Friday, March 02, 2007

Three free dailies battle in Alberta, Canada

Three free dailies -- Metro, 24 Hours and RushHour -- have descended on the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta. The question is whether the 1988 Olympic city of Calgary (population 1 million) and the oil town of Edmonton (730,000) can support three free dailies along with their traditional paid papers.

"The free dailies can really thrive in Toronto, very simply, because of the transit system here," Account Director Scott Stewart of Genesis Media tells Media in Canada. "When you look at newer or emerging markets, you still don't have the overdeveloped transit systems like you do in Toronto. Three free dailies in that market takes a Toronto-centric view that maybe that market can't bear. They'll face challenges."

Circulation: Quebecor-owned Sun Media's 24 Hours, 50,000 in each city; RushHour, 5,000 in Edmonton, 10,000 in Calgary; Metro, 60,000 in each city. These are initial numbers -- all figures will likely increase.

History: Until last year, Vancouver had three free dailies battling for readers from April 2005 to May 2006 -- 24 Hours, Metro and Dose. It was the only market in Canada with three free dailies at the time. Dose's owner, Can West, pulled the plug, because the publication was burning more cash than expected. From what we hear, the two remaining papers in Vancouver still aren't making any money, though 24 Hours is closer to success than Metro.