Saturday, December 23, 2006

Anschutz publication loses publisher

The publisher of billionaire Phil Anschutz's San Francisco City Star has resigned a month after the new paper started. The reason for John Gollin's departure wasn't given. Gollin was apparently the driving force behind the new paper. No replacement has been named.

In 2004, Anschutz bought the San Francisco Examiner after it had been converted from a paid broadsheet to a free tabloid by a previous owner. In May 2006, former Palo Alto (Calif.) Daily News publishers Dave Price and Jim Pavelich launched the San Francisco Daily, which had steadily grown from eight pages to 32 per day. In November, the Examiner started the City Star, which bears a striking resemblance to the San Francisco Daily though it hasn't grown from its initial 12-page size. The San Francisco Daily has complained publicly that the Star has been using its news racks for distribution, a claim that has drawn coverage from other media.

Gollin is the second Anschutz publisher to step down in a month. On Nov. 22, Herbert W. Moloney III resigned as publsher of the Washington Examiner after 19 months in the post. Like Gollin, Moloney gave no reason for his departure.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

NY Times considering a free daily

Michael Calderone of the New York Observer reports that the New York Times Co. is looking at the idea of launching a free daily in New York to compete with amNewYork and New York Metro. Calderone says the planning for this new paper is in the earliest of stages -- Editor Bill Keller said in an e-mail "It's one of many projects that are in the noodling stage." The Times has become a partner in Boston Metro, and it is in a joint venture with Metro NY to re-run its classifieds to give those ads more reach. Broadsheets in Chicago and Washington, D.C., have both spun off free tabloids.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Paid daily says it's not hurt by free dailies

Hong Kong's newspaper market has got to be one of the world's most competitive with several paid papers competing against three strong and profitable free dailies -- Metro Publishing Hong Kong's Metro Daily, Sing Tao's Headline Daily and property agent Centaline Group's am 730. But the South China Morning Post reports that Ming Pao Enterprise, the publisher of Chinese language quality daily Ming Pao Daily News, isn't blaming the free papers for its decline in profits. Ming Pao's net profit fell 7 per cent to HK$15.09 million in the company's first half to September 30 from HK$16.3 million a year earlier as revenue jumped 11 per cent to HK$735 million. The company declared an unchanged interim dividend of 3 HK cents. "We don't see any setback from the free dailies," chief executive Francis Tiong said. Tiong said next year ought to be better with more real estate projects hitting the market, resulting in more ad sales.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Newspapers -- a growth industry

How many times have you read the story about how newspapers are dying? Unfortunately those article focus on large metro dailies, many of which are indeed dying, or on publications that have been mismanaged. But the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) reports that, contrary to conventional wisdom, newspapers are proliferating -- that the number of paid papers worldwide grew by 13 from 2001 to 2005, from 8,930 to 10,109.

The story for free dailies was even brighter. Total free daily circualtion has more than doubled during that period, from 12 million to 28 million -- a 137 percent increase.

"The surge of new, free titles thrust into the paid-for market are the result of many publishers rethinking the cover-price revenue model in place for more than 400 years," WAN says.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ex Examiner circ employee speaks out

The Baltimore alternative weekly City Paper got a letter-to-the-editor worth mentioning here. For a couple of months now, we've been observing the problems billionaire Phil Anschutz's Examiner newspapers have had with their business model, which calls for throwing papers on lawns or driveways of high-income neighborhoods whether the paper is requested or not. People who don't want the Examiner say they can't stop the paper, even after repeated calls. In Baltimore, attorney Joel Levin is seeking a restraining order to stop delivery to his home. After an article about Levin's lawsuit, the Baltimore City Paper got this eye-opening letter:
    Thank you for the great laughs and chills I got from the Nov. 8 Newshole article regarding Joel Levin's restraining order against The Examiner ("Using Restraint"). I was the customer service representative for the circulation department for a whole entire month before I walked out on the job for the second and final time. There wasn't a single day that I wasn't either threatened with multiple lawsuits or begged by a paraplegic to stop throwing garbage on his property. It's about time someone took this step, and as someone who may have filled half of Baltimore with false hopes of a litter-free lawn, I offer my deepest sympathies.
    Brian Hagermann
    Perry Hall

Here's a link to the Baltimore Sun story about Levin's lawsuit. Above are signs Baltimore residents have posted outside their homes, attempting to stop delivery of the Examiner. Photo from Baltimore City Paper.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Boston Metro gets new publisher

Boston Metro has a new publisher, former Boston Celtics executive Stuart Layne, who fills a spot that apparently has been vacant since Feb. 17 when Peggy Onstad left the paper. Onstad is now at Advanstar Communications, overseeing magazines on skin care. When Onstad left, Metro said it was bringing in a "corporate troubleshooter." Layne was executive vice president of marketing and sales with the Boston Celtics. After that, he created a sports and entertainment marketing company called Seven 2 Sports Marketing.

Metro puts emphasis on "content"

The global newspaper chain Metro, which has yet to make any money in the United States, has decided its papers here need more "content." For you old timers out there, "content" is the modern word for "news."

Anyway, the content will come from Bloomberg. Additions include a daily "newsmaker" profile and an info graphic on the markets by Bloomberg. Eric Sass of MediaDailyNews says the publishers hopes "the new content will give Metro New York a leg up over rival AM New York -- another tabloid-style daily targeting young, well-to-do commuters with condensed news and lifestyle features, often lifted from wire services." Lifted might be too strong a word since Metro pays for the use of those wire services.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Has anybody shown Phil Anschutz this?

In San Francisco, the battle between free daily newspapers is heating up -- and one of the papers, billionaire Phil Anschutz's Examiner, has allegedly been caught doing dirty tricks -- putting its papers in a competitor's racks. What's worse for the Anschutz folks, the dirty tricks made the local TV news. Does Anschutz know what his people are doing in San Francisco?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Examiner's happy hunting ground

Herbert Moloney, who resigned last week after 19 months as publisher of Phil Anschutz's Washington Examiner, will become president and chief operating officer of Western Colorprint Inc. of Denver, which provides advertising supplements and cartoons to newspapers. So what? Maloney just so happens to be replacing Scott McKibben, who became president of Western Colorprint in 2005 after he left Anschutz's San Francisco Examiner. Who else has headed Western Colorprint? How about Scott's brother, Ryan, who went to Western Colorprint in 1998 after he left the post of publisher of the Denver Post. Ryan McKibben is now head of Anschutz's Clarity Media, the parent company of the Examiner newspapers.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another way to follow the free daily biz

One way to closely follow the emerging free daily newspaper industry in Europe is by visiting the blog or subscribing to the free newsletter written by Dr. Piet Bakker (left) of the University of Amsterdam. Bakker has worked as a journalist at several newspapers, magazines and radio stations. Now he teaches mass communications. His blog really has its finger on the pulse of the emerging free daily industry in Europe.

Ski resort gets a daily with a dual personality

The weekly paper in Whistler, B.C., on Thursday launched a free daily that has two names and two different front pages -- one for Whistler and a second for the neighboring town of Squamish. Whistler Today and Squamish Today will be published Monday-Friday and distributed in racks and hotels, cafes and restaurants. The papers will have local news as well as coverage from Reuters and the New York Times News Service. Whistler will host several events during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whistler and Aspen are worth comparing. Each has a permanent population of less than 10,000 yet attract more than 2 million visitors during the winter. Each has a thriving summer season as well. In Aspen, the local weekly didn't respond when a free daily started publishing in 1979. Only after that free daily had a foothold in the community did the weekly respond in 1989 by launching its own daily, which has been very successful. Yet Aspen still has two dailies. In Whistler, the weekly didn't wait for a free daily to come to town -- it opened its own free daily.

British Columbia has other free dailies. Vancouver had three for a while, but with the demise of Dose in May, it is left with Metro and 24 Hours. Also the ski resort of Smithers saw the launch of The Northern Daily on June 5.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Washington Examiner publisher quits

And the revolving door continues to spin at billionaire Phil Anschutz's Examiner newspapers. After just 19 months, Washington Examiner publisher Herbert W. Moloney III (pictured) has resigned. A story in the Washington Examiner gave no reason for Moloney's departure, nor was there any word on his future plans.

Moloney will be replaced by Michael Phelps (left), currently publisher of the Baltimore Examiner. Phelps will also take on the new title/position of Chief Executive Officer of the Baltimore-Washington Examiner Group. Phelps will be replaced by Michael Beatty (right), former director of retail sales at the paid circulation Balitmore Sun. Beatty has 25 years of experience in newspaper marketing and advertising, including three years at the Sun.

Moloney replaced James McDonald in April 2005. McDonald lasted two months at the Examiner.

Moloney came to the Examiner after serving as chief operating officer of Vertis, a junk-mailing company. Before that, he worked for newspaper companies Knight Ridder and Lee Enterprises.

Partners battle over 'Israeli' free daily

The two partners who own the free daily "Israeli" are battling with each other, according to the Israeli business publication Globes online. One of the partners, U.S. Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has gone to court to have a judge appoint a temporary receiver for the 11-month-old newspaper. Co-owner Shlomo Ben-Zvi says that if the court grants Adelson's request, it would almost certainly lead to the paper's immediate collapse. “Adelson’s desire to hurt and pressure me has addled his mind, and caused him to take absurd measures,” said Ben-Zvi.

