Saturday, June 30, 2007

Newspaper will pay bloggers per page view

A current fad in the newspaper business is outreach to bloggers. Many papers, both free and paid, host blogs on their websites. Some are written by the paper's staff while others are produced by readers. Sweden's Metro newspaper has upped the ante and is now paying bloggers who attract at least 5,000 page views per month. In return, bloggers give Metro permission to use their material in the print edition. The idea was so popular that more than 2,300 bloggers signed up in just three days and Metro had to close the service to new sign-ups until it could expand its capacity, according to the website Media Culpa.

Another UK 'freesheet' in the works

The war among commuter dailies in England will soon be heating up. Network Rail, the nonprofit that runs that country's railway system, has invited publishers to make proposals to launch a new free afternoon newspaper that would be distributed at Manchester Piccadilly station (pictured), according to the media website How do. Another "freesheet," as they are called in England, is likely to stoke the already furious free daily battle between Rupert Murdoch's TheLondonPaper (all one word) and Viscount Rothermere's London Lite and Metro. Metro has the rights to distribute in the station in the morning, so this new paper would be circulated from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the buzz in England is that both TheLondonPaper and London Light are planning to distribute nationwide.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Examiner editor off the hook on gun charge

In a 10-paragraph story, the Baltimore Examiner announced today (June 26) that prosecutors are dropping charges against the paper's executive editor, Frank Keegan (pictured), who was accused of pointing a shotgun at a neighbor who complained about his cigarette smoking. The neighbor was holding his 3-year-old daughter when confronted by the gun-toting editor May 23, according to police reports. Keegan, 58, had been charged with with three counts of second-degree assault and two gun violations, and spent a day in jail after his arrest. Prosecutors decided not to go forward with the case following a meeting with the alleged victim and his attorney, the Examiner reported. Keegan came to the Examiner in January 2006 after he had been fired by the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport, Conn., where he had worked for three years.

Told you so! Israel to get 2nd free daily

Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson (pictured) has broken off talks to buy Israel's Ma'ariv, a Hebrew paid daily, and plans to open that country's second free daily, Israel Today, in two weeks.

Adelson's new paper is now hiring. Amos Regev will be the editor and Asher Baharav will manage it. Both men held the equivalent positions at the country's first free daily, Israeli, which was jointly owned by Adelson and Shlomo Ben-Tzvi. That partnership is now in the courts — with Adelson being locked out of the paper's management. "Israeli" continues to publish.

This blog,, reported back on April 11 that Adelson was looking to start his own free daily after the "Israeli" partnership dispute shut him out of any control of that paper.

According to Forbes Magazine, Adelson is the 14th richest person in the world and the third richest in the United States with a net worth estimated at $20.5 billion. He is a real estate developer and heads Las Vegas Sands Corp., which operates casinos.

Reporter Yael Gaoni of Israel's Globes Online, a business publication, reported today that talks broke off between Adelson and Ma'ariv owner Ofer Nimrodi. Adelson offered $125 million for "Ma'ariv" and Nimrodi wanted $180 million, according to Gaoni.

Four hours later, posted a report by reporter Yael Walzer that quoted Adelson's spokesman as saying the Vegas billionaire never offered to buy Ma'ariv for $250 million. Walzer's report suggested Adelson's bid, after looking at Ma'ariv's books, was $105 million, and that Nimrodi's final demand was $170 million.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Manchester (N.H.) Express turns corner

The 8,000-circulation Manchester (New Hampshire) Daily Express has been operating for about a year now and is close to getting into the black. In our series profiling free dailies, we caught up with Publisher Jody Reese and asked him the following questions about the Express.

Q: The Manchester Daily Express has been around for a year now -- How is it going?

Great. We've grown in circulation from 3,000 to 8,000 a day (Monday through Friday) and have expanded our local news coverage.

Q: Who owns the paper (please name names) and what other publications/media outlets do they own?

The Express is owned by HippoPress LLC. That in turn is owned by myself (Jody Reese), Jeff Rapsis and Dan Szczesny. The three of us started a weekly in 2001 called Hippo. That weekly has been quite successful. It's the largest weekly in the state and the most read paper in the greater Manchester (the state's largest city) area, beating out all the paid dailies. All three of us work at the papers.

Q: What can you tell me about sales in the seven months?

It was tougher than we thought it would be. For the first six month, it was a grind, but we turned a corner around Christmas. Our biggest challenge is convincing people that newspapers aren't dead. In an odd way, we've become champions of newsprint. I now keep a list of the five reasons why print is alive and well -- the Express is number one.

