Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Examiner's happy hunting ground

Herbert Moloney, who resigned last week after 19 months as publisher of Phil Anschutz's Washington Examiner, will become president and chief operating officer of Western Colorprint Inc. of Denver, which provides advertising supplements and cartoons to newspapers. So what? Maloney just so happens to be replacing Scott McKibben, who became president of Western Colorprint in 2005 after he left Anschutz's San Francisco Examiner. Who else has headed Western Colorprint? How about Scott's brother, Ryan, who went to Western Colorprint in 1998 after he left the post of publisher of the Denver Post. Ryan McKibben is now head of Anschutz's Clarity Media, the parent company of the Examiner newspapers.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Another way to follow the free daily biz

One way to closely follow the emerging free daily newspaper industry in Europe is by visiting the blog or subscribing to the free newsletter written by Dr. Piet Bakker (left) of the University of Amsterdam. Bakker has worked as a journalist at several newspapers, magazines and radio stations. Now he teaches mass communications. His blog really has its finger on the pulse of the emerging free daily industry in Europe.

Ski resort gets a daily with a dual personality

The weekly paper in Whistler, B.C., on Thursday launched a free daily that has two names and two different front pages -- one for Whistler and a second for the neighboring town of Squamish. Whistler Today and Squamish Today will be published Monday-Friday and distributed in racks and hotels, cafes and restaurants. The papers will have local news as well as coverage from Reuters and the New York Times News Service. Whistler will host several events during the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

Whistler and Aspen are worth comparing. Each has a permanent population of less than 10,000 yet attract more than 2 million visitors during the winter. Each has a thriving summer season as well. In Aspen, the local weekly didn't respond when a free daily started publishing in 1979. Only after that free daily had a foothold in the community did the weekly respond in 1989 by launching its own daily, which has been very successful. Yet Aspen still has two dailies. In Whistler, the weekly didn't wait for a free daily to come to town -- it opened its own free daily.

British Columbia has other free dailies. Vancouver had three for a while, but with the demise of Dose in May, it is left with Metro and 24 Hours. Also the ski resort of Smithers saw the launch of The Northern Daily on June 5.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Washington Examiner publisher quits

And the revolving door continues to spin at billionaire Phil Anschutz's Examiner newspapers. After just 19 months, Washington Examiner publisher Herbert W. Moloney III (pictured) has resigned. A story in the Washington Examiner gave no reason for Moloney's departure, nor was there any word on his future plans.

Moloney will be replaced by Michael Phelps (left), currently publisher of the Baltimore Examiner. Phelps will also take on the new title/position of Chief Executive Officer of the Baltimore-Washington Examiner Group. Phelps will be replaced by Michael Beatty (right), former director of retail sales at the paid circulation Balitmore Sun. Beatty has 25 years of experience in newspaper marketing and advertising, including three years at the Sun.

Moloney replaced James McDonald in April 2005. McDonald lasted two months at the Examiner.

Moloney came to the Examiner after serving as chief operating officer of Vertis, a junk-mailing company. Before that, he worked for newspaper companies Knight Ridder and Lee Enterprises.

Partners battle over 'Israeli' free daily

The two partners who own the free daily "Israeli" are battling with each other, according to the Israeli business publication Globes online. One of the partners, U.S. Jewish billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has gone to court to have a judge appoint a temporary receiver for the 11-month-old newspaper. Co-owner Shlomo Ben-Zvi says that if the court grants Adelson's request, it would almost certainly lead to the paper's immediate collapse. “Adelson’s desire to hurt and pressure me has addled his mind, and caused him to take absurd measures,” said Ben-Zvi.