Paid paper surviving battle with free daily

A Southern California newspaper is proud that it only lost 1.7 percent of its weekday circulation after a free daily started in its territory. Copley Press, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, launched a free daily, Today's Local News, on Nov. 7, 2004 in northern San Diego County to compete with that area's paid circulation daily, the North County Times. Today's Local News is delivered to 75,000 homes. The North County Times reported today that its circulation is 89,746 on weekdays (down 1.7 percent in the past year) and 93,219 on Sundays (down 1.2 percent). But the Times pointed out that the Copley-owned San Diego Union-Tribune lost 5.2 percent of its Sunday circulation (to 419,633) and 4.9 percent of its Thusday-Saturday circulation (to 350,910). North County Times publisher Dich High said the North County Times performed well against the combined Copley competition. "They made a pretty good effort to blow us out of here with a free newspaper on our doorsteps," he said. "It apparently hurt them more than it hurt us."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Metro closes p.m. paper in Copenhagen

Metro International announced yesterday that it is shutting down its afternoon edition in Copenhagen, which was launched earlier this year, but that it will keep operating its morning paper, the metroXpress. "Despite a positive development in its readership results, the Copenhagen afternoon edition has not met our demanding financial targets during the trial period and we have thus taken the disciplined decision to close it down," said Pelle Törnberg, President and CEO of Metro. "MetroXpress is however performing very well and we will continue to further strengthen its leadership of the Danish free newspaper market."

Friday, November 17, 2006

D.C. Examiner won't talk about comics

The free daily Washington Examiner is running about half as many comics as it used to -- and the paper's management is refusing to tell the trade publication Editor & Publisher why it made the change. According to Washington, D.C. comics blogger Mike Rhode, the Examiner has cut the number of comics it is running from 14 to 6. "E&P phoned the Examiner to try to verify this, and briefly talked to an editor Tuesday afternoon and yesterday morning. But the editor said he didn't have time to talk. A voice-mail message left yesterday afternoon was not returned by the editor," E&P wrote.

The eight comics the Examiner dropped were The Duplex, Pooch Cafe, Jump Start, Rose is a Rose, The Buckets, Monty, Marmaduke and Herman. The six it kept were Adam@Home, Frazz, Overboard, Prickly City, Over The Hedge and Spot the Dog. Pooch Cafe is now running in the Washington Post's free paper, the Express.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

San Francisco Examiner offspring ridiculed

The SF Daily is also printing humorous blurbs in its "Town Talk" section about the new competitor. One was about a business person who threw the City Star ad reps out of her store. "She didn't break any bones, but we appreciate her attitude," the item said. Another blurb said that what felt like an earthquake was actually "William Randolph Hearst rolling over in his grave when he learned about the latest downsizing of his former flagship newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner," referring to the City Star. The SF Daily was pleased to report that San Franciscians have even given Anschutz's paper a nickname -- "the Sh***y Star."

Before the Examiner rolled out the City Star, the Examiner's editor, James Pimentel, was quoted as saying that the new paper wasn't an attempt to copy the SF Daily. If that's so, then what is the purpose of the City Star? The Examiner has suffered after it was sold by the Hearst Corp. in 2000. The first owner used the Examiner to promote candiates on the front page including family members. Anschutz bought the Examiner in 2004 and turned it into a conservative paper -- a bad fit in a city known for its liberalism. The Examiner hasn't appeared to grow much during Anschutz's watch. Maybe he's hoping to build up the City Star so he can jetison the Examiner?

Oddly enough, the City Star doesn't mention anywhere that it is part of the Examiner or owned by Anschutz. It says it is owned by San Francisco Newspaper Company, LLC., a fairly generic name. One wonders why Anschutz wouldn't want his name on his paper? You'd think the journalists at the Examiner would insist on full disclosure or "truth in labeling." Also, it's worth noting that the Examiner hasn't written anything about its new sister paper. Is the Examiner staff embarrassed by its sibling?

2 new free papers for Toronto in 2 languages

Sun Media Corp., owner of the Ottawa Sun, today launched two free newspapers in Toronto -- "24 hours" in English and "24 heures" in French. They're promising a "unique, fast-paced package of news, entertainment and high quality photo reportage for readers in the National Capital Region."

"The newspapers are designed to deliver information quickly for busy readers -- typically in 20 minutes -- and they will attract new readers to the print format," says Rick Gibbons, publisher and CEO of 24 hours in Ottawa. The Publisher of 24 heures is Michel Desbiens. Research shows that 47 percent of the people in the market don't read any newspaper, so the hope is that these free dailies will increase overall readership. The overlap between paid papers and free ones is typically less than 8 percent, said Gibbons.

The two new dailies will result in a total of 24 new full-time equivalent positions. The papers will also draw from staffers of the Ottawa Sun.

The two new papers are expected to increase the total circulation of Sun Media's free papers to more than 800,000 readers per day, according to Bob Harris, vice president of new business development.

Metro sets Guinness World Record

No less of an authority than the Guiness Book of World Records -- you know, that book that keeps track of feats like the person with the longest fingernails or the world's fattest cow -- has bestowed an honor on the Metro chain of free daily newspapers. Guiness has declared Metro the "World's Largest Global Newspaper."

One might argue that Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, with 14 million daily circulation, is the world's largest newspaper. Metro says it has 18 million readers, but readership is different from circulation. Circulation is the actual number of papers bought or distributed, while readership reflects the total number of readers. Frequently, newspapers will claim that 2.5 people read each paper, which inflates the paper's "number." Metro's total daily circulation has not been disclosed.

It's possible that the folks at Guiness ignored Yomiuri Shimbun because the title Metro received is "World's Largest Global Newspaper," and Metro, unlike the Shimbun, is truly global with 70 editions in 100 cities, in 21 countries and 19 languages in Europe, North America and Asia.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ex-Ex pub lands new job, scandals reported

P. Scott McKibben, former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner as it went from a paid broadsheet to a free tab daily, has landed a job as publisher of the 100,000-circulation Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette, a property of Freedom Newspapers (also owner of the Orange County Register). But give his new paper credit -- it didn't print a puff piece about McKibben's arrival. Instead, it reported the controversies that dogged McKibben in the Bay Area, both at the Examiner and previously at ANG newspapers, and asked him to comment. A lot of papers these days probably would have done the puff piece out of fear of alienating the new boss. Here's what McKibben's new paper said about him:
    During his time as head of the ANG group in California, which is controlled by Denver Post owner William Dean Singleton, McKibben came under fire in a 2003 story in an alternative weekly that said he “embodied the company’s policy of staring down unions at all costs, bleeding the papers white, and kicking money upstairs to finance boss Singleton’s relentless newspaperbuying spree.”

    McKibben also was painted as a socialite who ordered staff to cover events he attended.

    Asked about the story, McKibben said it was written by a former ANG employee and union member who was unhappy with contract negotiations. McKibben said the story didn’t discuss his success in negotiating a union contract that raised pay and expanded retirement benefits. McKibben denied ordering reporters to cover social events.

    McKibben also was embroiled in lawsuits related to the sale of the San Francisco Examiner. As publisher, McKibben was asked by the paper’s family ownership to find a buyer, news stories reported.

    After the Examiner’s sale in 2004, McKibben sued the former owners and alleged they withheld compensation owed to him as part of the deal. The previous owners countersued, alleging McKibben failed to get top dollar for the paper and steered the sale to Denver businessman Phillip Anschutz — who employed McKibben’s brother as a consultant.

    Both lawsuits were settled in June 2005, McKibben said.

What his new paper didn't say was that the Examiner's current owner, Phil Anschutz, was paying McKibben $420,000 a year plus a $180,000 annual bonus, according to court records cited by the Los Angeles Times in a July 23, 2006 story. McKibben also got a country club membership paid by the Examiner owner. And who says free newspapers don't pay?

Free dailies on agenda at Madrid conference

The World Editor & Marketeer Conference and Expo in Madrid next week will include "an in depth examination of the daily free phenomenon, including a look at the free daily war in Denmark, where readers get free newspapers delivered to their cars, homes, offices and public transport. Speakers include the Director and Editor-in-Chief of 24timer in Denmark, Torsten Bjerre Rasmussen and Poul Madsen, as well as Christoph Bauer, the CEO of Cash Daily in Switzerland." For more information, go to

Friday, November 10, 2006

CanWest gets back in the free daily business

CanWest, which shut down its youth oriented Dose free daily in May, introduced a new free daily in Ottawa today called RushHour. But instead of entering an already-packed morning market, RushHour is positioning itself as the afternoon commuter paper of choice. Here's a report in the Ottawa Business Journal and the press release from CanWest. CanWest still holds a one-third share of MetroCanada, which means that in Ottawa at least, CanWest will be competing with itself in the free daily market.

