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.