Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tribune sues Fox News over RedEye name

The owner of Chicago's successful (defined as profitable) RedEye free daily, the Tribune Co., has sued Fox News because a new, overnight program it has launched is also called "Red Eye."

According to Crain's, a Chicagoland business publication, Tribune's Feb. 14 lawsuit says the TV show and the free daily “contain nearly identical content” and “viewers are quite likely to assume that Fox and the RedEye products owned by Tribune are collaborating, thereby causing confusion.”

Tribune wanted a temporary restraining order to stop Fox News from going on the air with the Red Eye name, but a judge instead decided to put off any action until a hearing can be held Feb. 26.

In the complaint, Tribune says it has spent almost $4 milion promoting the 150,000-circulation RedEye, a free daily.

Tribune also says it has two federal trademark registrations for the RedEye mark for newspapers, and it has trademark applications pending on the name for television and internet services. Tribune also carries a RedEye program on its regional cable channel, CLTV.

The complaint also gives some insight into conversations between Fox News and Tribune before the suit was filed. It says Fox News “admitted that it did not conduct a trademark search” and “ignored” Tribune’s demand to not use the name. The suit says the Fox News “Red Eye” show first aired on Feb. 6, 2007.

Not to get technical, but Fox News has treated Red Eye as two words while Tribune has two ways of dealing with the word. On the paper's flag, Red Eye is on three decks, with "R" on top, "ED" on the second deck and "EYE" on the bottom deck. Elsewhere, Tribune treats the name as a single word -- "Redeye."

'Politico' grabs attention in D.C.

We can only imagine what billionaire Phil Anschutz thought on Sunday morning if he had turned on CBS and caught "Face The Nation." Anschutz has poured tens of millions into his Examiner free dailies in San Francisco and Baltimore, but especially Washington, D.C., where he wishes to influence Congress. Yet who was invited to be host Bob Schieffer's fellow questioner? John Harris, editor-in-chief of the Politico, the new free daily in Washington owned by the Albritton family.

As we have noted previously, the Washington Examiner is so forgettable that when the AP did a story about the Politico's launch, it didn't even list the Examiner as one of the papers circulating in the nation's capital.

There is evidence that the Washington Examiner's new editor is trying to build a staff, but so far all he has picked up are job-hunting right-wingers. Meanwhile, the Politico is being viewed as "a model for future newspapers," as The Editors Weblog put it. And its staff, as evidenced by Sunday's "Face The Nation" appearance, is on Washington's "A List." Next Sunday the questioners on "Face The Nation" will include Josephine Hearn of the Politico.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

This smells fishy

Metro New York, part of the Metro International chain, will become the first newspaper in the U.S. to offer scratch-and-sniff advertisement capabilities to its business partners. Please note that Hustler magazine did this many years ago, though the subject matter was different. This time around the company Free-Standing Inserts (FSI) will give readers the chance to sample products such as perfume and flavored foods before purchasing. The first advertiser to take advantage of Metro New York’s innovative new program is Glaceau’s cookie-scented product, Crumbles. For what it's worth, milk producers in California (the "Got Milk" people) flopped when they introduced cookie scents to bus stops in San Francisco, thinking it would cause consumers to buy milk. Instead, it caused consumers to call lawyers and city officials, who had the scents removed.

Dubai may soon have two free dailies

Gee, imagine having to get a license before starting or expaning a newspaper? That's not required in the United States, at least not yet. But in bustling Dubai City, that's what XPress needs in order to go from publishing twice a week to seven days week. Al Nisr Publishing is launching the title which is expected to compete with the free daily 7Days and have a print run of 80,000-100,000. Nirmala Janssen, a former Gulf News correspondent, will be the editor.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Metro reports profit, Törnberg to leave

Metro International, publisher of 100 free newspapers in 20 countries, reported its first annual profit today and announced that president and chief executive Pelle Törnberg (left) will step down this year.

In 2006, Metro reported net income of $16.9 million in U.S. dollars -- its first annual profit since Metro started in 1995 -- although $12.3 million came from the sale of its money-losing paper in Finland. In 2005, Metro lost $2.5 million (including $2.5 million from the sale of a minority stake in Boston Metro to the New York Times Co.).

The company said it reduced its debt in 2006 from $23 million to $16.7 million.

The report said sales were up in the United States, where Metro has papers in Philadelphia, Boston and New York. But there was no indication that any of those papers were in the black.

An exact date for Törnberg's departure wasn't given. Nor was there any indication of the size of the severance package he will receive.

His exit comes three months after Metro announced a management shakeup that saw the elevation of Chris Spalding to executive VP of operations and the departure of Steve Nylund, who made headlines for telling a racist joke at a company get-together.

However, the report did note: "Competition increased sharply in 2006. 230 free daily titles are published in 41 countries with a combined circulation of 34.8m daily copies (including Metro), up 43% year-on-year."
    COMMENTARY: Törnberg's leadership has been a mixed bag. On one hand, he's led the company's worldwide expansion, but Metro has been an underperformer, losing money from 1995 through 2005. Why did it take 10 years to turn the corner? Could another CEO have done better?

    What's more, his papers have always been heavy on wire copy, making them vulnerable to competitors that provide quality news coverage and local appeal. With more free dailies starting, quality is only going to become a bigger problem for Metro.

