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?