SunMedia's 24 Hours is also expected to enter the Ottawa market with two editions: a French-language version for Gatineau, with perhaps 40,000 copies printed; and an English-language version in Ottawa with 80,000.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Metro International reports Q3 profit

Metro International SA, the London-based publisher of 70 free dailies from Santiago to Stockholm, posted a third-quarter profit of $2.6 million (U.S.), mainly from a gain from the sale of a free daily in Finland. The quarter's net income of $2.6 million compared with a loss of $12.2 million a year earlier. Sales in Q3 rose to $87.1 million from $74 million in the same quarter last year, and Metro's management reiterated a plan to post a profit for the year. Metro sold its Finnish paper in August after it failed to generate a profit three years into its inception, a requirement Metro says it has set for all its editions. Metro has three in the United States, in Philadelphia, Boston and New York.

A CLOSER LOOK at Metro's Q3 report shows:
    • Metro's papers that are three years and older generated profits of $39.98 million on sales of $314.38 million for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2006. That's a 12 percent profit margin, which is 30 percent better than during the same period a year earlier. Metro's papers less than three years lost $16.2 million on sales of $74.6 million for the same period.

    • Metro's three papers in the United States (NY, Boston and Philadelphia) are still losing money, although no indication is given whether Metro is close to pulling the plug on any of them. For Q3, combined sales for the three were $7.9 million with a loss of $2.08 million, or 26 percent. That's slightly better than Q3 in 2005, when sales were $7.6 million and losses were $2.59 million (33.9 percent).

    • Metro didn't break out how each of the three U.S. papers did individually, but it included these notes in the report: "The sales growth of the U.S. operations for the quarter was affected by the restructuring of sales departments; the U.S. operations reported 4 percent year-on-year growth in net sales in the third quarter, and 17 percent for the nine months. In New York, sales growth for the third quarter increased year on year by 10 percent, and operating losses correspondingly were reduced by 26 percent from the third quarter of 2005. The Metro New York classified sales agreement with The New York Times Company began in late September. In Philadelphia, quarter losses were reduced by 43 percent and in Boston sales in the quarter were flat year on year."

    • Metro CEO Pelle Tornberg (left) said that he has reorganized the company's management team during the quarter. Chris Spalding, formerly vice president of logistics, was elevated to the No. 2 position, executive vice president of operations. Robert Patterson, who was CFO, is now an executive vice president in charge of half of Metro's papers. The other half will be overseen by Marin Alsander, also an executive vice president. Robert Murrels is joining metro as CFO on an interim basis while a permanent CFO is sought. No mention was made as to whether executive vice president Steve Nylund, who got caught up in a major controversy over a racist joke he told, is still with the company.

COMMENTARY: Metro Philadelphia began in 2000. Metro Boston came along in 2001. Metro New York turns three next year. None of them make money. Metro's rule that its editions must generate a profit three years after inception apparently doesn't apply to its U.S. papers. Maybe that's a good thing -- we'd rather see more newspapers than less. But we'd also like to see papers that are sustainable, not subsidized. The fact that Metro is able to make money everywhere else in the world except the United States should force management to reexamine their business model in this country. What works in Stockholm or Hong Kong may not necessarily work in New York or Boston.

With sales growth that is described as "flat," it would appear that the only thing stopping Metro from pulling the plug on its Boston edition is its partnership with The New York Times Co., owner of the Boston Globe. But that relationship may not be so solid. The Globe is for sale, and presumably the NYT's 49 percent interest in Metro Boston is part of what's being sold. A new owner would probably look to cut costs. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch is said to be interested in buying the Globe. Given Welch's reputation of demanding profits and top performance from GE's many divisions, it's hard to see him accepting Metro Boston's current money-losing P&L statement.

New boss for amNewYork

Christopher Howard, who was a rising star in the executive ranks of Knight Ridder before that company folded, has been appointed to the newly-created position of vice president of interactive strategy and development at Newday, a job that includes oversight of the paper's online business as well as its free daily in Manhattan, amNewYork. With that title, Howard will presumably become the boss of amNY's publisher, Christopher Barnes, who took over in September after founding publisher Russel Pergament was bought out by parent Tribune Co. Howard was previously head of classifieds for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, KR's biggest market. Before that, he was director of finance and planning for advertising at KR's San Jose Mercury News.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Examiner goes on damage control mode

After months of ignored complaints from readers, Phil Anschutz's Examiner in Baltimore has finally acknowledged that it is delivering papers to residents who don't want the right-wing newspaper.

This morning, buried on page 20, the Examiner carries a story headlined "A complaint about delivery of The Baltimore Examiner." Note the word "complaint" in the singular, even though stories in both the Baltimore Sun and the alt-weekly Baltimore City Paper have said that the paper has received numerous complaints. City Paper even ran pictures of signs people had put outside, trying to stop the paper (see above).

Then, the brief introduction to the publisher's "letter" describes the "delivery problems" as being from a "small percentage of area residents." Really? If the Examiner doesn't even respond to people's complaints, as City Paper alleges, how would it know the number of complaints? In the letter, Publisher Michael Phelps strikes the same tone, saying the Examiner has received a "small number of requests" to stop delivery and a "handful" of complaints. He doesn't give an exact number, so one is left to imagine what "small" and "handful" might mean to him -- 1,000? 10,000? Who knows? It sounds like Phelps has his hands full.

The letter goes on to claim that the Examiner is reaching 236,000 "Baltimore market households each day" and has a daily readership of 360,000 people. We note, too, that not only was the story buried on page 20, well past the local news section, it also appeared on a Saturday -- a day often regarded as the lowest day of the week for readership.

THE POINT: This blog reports on the free daily newspaper industry. We're also very bullish about free dailies, beliving they are the future for print journalism. But when a publication like the Examiner attempts to downplay or obfucate an important issue like this, it reflects poorly on other free dailies who have better business practices. We hope the billionaire who owns the Examiners spends a little of his money to improve distribution.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Judge asked to stop Examiner distribution

An angry Baltimore County resident, who happens to be a lawyer, has gone to court to force the Baltimore Examiner to stop delivering newspapers to his driveway every day. According to the Baltimore Sun, Joel L. Levin has filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against the free newspaper owned by billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz. The article says:

    The papers are not only litter, Levin said, but when he's out of town, an invitation to burglars. In court documents filed this week, Levin said he wants to go to Florida and that he's afraid of what will happen if The Examiner keeps coming.

    "It's not just me," said Levin, who subscribes to The Sun and the business publication Barron's. "A lot of people around me are very frustrated. There's some irritation that we can't control the paper."

    In Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood, residents have put signs in windows warning carriers to stop leaving The Examiner. "We have enough battles keeping our streets clean," said Keith Losoya, former president of the neighborhood association and a candidate for state Senate in the 46th District. "This periodical gets blown around and just adds to our trash issues."

    In a column in the Oct. 26 edition of The Examiner, publisher Phelps appeared to acknowledge the complaints: "If we've failed to stop your delivery quickly, I'm truly sorry. We don't want you to get it if you won't read it."

Similar distribution problems have been reported at the Examiners in Washington and San Francisco, but this may be the first lawsuit that has been filed.

South African weekly may launch free daily

The Mail & Guardian online report that the Johannesburg, South Africa Sunday Times is planning to start a free daily next year. A blogger, Anton Harber, initially had the scoop on the new paper and management at the Sunday Times wouldn't deny his report. But they said that no final decision has been made.

Friday, October 27, 2006

SF Examiner owner may open 2nd free daily

We're not sure what to make of this, but the owner of the free tabloid San Francisco Examiner, billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz (pictured), reportedly wants to open a second free daily in the city by the bay. Apparently this new free daily, which would be called the City Star, is designed to compete against the San Francisco Daily (or SF Daily) which started almost six months ago. The SF Daily has taken off like a rocket, going from eight to 24 pages per day. In the most recent issue, we counted 125 ads, more than double that of the Examiner, though the Examiner has more pages. A story in the SF Daily quotes the Examiner editor as confirming Anschutz's plans for the new paper sometime before year's end.

It is not clear why the Examiner, which itself is a free daily, is starting a second free daily. One rumor is that Anschutz plans to build up City Star and then close the Examiner, which has never been very strong in terms of advertising or news since Hearst Corp. sold it in 2000. If the plan is to have the City Star charge less for ads, in order to compete with the SF Daily, one wonders how the Examiner will keep its current advertisers from leaving for the new paper. Then again, with a net worth of $7 billion, maybe Anschutz doesn't care.

Free papers blamed for subway flooding

The concept of free daily newspapers is under attack in New York by the government agency that runs the subways and the paid newspapers that are losing circulation to the freebies. The controversy dates back to Sept. 8, 2004 when the Metropolitan Transit Authority's subways flooded during a torrential storm. The MTA's inspector general issued a report blaming the MTA for "historic neglect" of valves that would have cleared the water away. But MTA's management refused to accept the blame and instead said flooding was the fault of free newspaper publishers, who have hawkers who distribute the papers on subway platforms. As the Gothamist put it, "It's awesomely convenient how the MTA board finds the time and money to conduct another report to say it wasn't the MTA's fault -- it was the free newspapers."

It didn't take long for the paid newspapers to chime in, such as the New York Post, which suggests that the police ought to be used to control free newspaper hawkers. Some excerpts:
    "Next time your subway line is shut down because of massive flooding, or you're stuck on a train in a dark tunnel for an hour or more because there's a fire on the tracks, you'll know who to blame." ...

