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.