Paid paper surviving battle with free daily

A Southern California newspaper is proud that it only lost 1.7 percent of its weekday circulation after a free daily started in its territory. Copley Press, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune, launched a free daily, Today's Local News, on Nov. 7, 2004 in northern San Diego County to compete with that area's paid circulation daily, the North County Times. Today's Local News is delivered to 75,000 homes. The North County Times reported today that its circulation is 89,746 on weekdays (down 1.7 percent in the past year) and 93,219 on Sundays (down 1.2 percent). But the Times pointed out that the Copley-owned San Diego Union-Tribune lost 5.2 percent of its Sunday circulation (to 419,633) and 4.9 percent of its Thusday-Saturday circulation (to 350,910). North County Times publisher Dich High said the North County Times performed well against the combined Copley competition. "They made a pretty good effort to blow us out of here with a free newspaper on our doorsteps," he said. "It apparently hurt them more than it hurt us."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Metro closes p.m. paper in Copenhagen

Metro International announced yesterday that it is shutting down its afternoon edition in Copenhagen, which was launched earlier this year, but that it will keep operating its morning paper, the metroXpress. "Despite a positive development in its readership results, the Copenhagen afternoon edition has not met our demanding financial targets during the trial period and we have thus taken the disciplined decision to close it down," said Pelle Törnberg, President and CEO of Metro. "MetroXpress is however performing very well and we will continue to further strengthen its leadership of the Danish free newspaper market."

Friday, November 17, 2006

D.C. Examiner won't talk about comics

The free daily Washington Examiner is running about half as many comics as it used to -- and the paper's management is refusing to tell the trade publication Editor & Publisher why it made the change. According to Washington, D.C. comics blogger Mike Rhode, the Examiner has cut the number of comics it is running from 14 to 6. "E&P phoned the Examiner to try to verify this, and briefly talked to an editor Tuesday afternoon and yesterday morning. But the editor said he didn't have time to talk. A voice-mail message left yesterday afternoon was not returned by the editor," E&P wrote.

The eight comics the Examiner dropped were The Duplex, Pooch Cafe, Jump Start, Rose is a Rose, The Buckets, Monty, Marmaduke and Herman. The six it kept were Adam@Home, Frazz, Overboard, Prickly City, Over The Hedge and Spot the Dog. Pooch Cafe is now running in the Washington Post's free paper, the Express.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

San Francisco Examiner offspring ridiculed

The SF Daily is also printing humorous blurbs in its "Town Talk" section about the new competitor. One was about a business person who threw the City Star ad reps out of her store. "She didn't break any bones, but we appreciate her attitude," the item said. Another blurb said that what felt like an earthquake was actually "William Randolph Hearst rolling over in his grave when he learned about the latest downsizing of his former flagship newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner," referring to the City Star. The SF Daily was pleased to report that San Franciscians have even given Anschutz's paper a nickname -- "the Sh***y Star."

Before the Examiner rolled out the City Star, the Examiner's editor, James Pimentel, was quoted as saying that the new paper wasn't an attempt to copy the SF Daily. If that's so, then what is the purpose of the City Star? The Examiner has suffered after it was sold by the Hearst Corp. in 2000. The first owner used the Examiner to promote candiates on the front page including family members. Anschutz bought the Examiner in 2004 and turned it into a conservative paper -- a bad fit in a city known for its liberalism. The Examiner hasn't appeared to grow much during Anschutz's watch. Maybe he's hoping to build up the City Star so he can jetison the Examiner?

Oddly enough, the City Star doesn't mention anywhere that it is part of the Examiner or owned by Anschutz. It says it is owned by San Francisco Newspaper Company, LLC., a fairly generic name. One wonders why Anschutz wouldn't want his name on his paper? You'd think the journalists at the Examiner would insist on full disclosure or "truth in labeling." Also, it's worth noting that the Examiner hasn't written anything about its new sister paper. Is the Examiner staff embarrassed by its sibling?

2 new free papers for Toronto in 2 languages

Sun Media Corp., owner of the Ottawa Sun, today launched two free newspapers in Toronto -- "24 hours" in English and "24 heures" in French. They're promising a "unique, fast-paced package of news, entertainment and high quality photo reportage for readers in the National Capital Region."