    "The publishers of the freebies don't obey the rules, and the NYPD refuses to enforce them - out of wholly unwarranted First Amendment concerns. The freebie hawkers can legally give out their copies, provided they remain outside the subway stations and don't leave piles of papers unattended. But aggressive hawkers flagrantly break those rules: They go down into the stations by the turnstiles, or even onto the platforms."
At least the Post admits that it is not a "disinterested party in this affair. The free papers, after all, compete for readers and advertisers with the one you're reading right now." And that admission explains the purpose of the editorial.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Free daily takes hold in Santa Barbara

A free daily in Santa Barbara, Calif., appears to be taking hold partially because the town's incumbent daily is self-destructing. The San Francisco Chronicle reports today (Oct. 24) on the new Santa Barbara Daily Sound, which was founded and is edited by Jeramy Gordon, 24 (third from left in photo). Gordon cut his teeth at the Palo Alto (Calif.) Daily News, perhaps the nation's most successful free daily newspaper. After the Palo Alto paper was acquired by Knight Ridder, Gordon headed to Santa Barbara to set up his own paper. A few months later, lightning struck. Much of the staff of the 100-year-old-plus Santa Barbara Free-Press walked out in a dispute with owner Wendy McCaw over such things as whether to print the address of actor Rob Lowe.

Here's a portion of today's Chronicle article:
    "When we started, everyone said, 'It's not going to work. This town doesn't need another paper,' " said Gordon. "Well, I hate to give Wendy McCaw credit for the success of this paper, but we definitely had a bump in circulation and advertising because of them."

    Gordon said his paper, a 16-page tabloid available at coffee shops and strip malls, has been flying off the racks and advertising is up since its first publication in March. The daily printing run has already risen to 5,000 -- 6,000 on Fridays -- from 3,000. That could double next year. Advertisers, some of them turned off by the turmoil at the News-Press, have noticed.

    "They've done a great job and they're getting a lot of attention," said Nikki Ayers, who runs Ayers Automotive Repair and recently started advertising in the Daily Sound after having dropped the News-Press.

    People involved in the media -- including some who have tried to chip away at the News-Press in the past -- said that when the Daily Sound opened, it wasn't so much criticized as ignored. Looking a little like a competently produced college newspaper, few knew what it was, or cared. No longer.

    "Instant geniuses," said Nick Welsh, executive editor of an alternative weekly, the Santa Barbara Independent, which has also seen an increase in advertising. "Nobody looked at them for a while, but I think they do an impressive job. They are credible, and this mess has made a lot more people take notice."

    Those observations were echoed by William Macfadyen, the vice chairman of the Chamber of Commerce in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara, a News-Press editor a number of years ago and founder of a newspaper that tried and failed to make a go of it in the area recently, the South Coast Beacon.

    "He was sort of clueless at first," Macfadyen said of Gordon. "But I think he's done a good job of taking advantage of the situation without being in anyone's face about it."

    Gordon agreed, saying he understood little about the area at first, and he acknowledged that his paper's homey touches meant its coverage was basic rather than path breaking. But he added that the worse the problems at the News-Press, the more welcome he felt.

    "The advertisers are willing to look at us now," said Gordon.
PHOTO -- Daily Sound staffers (from left) Charles Swegles, Janelle Holcombe and Jeramy Gordon, and consultant Kristina Thorpe, at work. Photo by Elisa Miller, special to the Chronicle.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Metro Ottawa appoints new publisher

Dave Kruse, advertising manager at the Winnipeg Sun for the past eight years, has been named publisher of the free daily Metro Ottawa. Prior to his arrival at the Winnipeg paper, he played pivotal roles at both Mediacom/Gannett, the Province of Manitoba, BBDO and Warehouse One. He will report to Metro Canada Publisher Bill McDonald. Metro is published in Ottawa by Greenfield Newspapers Inc., a partnership of the Torstar Corporation, CanWest and Metro International.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

How are the Examiners staying alive?

We were going to write about Rupert Murdoch's entry into the Washington, D.C., newspaper market with his decision to begin home delivery of the New York Post in the DC suburbs. It's a good bet the Post will find readers in D.C. like it has in Florida, where transplanted New Yorkers or those hungry for a conservative tabloid have devoured the Post.

But what struck us in D.C. is how the existing conservative tabloid, the Examiner, seems to be dying -- or at least not growing since it started on Feb. 1, 2005.

We grabbed the Friday, Oct. 6, Examiner. It was only 40 pages and 18 pages had no advertising whatsoever. The Examiner only had 22 display (non-classified) ads, and five of them were for movies. Owner Phil Anschutz owns a national chain of movie theaters, so it is likely the five movie ads were gifts from his own chain or its vendors rather than real ads.

The same problem seems to be afflicting Anschutz's other two papers, the Examiners in San Francisco and Baltimore. Maybe it's the format or the distribution method (thrown on doorsteps whether or not the owner wants it), but these papers do not appear healthy.

Contrast that with the paid circulation of the Washington Times (100,000 per day), which is packed with ads and has an influence on the national scene. When the Washington Times called for House Speaker Dennis Hastert to resign, everybody was talking about that paper.

That's the kind of influence Anschutz probably wanted when he bought his first Examiner. Anybody want to start making bets as to when Anschutz pulls the plug?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Fifth free daiy hits streets of Denmark

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- A fifth free daily newspaper aimed at Danish readers hit the streets on Friday (Oct. 6), the Associated Press reports, even though a glitch cut its planned print run by half. The newest free daily is called "Nyhedsavisen" (The News Daily) and it was handed out at key traffic points and distributed directly to homes in Denmark's major cities.

Nyhedsavisen (The News Daily) had a planned circulation of 500,000 but half of them -- intended for readers in the Danish capital -- failed to be printed because of a technical problem. A smaller number of copies were handed out in Copenhagen while distribution went as planned in Aarhus and Odense, Denmark's second and third largest cities.

The newest daily arrived in an already saturated market where local media houses have vowed to keep the newcomer at bay.

When Icelandic conglomerate 365 Media Scandinavia earlier this year announced it would issue Nyhedsavisen, Denmark's two largest media companies scrambled to meet the challenge with free newspapers of their own.

Berlingske Officin, which also publishes several other newspapers including one of Europe's oldest dailies, Berlingske Tidende, came out first on Aug. 16 with tabloid-size dato (Date). A day later, rival media company JP/Politikens Hus followed with a paper of the same size called 24timer, or 24 hours.

Both free sheets planned to reach 750,000 readers per day but the first reader statistics from September showed that dato only reached 155,000 readers per day and 24Timer was read by 387,000.

In late August, Metro International SA which has been distributing the free metroXpress in Denmark since 2001, quickly introduced a free afternoon newspaper in addition to its morning edition. Besides metroXpress, Denmark already has another free daily newspaper, Urban, published by the Berlingske Officin.

The free sheets come on top of the existing paid-for dailies. Denmark's newspaper market is dominated by the Politiken, Jyllands-Posten and Berlingske Tidende newspapers, plus two tabloids Ekstra Bladet and B.T.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Free paper launched in Guangzhou, China

China isn't a place you'd think about starting a newspaper, what with government censorship and the jailing of reporters who honestly report on the ruthlessness of a Communist regime. Yet Metro has launched a free daily in Shanghai and now a newspaper company in Guangzhou, the capital of South China's Guandong Province, has begun one too.

The new 300,000-circulation paper, according to the People's Daily Online, is being published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during its trial period, but it could come out on five week days in the future, according the Jiao Xiangyang, a deputy editor-in-chief of the paper.

The article quotes Dong Tiance, a professor with the College of Journalism and Communications at Guangzhou-based Jinan University, as saying free metro newspapers are the new frontier in the newspaper market. Publishers have to seek new growth areas because of increasing challenges from such competitors as the Internet, he said. Advertisers are attracted by the relatively high purchasing power of subway passengers, he added. Dong did not expect the free paper to have a major impact on the traditional newspaper market because it will carry soft, consumption-focused stories rather than hard news, he said. "It will complement traditional papers instead of taking their readers," Dong told the People's Daily.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Residents trying to stop Examiner delivery

Maybe the Examiner chain of free dailies ought to re-examine its business model. The model stated that the paper would be delivered to upscale, affluent families at no charge -- and once those residents began reading the Examiner, the paper could have its circulation audited and then use those audits to bring in national advertising.

That was the business model the brothers Ryan and Scott McKibbin trumpheted relentlessly in 2004 and 2005 after Colorado billionaire Phil Anschutz began the Examiner chain.

But now the alternative weekly City Paper in Balitimore reports that residents don't want the Examiner delivered to their driveways. Piles of the unread newspapers are creating an mess and people worry that they might signal to a burglar than a home is unoccupied.

It's gotten so bad that one man who says his daughter slipped and fell on an Examiner while walking school is now printing signs to tell Examiner drivers not to deliver. He is passing them out free to anyone who wants them (see photos).

