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.