"The newspapers are designed to deliver information quickly for busy readers -- typically in 20 minutes -- and they will attract new readers to the print format," says Rick Gibbons, publisher and CEO of 24 hours in Ottawa. The Publisher of 24 heures is Michel Desbiens. Research shows that 47 percent of the people in the market don't read any newspaper, so the hope is that these free dailies will increase overall readership. The overlap between paid papers and free ones is typically less than 8 percent, said Gibbons.

The two new dailies will result in a total of 24 new full-time equivalent positions. The papers will also draw from staffers of the Ottawa Sun.

The two new papers are expected to increase the total circulation of Sun Media's free papers to more than 800,000 readers per day, according to Bob Harris, vice president of new business development.

Metro sets Guinness World Record

No less of an authority than the Guiness Book of World Records -- you know, that book that keeps track of feats like the person with the longest fingernails or the world's fattest cow -- has bestowed an honor on the Metro chain of free daily newspapers. Guiness has declared Metro the "World's Largest Global Newspaper."

One might argue that Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, with 14 million daily circulation, is the world's largest newspaper. Metro says it has 18 million readers, but readership is different from circulation. Circulation is the actual number of papers bought or distributed, while readership reflects the total number of readers. Frequently, newspapers will claim that 2.5 people read each paper, which inflates the paper's "number." Metro's total daily circulation has not been disclosed.

It's possible that the folks at Guiness ignored Yomiuri Shimbun because the title Metro received is "World's Largest Global Newspaper," and Metro, unlike the Shimbun, is truly global with 70 editions in 100 cities, in 21 countries and 19 languages in Europe, North America and Asia.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ex-Ex pub lands new job, scandals reported

P. Scott McKibben, former publisher of the San Francisco Examiner as it went from a paid broadsheet to a free tab daily, has landed a job as publisher of the 100,000-circulation Colorado Springs (Colo.) Gazette, a property of Freedom Newspapers (also owner of the Orange County Register). But give his new paper credit -- it didn't print a puff piece about McKibben's arrival. Instead, it reported the controversies that dogged McKibben in the Bay Area, both at the Examiner and previously at ANG newspapers, and asked him to comment. A lot of papers these days probably would have done the puff piece out of fear of alienating the new boss. Here's what McKibben's new paper said about him:
    During his time as head of the ANG group in California, which is controlled by Denver Post owner William Dean Singleton, McKibben came under fire in a 2003 story in an alternative weekly that said he “embodied the company’s policy of staring down unions at all costs, bleeding the papers white, and kicking money upstairs to finance boss Singleton’s relentless newspaperbuying spree.”

    McKibben also was painted as a socialite who ordered staff to cover events he attended.

    Asked about the story, McKibben said it was written by a former ANG employee and union member who was unhappy with contract negotiations. McKibben said the story didn’t discuss his success in negotiating a union contract that raised pay and expanded retirement benefits. McKibben denied ordering reporters to cover social events.

    McKibben also was embroiled in lawsuits related to the sale of the San Francisco Examiner. As publisher, McKibben was asked by the paper’s family ownership to find a buyer, news stories reported.

    After the Examiner’s sale in 2004, McKibben sued the former owners and alleged they withheld compensation owed to him as part of the deal. The previous owners countersued, alleging McKibben failed to get top dollar for the paper and steered the sale to Denver businessman Phillip Anschutz — who employed McKibben’s brother as a consultant.

    Both lawsuits were settled in June 2005, McKibben said.

What his new paper didn't say was that the Examiner's current owner, Phil Anschutz, was paying McKibben $420,000 a year plus a $180,000 annual bonus, according to court records cited by the Los Angeles Times in a July 23, 2006 story. McKibben also got a country club membership paid by the Examiner owner. And who says free newspapers don't pay?

