Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Group slams first generation of free dailies

If you're in the free daily newspaper business already, the World Association of Newspapers thinks your paper sucks -- but that the "second generation" of free dailies will be much better. At least that's what WAN says in this April 16 article hyping its World Editors Forum, June 3-6 in Cape Town, South Africa. We quote:
    Free newspapers are everywhere, but most of them have little in common with traditional newspapers except for the paper they’re printed on. Little news, few employees, no opinion.

    But that is changing: the second generation of free dailies are competing on editorial quality with paid newspapers, often with relatively large staffs. As one free newspaper editor put it, "the new free newspapers will reintroduce the newspaper as a broad medium that will be able to compete with television and the net on readership."
Somebody needs to point out to WAN that the circulation of quality, paid newspapers is plummetting. Many are are on the brink of bankruptcy. The New York Times, for instance, has lost $800 million in the past 12 months.

Meanwhile, the first generation of free dailies is gaining circulation and growing in advertising revenues. Metro International is in the black, as is Chicago RedEye and a string of smaller free dailies in the U.S. in suburban communities.

And the paid, high-quality dailies -- such as the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News -- have launched free dailies of their own to protect their turf. The New York Times has even bought 49 percent of Metro's Boston paper.

Given this history, why would anybody in the free newspaper industry would need the advice of editors in the paid newspaper industry?