"One of the most difficult things we encountered -- and this has happened in San Francisco and D.C. -- is getting stops stopped," circulation vp Michael Phelps told CityPaper. "Part of the problem, he says, is carrier turnover; another is that some carriers are delivering the papers in the dark."

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

In Vancouver, 24 says its way ahead of Metro

We're skeptical of claims by any media outlet which says it's No. 1. That said, it's still interesting to talk about a readership survey of the Vancouver, B.C., newspaper market by the Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank). The free daily "24 hours" says the survey shows it's way ahead of Metro -- that 24 reaches 187,900 readers daily, 76 percent more than Metro (which has 106,600). But 24 also admits that it's only the third most-read paper in the market -- the paid National Post and Globe & Mail are still on top.

UPDATE: After Vancouver's "24 hours" printed the article about its readership survey, the owner of the 24 chain,
Sun Media, put out this press release that says its readership is growing in Montreal (24 heures) and Toronto (24 hours).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Free daily, paid daily staffs to merge

Copley Press, which owns both a free daily and a paid daily in San Diego County, California, plans to merge the staffs of the two papers to cut costs, Copley announced today (Sept. 12).

The consolidation of the San Diego Union-Tribune and the free Today's Local News will take effect Oct. 4 and will eliminate about 26 positions at Today’s Local News.

Local News Executive Editor Cindy Allen will take charge of a reorganized community news staff that will produce stories for both Today’s Local News and the community news pages of the Union-Tribune’s North County news sections. Reporters and editors in the Union-Tribune’s bureaus in Carlsbad and Escondido will produce stories for both newspapers. Allen will report to Todd Merriman, the Union-Tribune’s senior editor for news.

“Any decision that results in the loss of employees is both difficult and painful,” Merriman said. “However, by combining resources, we will have more and better editorial content available for both newspapers than either could provide alone.”

Created by Copley Press in 2004, Today’s Local News distributes more than 70,000 copies Wednesday through Sunday, focusing on the communities of Carlsbad, Oceanside, Escondido, San Marcos and Vista. The Union-Tribune has a circulation of about 340,000 daily and 440,000 Sunday.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Murdoch launches free daily in London

Rupert Murdoch's long awaited thelondonpaper hit the streets Monday afternoon, going head-to-head with another evening freebie, London Lite, launched a week earlier by Viscount Rothermere's Associated Newspapers. The timing of London Lite was said to be a coincidence, but many on Fleet Street saw a savvy attempt to spoil Murdoch's plans, according to Forbes. The article continues, "It's the sort of battle familiar to Fleet Street veterans like Murdoch and Rothermere, who in recent times have had to grapple with the popularity of the Internet. Yet while many have heard a death knell from the Web, the advent of free papers may prove a promising source of revenue for increasingly desperate newspaper publishers."

London's Daily Mail says that Murdoch moved up the date for launching thelondonpaper by two weeks in an attempt to beat Associated Newspapers' London Lite to market.

London's Sunday Times says the explosion of free newspapers is due to the Internet.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Chicago free daily says it's in the black

This is big news, if it's true. The Chicago Tribune's free daily, RedEye, revealed in the sixth paragraph of a press release that "strong advertiser support has led RedEye to profitability in 2006." We have got to presume that's true, since RedEye is owned by the Tribune Company, a publicly held company subject to strict Sarbanes Oxley regulations regarding such statements.

RedEye is the first metro free daily to make money in the United States. Smaller market free dailies, such as those in the San Francisco Bay Area or Colorado, have been profitable for years. But of the nation's 11 metro free dailies (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, New York (2), Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington (2)), this is the first one to go into the black.

The news was buried in a press releasethat announced RedEye was increasing its distribution by 50 percent from 100,000 to 150,000 copies a day "to meet increasing demand from both readers and advertisers." In addition, RedEye said it is adding more than 1,000 newsracks in key areas across Chicago.

RedEye found success, the release notes, after removing its 25-cent cover price, making it even easier to pick up. And in this age where it seems only old people read newspapers, RedEye claims that it offers a higher 18-34 index than any other Chicago publication.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Tribune takes 100% stake in amNew York

Tribune Co., majority owner of the free daily amNew York, has bought the shares of a minority investor group led by amNew York co-founder and publisher Russel Pergament, according to a press release from Tribune. Under an agreement signed in 2003 when the paper started, Tribune had rights to purchase the interest after three years.

Tribune also announced that the paper's general manager, Christopher Barnes, 35, has been named as publisher and that Pergament will become a consultant. Pergament had made a commitment to the paper for three years, and he left after that time was up, amNew York said.

COMMENTARY: What Tribune didn't say was whether the 320,000-circulation paper was profitable, which would lead one to conclude that it is not. If it were, that would be the story. Tribune said in 2003 that it expected amNew York to turn a profit by 2006, according to a Reuters report.

The U.S. has two types of free dailies -- community free dailies, which are generally profitable, and metro free dailies (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Nashville, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Washington), none of which has reported making a profit.

Other questions raised by all of this include: Was Pergament pushed or did he jump? Did Tribune hold him responsible for the paper not being in the black by 2006? Or was Tribune cutting costs by booting Pergament in order to bring amNew York into the black?

New York is a highly competitive media market, so we imagine these questions will be asked and answered by somebody at a competing publication. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Boulder's 'dirt' allowed to die

A free daily launched in Boulder, Colo., in August 2004 by a traditional daily hoping to attract younger readers will close Sept. 28, according to the Boulder Daily Camera newspaper. The new paper was named "dirt," with a lowercase "d," and it was originally designed to compete with the free Colorado Daily, the former Univesity of Colorado student paper that became a community daily in the 1970s. Both papers had weekday circulations of 15,000. Dirt was created by the 33,000-circulation Daily Camera and its owner, E.W. Scripps Co.

OFFICIAL STORY: This morning's Boulder Daily Camera story said that when Scirpps bought the Colorado Daily in September 2005, Dirt was scaled back to Thursdays and its nine full- and part-timers were given other jobs at the Camera. After that, the paper became profitable. In Feburary, Scripps (owner of Denver's Rocky Mountain News) formed a 50-50 partnership with Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group (owner of the Denver Post), and several Colorado newspapers were put into the partnership including the Colorado Daily, Daily Camera and dirt. Management decided that since the Camera's Friday magazine overlaps with Dirt, Dirt would have to become dust.

COMMENTARY: Dust was an embarrassing example of a traditional daily, with traditional daily thinking, jumping into a market that it knows nothing about. It's a little like watching major newspapers experiment with their Web sites -- they're clueless about the Internet, and their clunky, corporate sites prove it. And the Camera was clueless about the 18-45 market. The name was horrible. The content was "dumbed down" to younger people in a town where young people are pretty smart. Important news wasn't covered, but fluff dominated. The Colorado Daily points out that it didn't lose any customers to Dirt -- they all came from the Camera's customer base. Hopefully the Daily Camera staff will take a few minutes and jot down all of the lessons they learned in order to help other publishers who might be thinking about doing the same thing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Free dailies shock traditional dailies

The Economist's online edition has a lengthy article about the problems facing the newspaper industry and what moves might make sense on the Internet. It's all stuff we've heard before. But the last four paragraphs of this special report sum up nicely what's happening in the world of free dailies. Those four paragraphs follow:

    The most shocking development for traditional newspapers has been the wild success of free dailies, which like the internet have proved enormously popular with young people. Roughly 28m copies of free newspapers are now printed daily, according to Metro International, a Swedish firm that pioneered them in 1995. In markets where they are published, they account for 8% of daily circulation on average, according to iMedia. That share is rising. In Europe they make up 16% of daily circulation. Metro calculates that it spends half the proportion of its total costs on editorial that paid-for papers do. In practice that means a freesheet with a circulation of about 100,000 employing 20 journalists, whereas a paid-for paper would have around 180. Metro's papers reach young, affluent readers and are even able to charge a premium for advertising in some markets compared with paid-for papers.

    “The biggest enemy of paid-for newspapers is time,” says Pelle Törnberg, Metro's chief executive. Mr Törnberg says the only way that paid-for papers will prosper is by becoming more specialised, raising their prices and investing in better editorial. People read freesheets in their millions, on the other hand, because Metro and others reach them on their journey to work, when they have time to read, and spare them the hassle of having to hand over change to a newsagent.

    Some traditional newspaper firms dismiss free papers, saying they are not profitable. Carlo De Benedetti, chairman of Gruppo Editoriale L'Espresso, publisher of la Repubblica, for instance, says that Metro loses money in Italy and that other freesheets are struggling. Globally, however, Metro has just become profitable.