Free dailies on agenda at Madrid conference

The World Editor & Marketeer Conference and Expo in Madrid next week will include "an in depth examination of the daily free phenomenon, including a look at the free daily war in Denmark, where readers get free newspapers delivered to their cars, homes, offices and public transport. Speakers include the Director and Editor-in-Chief of 24timer in Denmark, Torsten Bjerre Rasmussen and Poul Madsen, as well as Christoph Bauer, the CEO of Cash Daily in Switzerland." For more information, go to

Friday, November 10, 2006

CanWest gets back in the free daily business

CanWest, which shut down its youth oriented Dose free daily in May, introduced a new free daily in Ottawa today called RushHour. But instead of entering an already-packed morning market, RushHour is positioning itself as the afternoon commuter paper of choice. Here's a report in the Ottawa Business Journal and the press release from CanWest. CanWest still holds a one-third share of MetroCanada, which means that in Ottawa at least, CanWest will be competing with itself in the free daily market.

SunMedia's 24 Hours is also expected to enter the Ottawa market with two editions: a French-language version for Gatineau, with perhaps 40,000 copies printed; and an English-language version in Ottawa with 80,000.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Metro International reports Q3 profit

Metro International SA, the London-based publisher of 70 free dailies from Santiago to Stockholm, posted a third-quarter profit of $2.6 million (U.S.), mainly from a gain from the sale of a free daily in Finland. The quarter's net income of $2.6 million compared with a loss of $12.2 million a year earlier. Sales in Q3 rose to $87.1 million from $74 million in the same quarter last year, and Metro's management reiterated a plan to post a profit for the year. Metro sold its Finnish paper in August after it failed to generate a profit three years into its inception, a requirement Metro says it has set for all its editions. Metro has three in the United States, in Philadelphia, Boston and New York.

A CLOSER LOOK at Metro's Q3 report shows:
    • Metro's papers that are three years and older generated profits of $39.98 million on sales of $314.38 million for the 12-month period ending Sept. 30, 2006. That's a 12 percent profit margin, which is 30 percent better than during the same period a year earlier. Metro's papers less than three years lost $16.2 million on sales of $74.6 million for the same period.

    • Metro's three papers in the United States (NY, Boston and Philadelphia) are still losing money, although no indication is given whether Metro is close to pulling the plug on any of them. For Q3, combined sales for the three were $7.9 million with a loss of $2.08 million, or 26 percent. That's slightly better than Q3 in 2005, when sales were $7.6 million and losses were $2.59 million (33.9 percent).

    • Metro didn't break out how each of the three U.S. papers did individually, but it included these notes in the report: "The sales growth of the U.S. operations for the quarter was affected by the restructuring of sales departments; the U.S. operations reported 4 percent year-on-year growth in net sales in the third quarter, and 17 percent for the nine months. In New York, sales growth for the third quarter increased year on year by 10 percent, and operating losses correspondingly were reduced by 26 percent from the third quarter of 2005. The Metro New York classified sales agreement with The New York Times Company began in late September. In Philadelphia, quarter losses were reduced by 43 percent and in Boston sales in the quarter were flat year on year."

    • Metro CEO Pelle Tornberg (left) said that he has reorganized the company's management team during the quarter. Chris Spalding, formerly vice president of logistics, was elevated to the No. 2 position, executive vice president of operations. Robert Patterson, who was CFO, is now an executive vice president in charge of half of Metro's papers. The other half will be overseen by Marin Alsander, also an executive vice president. Robert Murrels is joining metro as CFO on an interim basis while a permanent CFO is sought. No mention was made as to whether executive vice president Steve Nylund, who got caught up in a major controversy over a racist joke he told, is still with the company.

COMMENTARY: Metro Philadelphia began in 2000. Metro Boston came along in 2001. Metro New York turns three next year. None of them make money. Metro's rule that its editions must generate a profit three years after inception apparently doesn't apply to its U.S. papers. Maybe that's a good thing -- we'd rather see more newspapers than less. But we'd also like to see papers that are sustainable, not subsidized. The fact that Metro is able to make money everywhere else in the world except the United States should force management to reexamine their business model in this country. What works in Stockholm or Hong Kong may not necessarily work in New York or Boston.

With sales growth that is described as "flat," it would appear that the only thing stopping Metro from pulling the plug on its Boston edition is its partnership with The New York Times Co., owner of the Boston Globe. But that relationship may not be so solid. The Globe is for sale, and presumably the NYT's 49 percent interest in Metro Boston is part of what's being sold. A new owner would probably look to cut costs. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch is said to be interested in buying the Globe. Given Welch's reputation of demanding profits and top performance from GE's many divisions, it's hard to see him accepting Metro Boston's current money-losing P&L statement.

