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

Thursday, May 04, 2006

San Francisco Daily launches

As Knight Ridder, McClatchy, MediaNews Group and Hearst are busy shuffling around newspapers in the Bay Area, a new independent free daily has started. The former publishers of the Palo Alto (Calif.) Daily News, Dave Price and Jim Pavelich, today (May 3) launched the "San Francisco Daily." The paper is published Monday through Friday and circulates in the San Francisco neighborhoods of the Marina, Chestnut, Cow Hollow, North Beach and Fillmore. A wider circulation footprint is planned within weeks, according to Price.

"Our focus is on local news and what's happening in our neighborhoods, but we also want to include enough news from the rest of the world to make SF Daily a one-stop shop for people who want to be up-to-date," Price said. "We don't have a political agenda or a cause. Our purpose it to provide useful, unbiased information."

The first issue, which was delivered this morning by Price, Pavelich, and their eight employees to area residents and businesses, was eight pages. The publishers plan to keep it to that size until they build up an advertising base.

They began the profitable and frequently copied Palo Alto Daily News the same way -- with a humble eight-page edition. Many scoffed when they started the Palo Alto paper in the mid-1990s, saying a free daily would never survive. One well known newspaper industry analyst, John Morton, said he doubted the Palo Alto Daily News would last six months. Competitors derided the Palo Alto Daily News as well.

Over the years, as the paper grew, copy-cats began springing up both in the Bay Area and across the country. In 1995, there were fewer than 10 free dailies in the United States. By 2000, there were 40. Today, there are more than 60 in the U.S. and 150 worldwide.

Price and Pavelich sold the Palo Alto Daily News and four sister papers to Knight Ridder in 2005. Rumor had it that they were going to develop free papers for Knight Ridder in other markets. But Knight Ridder stopped all expansion plans in the fall of 2005 when shareholders demanded the break-up of the company. Price and Pavelich remained with Knight Ridder through December 2005.

Editor & Publisher
Wikipedia entry for SF Daily
SF Daily web site
Peninsula Press Club story about SF Daily
AP story (Note that the name of the paper and the name of Amando Mendoza are wrong.)
Bay City News Service report on new newspaper