Q: Is the Manchester Daily Express in the black yet? Please separate out from your weekly, if possible. If your daily isn't profitable, when do you expect it will happen?

Cash flow is still negative for the daily, but we're getting close to the breakeven point. We expect that to happen in the next six to nine months.

Q: How large is your staff? Please break it down by editorial, sales, circulation, etc.

    • Editorial: 4
    • Sales: 2 (shared between 10 sales people who sell our other products)
    • Circulation: 1 (shared between three staffers who also distribute other products)
Q: How do you distribute your product (by hand, thrown on driveways, stores, work places, etc.)?

Bulk drops at our street boxes, convenience stores, work places, old-age homes, community centers, cafes and other public gathering areas.

Q: Since you started, what surprised you the most?

The misperception that newspapers are dead. Advertisers view our weekly as a magazine even though its printed on newsprint -- so we didn't run into that problem. With the free daily we ran straight into the print-is-dead wall. Every five-and-dime store owner thinks he's cracked the advertising world open by declaring no one reads newspapers any more. The worst offenders in this perception battle have been the paid dailies, running numerous stories about their decline in circulation and classified advertising. Almost all of these stories have failed to distinguish between paid and free dailies and weekly newspapers -- where the growth is. There also has been very little business reporting on strong college newspapers. Our challenge now is to tell a different story about the growth of free dailies in Europe and the success of free dailies in norther New Hampshire (the Sun newspapers).

Q: Some critics of free dailies say they don't have the quality journalism you could find in paid dailies. What do you say to that?

Bull. We break more stories than our paid daily competitor. However, we don't aspire to be the New York Times, and really who does. Our stories tend to average 400 to 500 words, but it's not dumbed down in any way. Our reporters write between two and three stories a day, so there isn't a lot of time for longer magazine-type articles. The Express doesn't have a Sunday or weekend component. Our weekly (Hippo) handles more of enterprise type stories. It fundamentally bothers me that people think the 50 cents they pay for a paid daily means that it's better than a free paper. Does 50 cents really buy you that much better journalism? Of course not. Most of the local paid daily newspapers I come across have one or two local stories on the front page and that's about it. The rest is Associated Press wire copy. Unfortunately, I just don't see much quality journalism in the vast majority of paid dailies.

Q: For publishers elsewhere in the United States, what have you learned that might help them put out a better or more profitable newspaper?

Spend less time on making your paper look flashy and more time reporting on local news that isn't available anywhere else. I don't find any value in a Metro-type free daily. Content is key.

Q: What is your average daily page count?

We're 16 pages rain or shine. Ten to 12 of that is local and the rest is wire copy. We're running about 20 percent advertising.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

This isn't a pretty picture for publishers

Publishers of free dailies beware. If you're not careful about controlling your circulation, environmental protesters might pick up papers the public has discarded (or not picked up at all) and do a photo op like this.

In May we interviewed Justin Canning, who organized Operation Freesheet in London. His group did a "walkabout" in London on Wednesday, June 13, and collected 1,500 papers. He provided us with this picture that shows some of the papers he and other volunteers found.

"And really we could have picked up many more," Canning told "But we ran out of bags, and they were getting too heavy for us anyway. The papers were picked off the street, the bins, the tube (the subway system) -- just everywhere! Really, London between the hours of 4 and 7 is awash with free papers."
    Editorial: Even if you don't sympathize with environmentalists, wasting papers is bad for business. It's expensive, it undermines advertiser confidence and it leaves us open to bad publicity. Most newspapers are sophisticated enough to monitor how many papers are picked up at each location to ensure there is no waste. Sometimes new papers have trouble determining how many to leave, and where to leave them. We all need to do a better job reducing waste in order to avoid more pictures like this in future.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Chicago RedEye launches Saturday edition

Chicago's RedEye, arguably the nation's most successful big-city free daily, is adding a Saturday edition starting this week that will be delivered to homes free of charge. The home delivered RedEyes will contain preprints, an option not available in the weekday editions because they would fall out of the paper at distribution points and create a litter problem.

The Chicago metro area has 9.5 million residents. So instead of delivering a Saturday edition to every one of them, RedEye is launching a consumer awareness campaign to promote the opportunity to receive the free home-delivered weekend edition by registering online at or by calling a toll-free number. RedEye also will be delivering samples of the issue to encourage registration in selected zip codes.