    Consultants say that lots of traditional newspaper companies are planning to hold their noses and launch free dailies. In France, for instance, Le Monde is planning a new free daily, and Mr Murdoch's News International is preparing a new free afternoon paper for London, to be launched next month. Deciding whether or not to start a freesheet, indeed, perfectly encapsulates the unpalatable choice that faces the paid-for newspaper industry today as it attempts to find a future for itself. Over the next few years it must decide whether to compromise on its notion of “fine journalism” and take a more innovative, more businesslike approach — or risk becoming a beautiful old museum piece.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Free daily sparks paper war in Denmark

The Associated Press and others are reporting that a new free daily that has hit the streets of Copenhagen has sparked a newspaper war among Denmark's major newspaper companies. As a result, at least three other free dailie are expected to be launched this year. The new entry is "dato" (translated as "date"), which was being handed out at key traffic points and will be delivered to doorsteps and driveways starting today.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Upstart free daily takes on Dean Singleton

A businessman in Eureka, California, has launched and generously funded a free daily newspaper to go up against that town's 152-year-old paid-circulation daily owned by Dean Singleton's MediaNews Group. The businessman, Rob Arkley, explains in this story in the San Francisco Chronicle that he simply started the paper because he wanted more local news coverage than the other paper was providing. Author Joel Davis says the battle is a "pound-the-pavement tussle between two dailies that are constantly trying to scoop each other, something rarely found in big cities anymore, let alone towns with populations under 30,000." The upstart paper has a bigger newsroom than that of Singleton's. The reporters are paid more and get better benefits. The paper is printed on a new multi-milliondollar press using paper that's thicker than what Singleton uses. Says owner Arkley, "I get tired of the Times-Standard saying 'Rob is trying to put us out of business.' I mean [the Times-Standard and parent MediaNews] are a monopoly in every market they are in, whining like a bunch of babies. ... The first lick of competition they get they scream like they are getting (screwed). ... They are not having any fun."

Free dailies profitable, Singleton isn't


One of the startling quotes in the San Francisco Chronicle story about the new free daily in Eureka, Calif. (see above) is the claim by MediaNews CEO Dean Singleton that "No free daily in America has ever made a profit."

He's wrong, of course. He's either misinformed or hates the concept of free dailies so much that he's willing to misstate the facts.

Free dailies have been around for decades, and they've been making money. Singleton, whose office is in Denver, doesn't have to go far to find money-makers. They're in Vail, Aspen and Summit County, Colorado. Swift Newspapers of Reno, Nev., which owns more free dailies than anyone, is making money and has just added a new free daily in South Lake Tahoe.

And Singleton has just acquired a group of six free dailies in the San Francisco Bay Area, the flagship being the Palo Alto Daily News, which was profitable nine months after it started in 1995. It was so successful that the Knight Ridder chain bought it last year because it was cutting into the sales of KR's San Jose Mercury News. If the Palo Alto paper wasn't profitable, one must ask where they got the money to keep it going for 10 years. Knight Ridder purchased the Palo Alto Daily News Group in 2005. No word on whether it remained profitable after Knight Ridder got its hands on it. Singleton is now buying Knight Ridder's papers in Northern California including the Palo Alto group.

Now it is true that Phil Anschutz, owner of the San Francisco Examiner and Washington Examiner, hasn't made money with his conservative dailies, but, as a billionaire, he probably doesn't care. On the other hand, Singleton's MediaNews was the only major American newspaper chain to lose money in the first quarter of 2006.

Monday, August 07, 2006

NY Times: Free dailies growing in Europe

The growth of free daily newspapers in Europe has drawn the attention of the New York Times, which reports that so-called free sheets now account for more than half of all papers circulated in Spain and more than 30 percent of those in Portugal, Denmark and Switzerland. The news peg for this story is that News Corp., publisher of London's Sun and Times, confirmed plans to start a free newspaper in Britain next month, and that Le Monde and Le Figaro in France are said to be working on free newspapers as well. The story also notes that in Germany, where there has been the most resistance to the free daiy trend, a free financial tabloid is set to start next Monday.

The NY Times says, "While established publishers have been dabbling with free papers for some time, the latest start-ups represent a new stage in the development of the market, said Aura Iordan, business analyst at the newspaper association. The publishers had started free sheets primarily for defensive reasons, to fend off the threat from the likes of Metro. But now, she said, they view free dailies as a possible source of profit."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Murdoch to start evening paper in London

On Sept. 18, London will get its fourth free daily newspaper -- called thelondonpaper -- a colorful, 48-page afternoon publication aimed at a young, upscale audience. Owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., it will have an initial circulation of 400,000 and will be distributed between 4:30 and 7 p.m. using 700 distributors. The paper will have a staff of 70, including an editorial team led by Stefano Hatfield, a former editor of Campaign, a marketing trade magazine.

London's first free daily was Metro, launched in 1999 by Daily Mail owner Associated Newspapers. Second was the Evening Standard Lite, which started in late 2004. The third was the independently owned City AM, which began last September. A fourth free daily is "a further endorsement of the free model which we think will be a big and prosperous market," City AM chief executive Jens Torpe told the LA Times.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Free dailies hurt paid papers in Hong Kong

The South Morning China Post reports that three free dailies in Hong Kong, along with two paid Chinese-language dailies, are eating into the advertising revenues of that city's biggest newspapers. (Note that the story gives figures in Hong Kong Dollars which are trading at about 7.8 for every U.S. dollar.) The city's No. 1 newspaper, the Oriental Daily News, saw its revenues plunge 10 percent to HK$2.02 billion ($259 million U.S.). But the three free papers combined HK$774 million ($99 million U.S.) or 10 percent of all newspaper advertising dollars in the first half, according to Nielsen. Compare that with their combined HK$572 million ($73 million U.S.) of revenue or a 6.4 percent share in the preceding six months.

    Of the three:

    • Metro, HK$342 million ($44 million U.S.), up 8% over same six months last year

    • Headline Daily (owned by Sing Tao), HK$221 million ($28 million U.S.), up 90% over same period last year

    • Am730 (owned by property-agency magnate Shih Wing-ching), HK$211 million ($27 million), up 50% over same period last year

[Jan. 27: Hong Kong free daily Am730 closer to profit] [Jan. 26: Ads grow at Hong Kong's 3 free dailies]

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Does RedEye have ideas worth copying?

Should a newspaper that has never made a profit be held up to the industry as a commercial success to be copied? That may sound harsh, but that was our initial impression of a story the American Press Institute posted with the headline "The Other Side of the Story: Alternative Print Products." On one hand, it's nice to see the mainstream media giving credit to free daily newspapers, but why the Chicago RedEye? The RedEye is a youth-oriented free daily owned by the Tribune Co. It has access to the Chicago's Tribune's vast editorial resources. It also spends a lot of money on market research, going so far as to give Starbucks gift certificates away to young readers who complete the paper's questionnaire. But if the paper isn't making money, are any of its ideas are worth copying?

Monday, July 24, 2006

'Sources' lied about Examiner price

When the San Francisco Examiner was sold by the Florence Fang family to billionaire Phil Anschutz in 2004, the price wasn't officially disclosed. But the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers quoted a "source" as saying the price was $20 million. A good number for a free daily that hadn't made money in years. Now, according to the LA Times, the price was actually $10.7 million. What's more, Anschutz later gave away the Examiner archives, dating back to the years when Hearst owned the paper, to UC Berkeley for a $18.4 million tax deduction — which suggests he pocketed as much as $7.7 million on the deal.

These facts emerged at the end of a long LA Times profile of Anschutz and his various business activities. In 2005, Florence Fang -- who owned the Examiner from 2001 to 2004 -- sued Anschutz and her former publisher, Scott McKibbin, who later went to work for Anschutz, alleging that they rigged the sale of her newspaper. She claimed McKibbin didn't shop the paper around to prospective buyers, but instead leaked confidential information to Anschutz. McKibbin's brother Ryan, the former Denver Post publisher, was on Anschutz's payroll, too.

While the defendants officially denied any wrongdoing, Anschutz settled the case out of court. Terms weren't disclosed, but one requirement was that Anschutz's deposition be destroyed.

The LA Times also learned that McKibbin, who has since left Anschutz's organization, was being paid $420,000 a year in salary and received a $180,000 bonus and a country club membership.

The rest of the LA Times story provides an insight into the character of Anschutz, who it appears plans to build a chain of free daily newspapers. (Editor's note: We're aware that LA Times doesn't have a track record of being fair to conservatives -- remember the attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger a few days before the election? -- so this story might contain errors. If corrections are made, or Anschutz comments publicly, we will provide that information on this page.)

Friday, July 21, 2006

SF Examiner gets 3rd editor in two years

The San Francisco Examiner has promoted James Pimentel from managing editor to executive editor, the AP reports. He will be the free daily's third executive editor in two years. He replaces Malcolm Kirk, who resigned after seven months on the job. Pimentel began his newspaper career at the Oakland Tribune in 1984. He joined The Examiner in 2001 as sports editor before becoming managing editor in 2003. During his tenure there, Pimentel has led the paper's transition to tabloid format and its launch of zoned editions in San Mateo County.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

RedEye launches reader loyalty program

The Chicago Tribune's youth-oriented free daily RedEye has relaunched its web site and renamed its reader loyalty program. The web site,, now includes breaking news, reader feedback forums, quirky video clips and Sudoku Mega, a 16x16-square version of the newspaper's Sudoku puzzle as well as features out of that day's RedEye. The reader loyalty program was called RedEye Rewards but is now branded as iSociety. Members get "VIP access" to bars and clubs, contests, monthly happy hours, giveaways and invitations to "the area's hottest happenings." RedEye and the Chicago Sun-Times' RedStreak were launched in 2003 as attempts by the city's two major papers to court younger readers. RedStreak died last year, leaving RedEye alone in the free youth daily category.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Italian media group may start free daily

Italy's Editoriale L'Espresso SpA, publisher of the paid daily La Repubblica, is thinking about entering the free daily market to compete with three other free dailies, according to the AFX news agency. "We are examining the file. We don't know if we will do it. It is a very difficult market. Those who do it at the moment lose money. We are undecided,' one source told AFX, adding that a decision is not expected before September.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Free daily thrives as paid paper implodes

Talk about being in the right place at the right time. The 100-plus-year-old Santa Barbara News Press has lost seven of its top journalists in the past week in a dispute over newsroom meddling by a billionaire owner. In Feburary, Jeramy Gordon (photo) quit his job at the Palo Alto Daily News, moved to Santa Barbara and launched his own free daily called "The Santa Barbara Daily Sound." As Editor & Publisher Magazine reports, the paper is gaining momentum, with enough advertising growth to boost it beyond its original eight pages to 12. With $250,000 in seed money that he raised from family and friends, Gordon is operating on a shoe-string budget with just three full-time employees. Since the paper started in March, Sound's circulation has increased from 3,000 to 5,000.

