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.