RedEye currently distributes approximately 150,000 copies of each weekday edition throughout Chicago through more than 3,000 outlets, including newspaper boxes, train stations and select retail outlets. RedEye's weekly readership reached 685,500 in 2006, up nearly 20 percent from 2005. It is expected to deliver up to 100,000 copies of the new weekend edition.

RedEye is owned by the Tribune Company, which announced in 2006 that the free daily was profitable. RedEye started in 2002 as a paper designed to capture younger readers. Quickly, the rival Chicago Sun-Times launched a copycat called the Red Streak. The Sun-Times pulled the plug on the Streak in December 2005. The Sun-Times is a tabloid and is often sold in stores next to the RedEye. Obviously some readers have decided to pick up the free daily rather than pay for the Sun-Times and Sun-Times Publisher John Cruickshank admitted last fall that sales of papers bought from news racks or stores "has been really hit by RedEye."
    COMMENTARY: Here's an argument for why RedEye should be considered the nation's most successful free big-city daily.

    By the way, there should be a distinction between free "big-city" dailies and those serving small or mid-sized towns. There are many successful and profitable free dailies serving small and mid-size towns. But in big cities -- New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, Baltimore -- RedEye was the first to make money.

    In fact, of the 12 English-language free dailies in those seven cities, the only other one to reveal it was in the black was amNewYork, which is a Tribune property like RedEye. The others seem to be struggling.

    A columnist at the San Francisco Examiner wrote last week that his free daily was "new and experimental." But Anschutz bought the Examiner three years ago and launched its current format soon thereafter. How many years does it take to know if an experiment worked? Guess they wouldn't be calling it "experimental" if it was profitable. How long will owner Phil Anschutz, a billionaire oilman, keep experimenting?

    Metro International, with editions in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, admitted that it lost $3 million in its U.S. operations in the first quarter, up significantly from the $2.4 million loss in the same quarter in 2006. At one time, Metro had ambitions to launch editions in every big city in the U.S. — kind of like talk we're hearing from the backer of the new BostonNOW free daily, the Icelandic phone company Dagsbrun, which wants to open "Now" papers in eight to 10 U.S. cities. Let's see if they make any money in Boston first.

    Meanwhile, RedEye is not only making money, it is growing by printing more papers and adding distribution points. Now this new Saturday edition which will allow it to expand its advertising base by enabling it to offer preprints. We don't know of another more successful metro free daily in the U.S. than RedEye.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Report: Examiner will launch in LA

You read it here first. On May 8, we noted that an ad the Examiner chain placed for a National Sales Manager said the job could be based in San Francisco (where there is an Examiner), Denver (where owner Phil Anschutz is based) or Los Angeles. Why L.A.? We speculated that it could be the next city to get one of Anschutz's Examiners. Today, the website MediaLife quotes an unnamed source as saying an Examiner will launch in Los Angeles by the end of the year. The story quotes ad buyers as welcoming the new competition (of course they would -- competition means lower prices and more convenience for them). The story also says that a reason Anschutz might go into LA "is to get in ahead of other free chains that may be eyeing the city" — a nod to Metro International and the Icelandic phone company Dagsbrun, which has funded BostonNow. It will also be interesting to see how the Republican Examiner fares in a liberal city like L.A. And given the race consciousness, it will be interesting to see how civil rights leaders react to the Examiner cherry picking upscale enclaves for distribution. Those neighborhoods the Examiner will want to reach are white and English-speaking, yet a paper that only distributes to them will probably come under fire for such a practice. That's an issue Anschutz hasn't had to deal with in his other markets.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Vancouver 24 hours becomes a full-size tab

Things are looking up for Vancouver 24 hours. When it started two years ago, it was one of three free dailies battling for the hearts and minds of the 2 million people who live in British Columbia's largest city — a city long served by two paid dailies.

Last year, one of the three — Dose — stopped printing. Since then, 24 hours has gained the upperhand on Metro Vancouver, the other free daily, by simply printing more papers every day and getting more local news scoops. Also, rumor has it that Vancouver 24 hours is in the black.

On Monday, 24 hours will increase its page size (the image area will go from 8 1/2 x 10 5/8 inches to 9 3/4 x 12 1/4 inches) to that of a standard tabloid. That will allow it to run ads and news pages from other Sun Media papers. Vancouver 24 hours is owned 50-50 by the direct-mail firm The Jim Patterson Group and Quebecor's Sun Media Corp., which also publishes six other "24 hours" in Canada and traditional paid papers such as The Ottawa Sun, The Toronto Sun, Le Journal de Montréal and Le Journal de Québec. (BTW, the lowercase "h" in "24 hours" is correct.)