Free daily circulation jumps by 2 million

Professor Piet Bakker, in his Free Daily Newspapers newsletter, notes that that combined circulation of free dailies worldwide has grown from 25 million to 27 million in two months. He says that's due mostly to new free dailies in Europe, where circulation is almost 19 million. His newsletter has a breakdown of circulation and titles. He doesn't mention much about what's happened here in the United States and Canada, where free dailies have launched in Santa Barbara, Calif.; Manchester, N.H.; Smithers, B.C., Canada; Marco Island, Fla. and San Francisco. Maybe it's time we, at, put together our own list of free dailies in the United States?

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Virginian-Pilot to start youth free daily

With the demise of "Dirt" in Boulder, Colo., and the "Red Streak" in Chicago, and "Dose" in Canada, it's surprising that the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., plans to launch a free daily this fall oriented toward youth. The new free tab -- called "Link" -- will offer quick-read news stories and content focused on lifestyle and recreation, spread over 32 to 40 pages, with a daily press run of 40,000 copies, according to a story in Friday's Virginian-Pilot. Link will have its own 12-person staff and will have access to the Pilot's stories and wire services. Link's target will be readers between 18 and 34 years old, who read newspapers infrequently and don't subscribe to the Pilot, said David Mele, Link's publisher and general manager. The Pilot reaches between 25 percent and 45 percent of this emerging audience, he said. Arnie Applebaum, general manager of the Washington Post's free daily Express, is quoted as endorsing the concept: "This is a good way to reach the younger audience." While some youth papers have failed, American Journalism Review editor Rem Rieder some have been more popular and profitable than expected.

SF Examiner loses editor after 7 months

For the third time in two years, Phil Anschutz's San Francisco Examiner is in transition between editors. Malcolm Kirk, who was named executive editor of the San Francisco Examiner in December, has left the free daily and is returning to Canada. CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc. announced today (July 7) that Kirk has been appointed publisher of the Calgary Herald. Kirk served as editor-in-chief of the Calgary newspaper from 2003 until 2006 and has experience at several of CanWest's other newspapers, including the Vancouver Province and the Montreal Gazette, the company said. In San Francisco, Kirk had replaced Vivienne Sosnowski, who was executive editor of the Examiner for 17 months before being transferred to the Washington, D.C., Examiner. No word from the Examiner on why Kirk left or who will replace him.

Examiner's dress code - no denim or minis

At the struggling Washington Examiner, one would think they'd have more important things to worry about than dress codes. The paper, after a big start, seems to be losing advertisers every week and it appears the paper has never developed a regular readership. But apparently, according to, management has issued a dress code after Executive Editor Viviene Sosnowski showed up in a torn denim mini-skirt and studded collar. Highlights:

• Dress hem lines cannot be higher than 3 inches above the knee.
• Any type of denim or material resembling denim is inappropriate.
• No khaki- or Docker-style pants.
• "Bras, sport bras, tank tops, etc. (must be fully covered by clothing)"
• "Clothing is not to be overly tight nor draw undue attention to ones [sic] self"

"Employees violating the code may be sent home, without pay, to change and may be subject to disciplinary actions up to and including termination. Employees are also reminded that it is your responsibility to keep your work area clean. Papers are not to be stockpiled, work information is to be put away daily, excessive trash must be removed. If you see papers on the floor in your area or common areas, take the minute necessary to pick it [sic] up and throw it away or straighten it up. Employees are not to eat meals at desks or in work areas. All locations have break rooms! Do not keep food at your desk or store food in your work area."

Let's hope the memo, with all of its grammatical errors, wasn't written by anyone in editorial.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

New free daily launches on Florida island

A newspaper war has erupted on Marco Island, a community of 15,858 south of Naples on Florida's west coast. The island has two weekly newspapers, the Sun Times and the Marco Eagle. On June 5, the Ft. Myers News-Press acquired the Sun Times. Possibly in response to that move, the other weekly, the E.W. Scripps-owned Marco Eagle has become a free daily and changed its name to the Marco Daily Eagle. Scripps also owns the nearby Naples Daily News, so it is likely that the free daily was a preemptive move to keep the Ft. Myers paper from launching a free daily on the island. The new daily's editor is Tom Rife, who was at the Naples paper for 31 years as sports editor and then became a high school teacher.

169 free dailies in 2005; 27.9 million circ

The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) reports that there were 169 free daily newspapers in 2005 with a combined circulation of 27.9 million daily. WAN said 18.6 million of that circulation was in Europe.

In Spain, free daily distribution represents a huge 51 percent of the market; in Portugal 33 percent; in Denmark 32 percent, and in Italy, 29 percent.

Free dailies represent 6 percent of the world's daily newspaper circulation of 464 million, according to WAN.

Paid chain feels heat from free papers

In Canada, the parent company of five paid tabloid dailies, Quebecor Inc., has announced that it will cut 120 editorial jobs in an effort to save $4.6 milllion (Canadian) due to competition from free dailies. "The company has lost readership amid the rise of free commuter papers in several cities, including a significant erosion at its flagship daily, the Toronto Sun," the Globe and Mail says in this story.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

What a PR machine Metro must have

Here's a link to one of the most inaccurate articles we've seen on the concept of free daily newspapers. The article in Media Life magazine makes the ludicrous claim that Metro brought the concept to the United States and caused a revolution.

Long before Metro arrived in the U.S. in 2000, free dailies were booming in Colorado. The first started in 1972 when the Colorado Daily, then a student newspaper at the University of Colorado, was kicked off of campus by the school's regents over the paper's views on the Vietnam War. It became a community newspaper, albeit a very left-wing community paper, serving Boulder, a very left-wing town.

The Colorado Daily -- a free tabloid distributed in stores, restaurants, workplaces and schools -- became a model that within a decade was being replicated in Aspen and Vail. By the 1980s, more free dailies popped up in Colorado -- in Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs. A second started in Aspen. In the 1990s, more started in Telluride, Grand Junction and Denver.

In 1995, some free daily newspaper people from Colorado went to Northern California and started the Palo Alto Daily News.

The Palo Alto Daily News was profitable within 9 months and became a model for other free dailies. Unlike the Colorado Daily, the Palo Alto Daily had more of a centrist approach to the news. The Palo Alto paper also developed a stunningly broad advertising base, with a large number of small ads (quarter page or smaller) filling as many as 120 pages per day.

Within 10 years, the Palo Alto paper had spun off separate editions in Redwood City, San Mateo, Burlingame and Los Gatos.

Its growth apparently was a concern at the long-established San Jose Mercury News, 12 miles south of Palo Alto. The parent company of the Mercury News, Knight Ridder, purchased the Palo Alto paper in 2005. The price was not disclosed. But the sale occurred just months before the Knight Ridder chain came under attack by some of its shareholders, who demanded that the company's assets be sold to the highest bidder.
    (As of this writing (June 20), it is believed that the Palo Alto Daily will be sold on June 27 to the McClatchy Co., which has agreed to sell it to MediaNews (the parent of the Denver Post). The McClatchy-MediaNews transaction is being held up by the Department of Justice, which is conducting an antitrust review to see if MediaNews will have too many newspapers in Northern California if the transaction occurs.)

Getting back to this piece in MediaLife -- the author talks about how Metro is growing, but devotes just one sentence to the important issue of profitability. In New York, it's doubtful Metro is making any money, however another free daily not mentioned in the article, AM New York, is on the verge of profitability, according to hints dropped by parent company Tribune Co., and might even be in the black by now.

This story in MediaLife also incorrectly claims that Phil Anschutz, owner of the San Francisco Examiner, got the idea of going to a free tabloid from Metro.

First, Anschutz bought the Examiner a year after it was converted from a broadsheet to a free tabloid. Second, when the previous owners, the Fang Family, converted the paper to a free tab, they said they were doing it based on the success of the Palo Alto Daily News, which is about 30 miles south of San Francisco. They didn't mention Metro.

This MediaLife story isn't the only article to make that error. See the second part of this correction in the Washington Post.