New boss for amNewYork

Christopher Howard, who was a rising star in the executive ranks of Knight Ridder before that company folded, has been appointed to the newly-created position of vice president of interactive strategy and development at Newday, a job that includes oversight of the paper's online business as well as its free daily in Manhattan, amNewYork. With that title, Howard will presumably become the boss of amNY's publisher, Christopher Barnes, who took over in September after founding publisher Russel Pergament was bought out by parent Tribune Co. Howard was previously head of classifieds for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, KR's biggest market. Before that, he was director of finance and planning for advertising at KR's San Jose Mercury News.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Examiner goes on damage control mode

After months of ignored complaints from readers, Phil Anschutz's Examiner in Baltimore has finally acknowledged that it is delivering papers to residents who don't want the right-wing newspaper.

This morning, buried on page 20, the Examiner carries a story headlined "A complaint about delivery of The Baltimore Examiner." Note the word "complaint" in the singular, even though stories in both the Baltimore Sun and the alt-weekly Baltimore City Paper have said that the paper has received numerous complaints. City Paper even ran pictures of signs people had put outside, trying to stop the paper (see above).

Then, the brief introduction to the publisher's "letter" describes the "delivery problems" as being from a "small percentage of area residents." Really? If the Examiner doesn't even respond to people's complaints, as City Paper alleges, how would it know the number of complaints? In the letter, Publisher Michael Phelps strikes the same tone, saying the Examiner has received a "small number of requests" to stop delivery and a "handful" of complaints. He doesn't give an exact number, so one is left to imagine what "small" and "handful" might mean to him -- 1,000? 10,000? Who knows? It sounds like Phelps has his hands full.

The letter goes on to claim that the Examiner is reaching 236,000 "Baltimore market households each day" and has a daily readership of 360,000 people. We note, too, that not only was the story buried on page 20, well past the local news section, it also appeared on a Saturday -- a day often regarded as the lowest day of the week for readership.

THE POINT: This blog reports on the free daily newspaper industry. We're also very bullish about free dailies, beliving they are the future for print journalism. But when a publication like the Examiner attempts to downplay or obfucate an important issue like this, it reflects poorly on other free dailies who have better business practices. We hope the billionaire who owns the Examiners spends a little of his money to improve distribution.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Judge asked to stop Examiner distribution

An angry Baltimore County resident, who happens to be a lawyer, has gone to court to force the Baltimore Examiner to stop delivering newspapers to his driveway every day. According to the Baltimore Sun, Joel L. Levin has filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order against the free newspaper owned by billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz. The article says:

    The papers are not only litter, Levin said, but when he's out of town, an invitation to burglars. In court documents filed this week, Levin said he wants to go to Florida and that he's afraid of what will happen if The Examiner keeps coming.

    "It's not just me," said Levin, who subscribes to The Sun and the business publication Barron's. "A lot of people around me are very frustrated. There's some irritation that we can't control the paper."

    In Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood, residents have put signs in windows warning carriers to stop leaving The Examiner. "We have enough battles keeping our streets clean," said Keith Losoya, former president of the neighborhood association and a candidate for state Senate in the 46th District. "This periodical gets blown around and just adds to our trash issues."

    In a column in the Oct. 26 edition of The Examiner, publisher Phelps appeared to acknowledge the complaints: "If we've failed to stop your delivery quickly, I'm truly sorry. We don't want you to get it if you won't read it."

Similar distribution problems have been reported at the Examiners in Washington and San Francisco, but this may be the first lawsuit that has been filed.

South African weekly may launch free daily

The Mail & Guardian online report that the Johannesburg, South Africa Sunday Times is planning to start a free daily next year. A blogger, Anton Harber, initially had the scoop on the new paper and management at the Sunday Times wouldn't deny his report. But they said that no final decision has been made.