The larger Vancouver 24 hours will still be printed on a heat set press (which all but eliminates ink rub-off), but it will go from glossy to white paper as part of Monday's switch. The change will allow 24 hours to run more pages. And every page will still have color. Pages will now be bound together with staples in the middle instead of glue.

In addition to the size change, Vancouver 24 hours will get a redesign. (The page above is of the old design.) Sun Media president and CEO Pierre Francoeur said Vancouver 24 hours will feature his company's full range of local, national and special-interest content that includes Health & Fitness, Trends, Discovery, Eat, Sex Files, Gadgets, DIY, Green Planet and Entertainment section, covering the latest movies, DVDs, CDs, Video Games, TV and celebrity gossip.

Publisher Amber Ogilvie says Vancouver 24 hours has developed successful distribution strategies to reach readers in both traditional and unconventional locations, including the University of B.C. campus, the B.C. Institute of Technology, restaurants and coffee shops.

"Our distribution system blankets the urban core, the heart of the business sector, and the entire urban area including the thousands of daily users of the Greater Vancouver Transit Authority Sky Train, bus and marine services," she said. [Here's a link to the press release detailing the changes.]

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A big test for a free daily in Chicago

Chicago's two paid dailies — the Tribune (a broadsheet) and Sun-Times (tabloid) — have been in a war for decades. A few years ago, the Sun-Times stumbled badly when it submitted inflated circulation numbers to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The fraud was discovered in 2004 and ABC stopped releasing circulation reports on the Sun-Times at that point until the mess could be untangled.

So observers haven't been able to see whether the Tribune's free tabloid daily, RedEye, has been hurting Sun-Times. For its first three years, RedEye was being sold for 25 cents, but switched to free in September 2005.

Last fall, Sun-Times Publisher John Cruickshank admitted that "single-copy" sales (papers bought from news racks or stores) "as been really hit by RedEye," but no figures were available to show the impact.

On Friday, ABC issued its first post-scandal circulation report on the Sun-Times, as the Tribune reports. This report was for the October 2004-March 2005 period, before the RedEye switch from paid to free. Later this year, ABC is expected to release reports for the April-September 2005 and October-March 2006 periods, which will show how the Sun-Times has done in the face of free competition.

Free dailies account for 8% of all circulation

Free dailies now account for 8 percent of the world's combined newspaper circulation of 556 million, and for 31 percent in Europe, according to new figures from the World Association of Newspapers.

"Far from being an industry in decline, as the ill-informed and short-sighted continue to contend, newspapers are alive and well and exhibiting enormous innovation and energy to maintain their place as the news media of preference for hundreds of millions of people daily," said Timothy Balding, chief executive of the association.

The figures show the newspaper industry is growing, and that free dailies are a big part of that growth. The association found:
    • Global newspaper sales were up 2.3 percent over the year, and had increased 9.48 percent over the past five years. Newspaper sales increased year-on-year in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America, with North America the sole continent to register a decline.

    • When free dailies are added to the paid newspaper circulation, global circulation increased 4.61 percent last year, and 14.76 percent over the past five years.

    • The five largest markets for newspapers are: China, with 98.7 million copies sold daily; India, with 88.9 million copies daily; Japan, with 69.1 million copies daily; the United States, with 52.3 million; and Germany, 21.1 million.

    • Newspapers share of the world ad market held relatively steady with 29.6 percent, marginally down from 29.8 percent in 2005. Newspapers remain the world's second largest advertising medium, after television, with more revenue that radio, cinema, outdoor, magazines and the internet combined.

    • In India, newspaper advertising revenues increased 23.18 percent over one year and 85 percent over the last five. South Africa also saw remarkable gains -- 20.71 percent over one year and 141 percent over five years.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I'm slow at passing out papers, so I'll sue

Every newspaper gets hit with nuisance lawsuits. The more successful the newspaper, the more suits. Metro New York claims its competitor, amNew York, isn't paying the minimum wage. At least not to distributors who are slow. Plaintiff James Allen, 52, of Brooklyn, claims he wasn't able to pass out his stack of amNewYorks in the time for which he was paid, and feels a class action lawsuit is warranted. Surprisingly (cough, cough), plaintiff Allen is going to work for Metro New York. Wonder how much Metro is paying Allen? Wonder if Metro reporter Amy Zimmer understands that a lawsuit doesn't become a "class action" until it is certified as such by a court? At this point, it's just one disgruntled guy suing his former employer. But, hey, it's a headline that demonizes a competitor! In a perfect world, newspapers wouldn't pull stunts like this on each other.