The next time somebody writes about free dailies, they should do a better job researching the history and not accept the claims Metro's PR machine apparently is churning out.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

NY Times to use Metro for classifieds

The New York Times, which wants to reach younger consumers who may not read traditional newspapers, has reached a deal to have Metro International carry some of its classifieds in its free daily New York edition. The deal covers classifieds for employment, real estate, automotive and merchandise. The two companies will share revenues, but financial details were not disclosed. The two publications have a combined readership on weekdays of 2.2 million in the New York area, the Times said.

The Times points out that the difference in readership between the two publications appears to be more in terms of reading habits than demographics. The average age of readers of Metro New York is 36 and their household income is $87,000. The Times average age was 43.7 with a household income of $88,500.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Nashville free daily hires new publisher

Nashville's free daily, The City Paper, announced Friday (June 2) that it has hired the publisher of that town's alt-weekly as its publisher. Albie Del Favero, 52, who has been with the Nashville Scene for 17 years, starts Monday at The City Paper. Interim Publisher Jim Ezzell -- CFO of Thompson Machinery Commerce Corp., one of The City Paper's shareholders -- led the free daily for the last 23 months while owners hunted for a new publisher. The City Paper was founded Nov. 1, 2000 by local businessman Brian Brown, who stepped down as publisher on March 2, 2004. A replacement, Tom Larimer, lasted about six months. Then Ezzell stepped in as interim publisher.

“Free circulation daily newspapers and their Web sites are the future of print journalism and the daily newspaper industry,” Del Favero said. “The City Paper has been ahead of the curve since it was founded, but now is in the right place at the right time to become one of the next major success stories in American newspapers.”

Said Clint Brewer, The City Paper's executive editor: “Albie’s track record speaks for itself. He understands the importance of quality journalism to a community, and I look forward to working with him to make The City Paper Nashville’s true daily newspaper.”

• Wikipedia entry on The City Paper
• The City Paper's Web site

Weekly in British Columbia to open free daily

The 99-year-old weekly newspaper in the British Columbia ski resort of Smithers, The Interior News, is opening a free daily newspaper on Monday (June 5), to be called The Northern Daily. "The Northern Daily distribution will be targeted, saturating the business district and made available at coffee shops, restaurants, major food outlets and other high traffic areas," said a story appearing in the Interior News. While the weekly Interior News contains only locally-generated copy, the new Northern Daily will use both local copy and stories from Reuters.

Free dailies can be found in all of the large Colorado ski resort towns. In the case of Vail, the weekly paper was unable to compete with the daily that started in 1984. Last year the weekly Vail Trail was sold to the owners of the Vail Daily, Swift Newspapers. In Aspen, a free daily began there in 1979, and for a while it began cut into the business of the successful Aspen Times weekly. In 1989, an employee from the Aspen Daily News, Dave Price, jumped to the Aspen Times and created a daily newspaper. For many years, The Aspen Times had both a weekly and daily edition, and the daily edition grew larger than the incumbent Aspen Daily News. In Steamboat Springs, Colo., the owner of the weekly, seeing what had happened in Aspen and Vail, started his own daily.

Danish daily goes tab as 2 free dailies open

Denmark's Berlingske Tidende newspaper, one of Europe's oldest dailies, is switching from broadsheet to tabloid in August as two new free dailies are about to open, according to the AP. Icelandic conglomerate 365 Media Scandinavia plans to start distributing a free newspaper, Nyhedsavisen, to readers' homes in Copenhagen and other major Danish cities later this year, and one of Denmark's leading media corporations, JP/Politikens Hus, has also said it would start delivering a free newspaper to homes this year. Denmark already has two free newspapers — MetroXpress and Urban — both of which are tabs.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

PBS' 'NewsHour' looks at D.C. free dailies

"NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" on Monday (May 29) repeated its story that it first aired last year on the battle between Washington, D.C.'s two free papers, the Washington Post-owned Express and billionaire Phil Anschutz's Washington Examiner. An update might have been in order. Correspondent Terence Smith discusses the Examiner's business model -- throwing papers on the driverways of high-income residents, then convincing national advertisers to buy space based on who reads the paper. An update would have said that vast numbers of homeowners targeted by the Examiner have complained loudly about unwanted newspapers piling up on their property. That's caused the Examiner to pull back its home delivery. Therefore the company hasn't had much success with national advertisers. And it doesn't seem to know how to attract smaller advertisers. A year after it has started, the Washington Examiner is losing money. For that matter, two years after Anschutz bought the SF Examiner, it is losing money as well. (And it's circulation plan broke down the same way.)

Yes, Anschutz is a billionaire. But even billionaires get tired of throwing money down a hole. How long will it be until he pulls the plug on the Examiners?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Free daily starts in Manchester, New Hampshire

The slogan of New Hampshire is "Live Free or Die." Now Manchester, N.H., has a daily that's free. The Manchester Daily Express began May 22 and will publish five days a week. Owned by the same local company that has a free arts and entertainment weekly, the paper's goal is to sell affordable advertising to small mom-and-pop businesses who can't afford the rates of the city's main paper, the Manchester Union Leader, or the community's radio and TV stations. (Where have we heard that before? Palo Alto?)

Daily Express Publisher Jody Reese, 32, said, "There is no Manchester daily paper right now ... There's a statewide paper that has an office in Manchester, but there's no one doing city politics or doing a good job covering business. We have three major high schools in the city, and they get very cursory coverage right now." Reese used to work at the Union Leader.

Talk about dropping a gauntlet. Union Leader Publisher Joe McQuaid called Reese's accusation "nonsense" and said his paper's coverage was "second to none, and it will continue to be so." Asked by the Concord Monitor to be more specific, and McQuaid said, "My words will have to speak for themselves. I'm not about to explain to the Concord Monitor exactly what we intend to do."

The Daily Express calls itself a free 20-minute read but aims to be hard-hitting.

The Daily Express will run opinion columns, but Reese said the Daily Express would not stake out a particular political stance.

The Daily Express will have an initial press run of 3,000 and a staff of two reporters and an editor.

Concord Monitor: Manchester's second daily paper debuts

E&P: Free Daily To Appear in Manchester, N.H., on Monday

AP: New Hampshire woke up to a new daily newspaper Monday.

Manchester Daily Express Web site

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Metro launches free daily in Mexico City

Metro International, burned by its other launches in North America, is hoping for better luck in Mexico City where it has started Publimetro with an initial circulation of 130,000. Metro has a 35 percent stake in the operation. Another 35 percent is held by a group of investors from the securities firm Grupo Bursatil Mexicano S.A. de C.V. and 30 percent is owned by Antonio Torrado, whose family owns franchise license in Mexico for brands including Burger King, Domino's Pizza and Starbucks.

E&P writes, "Metro President and CEO Pelle Tornberg said Publimetro launches as the biggest paper in Mexico City, a claim that is likely true but impossible to confirm, given the secrecy with which Mexico City newspapers guard their true circulation. Publimetro is the first free daily in a city with more than a dozen active dailies priced anywhere from 10 cents to $1.50 on weekdays."

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Third free daily possible in London

The agency that oversees London's Underground is asking publishers if they would like to print a free daily newspaper that would be distributed in the subway system and at 10 train stations, according to the London Gazette. The agency, Network Rail, would be the publisher's partner and take part of the profits and invest them back into the transit system. Network Rail is looking to complete the tender process by the end of June. London already has two free daily newspapers: Metro and business title City Am.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Singleton's lucky he never tried a free youth paper

With the news of the death of "Dose," a free daily aimed at the youth market in Canada, MediaNews chairman Dean Singleton should feel pleased that he never went ahead with plans for a youth-oriented free daily in Berkeley that would have been called "The Daily Flash." Plans for the Daily Flash were detailed in this article on the news criticism site "Grade The News." The Daily Flash sounded remarkably like Dose, which shut down this month after a year in operation. Another free daily grabbing for the youth market, the Chicago Sun-Times's "Red Streak" folded late last year.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Canada's free daily 'Dose' shuts down

CanWest has shut down its sassy youth-oriented national free daily, Dose, after a year of publication. The Toronto Star writes: "Launched in April 2005, Dose was a free newspaper that took careful aim at the 18-to-34 demographic. Distributed weekdays in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa, Dose served up eye-catching front pages, one of which has a Best Cover nomination at the upcoming National Magazine Awards. Some of Dose's Toronto team had already started work yesterday when they learned they were out of a job. Others never made it into the office."

A Toronto financial analyst quoted by the National Post said, "[Dose] was burning a lot more money than they thought, because of [competition for readers and advertisers from] all the free dailies ... And there was no [strategic] need for it because CanWest has a joint venture in Metro," a free general interest daily distributed in Vancouver and Ottawa.

In Canada, several rivals compete in the free daily market. "Metro" papers are published under a three-way venture between CanWest Global, Torstar Corp. and Metro International SA. The commuter daily "24 Hours" is produced by Quebecor's Sun Media.

Canada National Post: Closing Dose is good news for CanWest
Toronto Star's take on Dose's demise -- it will be a loss to the art and design community
Ottawa Business Journal: Dose of reality: CanWest kills free daily commuter paper discusses Metro's role in Dose's demise