, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
During the same six months this year, average circulation of the Post's daily edition declined 3.3 percent to 727,100 copies - a loss of more than 24,000 readers. The Sunday paper's average circulation dropped 2.6 percent during the time to slightly more than 1 million, according to the filings.
The trend lines have led some to question Express's effect on Post readership.
"We've argued previously that The Post's large geographic footprint creates the potential for disproportionate declines as it faces a lot of competition on the periphery," Deutsche Bank securities analyst Paul Ginocchio wrote in a research note. "But another open issue is whether Express - is cannibalizing The Post."
Post Publisher Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. in May told the New York Times the popularity of Express and washingtonpost.com had been siphoning readers from the Post.
Washington Post representatives did not return calls for comment.
Sandy K. Yielding, marketing director for Express, said the research shows Express readers are turning to the Post.
"We feel, through research, that it is working, she said. It's been looked at quite heavily and we have not ascertained that Express has caused [the drop in Post circulation] at all."
Applebaum pointed to the locations in which Express is distributed and the Post is sold.
"Our circulation department reports that at those locations -- more Posts are selling at the boxes now than before [Express] was published, he said. There is absolutely nothing to point to the fact that Express is cannibalizing the Post."
The circulation drop at the Post is part of a larger trend that began in 1990 when the average daily circulation of U.S. newspapers began declining 1 percent annually.
In response, a number of newspapers have launched free dailies in an attempt to lure younger readers.
Only around 40 percent of people age 18 to 34 read a paper on weekdays, compared to about 70 percent for people age 45 to 64, according to Scarborough Research, which tracks consumer habits.
Copyright 2004 Dolan Media Newswires