    Take New York, where Metro launched the first free daily but has drifted as AM New York has come to dominate the free daily market both in terms of readership (again, editorial quality) and ad billings. AM New York's former publisher, Russel Pergament, thinks Boston's Metro is vulnerable too because he's going to launch a free daily there this summmer, with backers from Iceland.

    It's also been embarrassing to hear Törnberg and Metro falsely claim over the years that they invented the free daily. The lie popped up again in today's news release about Törnberg's exit. "Under Pelle's leadership Metro has invented and dominated the free newspaper industry," it said. As we have stated before, free dailies started in Northern California (Walnut Creek, California) in the late 1940s and a second strain emerged in Colorado in the 1970s, with free dailies in Boulder (1971), Aspen (1979) and Vail (1984) all starting well before Metro was ever conceived. The Palo Alto (California) Daily News launched in 1995, the same year Metro claimed to have invented the business.

    Hopefully Metro's next CEO won't engage in resume fabrication.
UPDATE: The International Herald Tribune reports on Törnberg's departure. Note that he promises Metro's U.S. editions will turn a profit this year.

Friday, February 09, 2007

AM New York founder to start Boston paper

An Islandic telecom conglomerate, Dagsbrun, has hired former AM New York publisher Russel Pergament to start a free daily in Boston, and the company plans to start free tabloids in eight to 10 U.S. cities in the next few years, the Boston Globe reports.

Pergament founded AM New York but was bought out in September by that paper's owner, Tribune Co. Before AM New York, Pergament launched Metro Boston, which is said to be doing about $12 million a year in revenue but not making a profit. Metro Boston says its current circulation is 165,000, which it says will soon increase to 200,000.

Pergament says he will succeed by emphasizing staff-written local stories rather than the wire copy for which Metro is known. "Metro is not a concern to me," Pergament tells the Globe. "Metro has maybe 2 percent of the local print market. There is real money in this market if people know what they are doing." No start date was given, but it sounds like late summer in that he wants to be selling space by the back-to-school selling season.
    COMMENTARY: When has setting up a national chain of newspapers worked before? Metro International tried this, in Boston, Philly and New York. None of them are making money. Billionaire Phil Anschutz tried it, registering the name "Examiner" in 70 cities. After three cities -- San Francisco, Washington and Baltimore -- it looks like he's stopped expanding. None of them are making money. His Washington paper is such a non-player in the nation's capital that the AP forgot to mention the DC Examiner when listing the competitors of a new newspaper in that city. Go back to the 1980s and you'll find Gannett trying to forge a national newspaper brand with its USA Today. The original plan was to have its local papers become sections in the USA Today. Never worked because people largely rejected USA Today. It became "that airport newspaper" with almost no influence in American life. So now some guys from Iceland are going to try the same thing -- a chain of free dailies in 12 major cities. They ought to learn a little bit more about America, and the tastes of Americans when it comes to news, before blowing the kind of money it will take to run 12 money-losing free metro dailies. They might also want to dig a little bit to find out why Tribune Co. bought out Pergament.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Demand said to be strong for AM New York

AM New York publisher Christopher Barnes (left) says demand is strong for 325,000 copy free daily. "We could give out as many papers as we can print right now, the problem we have is running out of copies sometimes. It has been a success since the day it launched," Barnes told the Web site And demand has remained high despite the rollout of the paper's Web site, where stories often are reported first. He says the business model of the Web site and free daily are much the same -- reliant upon advertising and reaching a young, urban audience.

"When I'm out explaining AM New York to advertisers, I like to compare it to a Web site and say people aren't necessarily paying for this, in the same way they are not paying for a website, but they are making the effort to pick it up and engage with the content," Barnes said. "It's really similar to a web experience because of the audience. We have young urban professionals of the interactive generation, cash rich, time poor, who are not really engaged with traditional media — they are our readers. We give them a 20 to 30 minute read on the subway so that they are not going to have to flick through a six-section newspaper."

Free dailies are bright spot in newspaper biz

Almost every day some reporter writes a story about how the newspaper business is dying, and how the Internet is taking over. But the facts say otherwise. “Free papers are reinvigorating the market,” says Larry Kilman, director of communications at the World Association of Newspapers, based in Paris. Next time somebody tells you newspapers are dying, offer these statistics from the association, as reported by MediaLife Magazine:
    • Newspapers are actually gaining in circulation worldwide, and rather substantially, by 10 percent between 2001 and 2005, to 479 million copies daily;

    • Free daily circulation in the U.S. grew by 127.9 percent over the five years, to 3.3 million copies;

    • By 2005 free papers accounted for 5.8 percent of the U.S. newspaper market by circulation, up from 2.5 percent;

    • In Europe, free papers had grown to make up 15.3 percent of all daily newspaper circulation, up from 7.6 percent, having grown 104 percent over the period, to 16.4 million.

    • The largest free daily in the world is Leggo in Italy, according to WAN, which has a circulation of just over 1 million. Metro in Britain follows with 977,000. The first entry for the U.S. is also Metro with a combined circulation of its Boston, Philadelphia and New York editions of 668,000.
MediaLife concludes, "These growth trends seem likely to continue. As the freesheets bring in new readers, more are expected to launch, and paid-for papers will likely switch to free."