Friday, March 23, 2007

Success of '24 Hours' raises questions

In Toronto, Canada, the city's paid-circulation daily, the Sun, is losing readership while the city's 4-year-old free daily 24 Hours is growing. And that's raising questions for Quebecor Inc., the company that owns both papers. A story by the Sun's Grant Robertson says that when Quebecor chief executive Pierre Karl Péladeau visited the Sun's newsroom, journalists wanted to know where the Sun fits into the company's plans.

For the record, Quebecor officials say they have no intention of turning the Sun into a free paper.

Speculation that the Sun might go free was fueled by Péladeau's decision to increase the page size of 24 Hours so that it is the same as the Sun. And with that change, the two papers are printing many of the same pages each day. 24 Hours in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton have also gone to this longer tab format.

Quebecor officials say the company can get away with duplicating pages between the two papers because their markets are different. 24 Hours draws women, while the Sun attracts men with more sports and its daily girly photo.

WINNEPEG BOMB: The Sun story notes that if Quebecor starts a free daily in Winnepeg, that town's traditional daily newspaper, the Free Press, has developed plans to print its own free daily. The project to develop the free daily is called Eclipse. "We call it Project Eclipse because it's a Sun killer," Free Press publisher Andy Ritchie said. The plan, estimated at about $150 million (Canadian), is "like having a nuclear bomb -- you only use it if you have to."