Four of the nation's top 10 metropolitan areas don't have a free daily. Yet New York and Boston each have two. And San Francisco and Washington each have three.
The growth of free dailies in the United States hasn't been predictable or logical. At least that's what we found when we took a list of the country's top 50 metro areas and looked at which ones have free dailies. Here's what we found.
- 1. New York has two, Tribune Co.'s amNewYork and Metro New York. It's believed that am makes money, Metro doesn't. (This analysis doesn't include Spanish-language dailies or trade publication dailies, like Daily Variety or Women's Wear Daily.)
2. Los Angeles has zero. The suburb of Santa Monica has one. The Orange County Register has launched a tabloid paper called the OC Post, but it's paid. Some have suggested the OC Post would thrive if it were free. Rumors that billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz would expand his Examiner chain to L.A. appear to be wrong (see separate item).
3. Chicago has one, the RedEye (one word), owned by the Chicago Tribune. It's profitable and just launched a weekend home-delivered edition. The RedEye appears to be picking up the young readers the Chicago Tribune has lost. And it seems to be an effective way of reducing the circulation of the rival Sun-Times, a paid tabloid that often is sold side-by-side the free RedEye.
4. Philadelphia has one, Metro. This appears to be the most successful of the three Metros in the U.S. (Boston and NY being the other two locations) and it is said to be close to making a profit. When Metro started in 2000, it obtained an exclusive contract to distribute on train station platforms with a local transit agency. Both the Philadelphia Inquirer and New York Times sued, saying a government agency can't sell distribution rights on its property. Metro won, but it was a hollow victory. Metro soon discovered that the people riding public transit weren't the desirable demographics ad agencies wanted to reach. When the contract expired, Metro did not want to renew, and nobody else took their place.
5. Dallas-Fort Worth -- one free daily, Quick, owned by the Dallas Morning News. The Belo-owned Morning News used Quick to fight off a startup called the American Journal, which disappeared less than a year after it started. Quick has blossomed since then into daily that, like RedEye, is catching younger readers who aren't reading traditional paid papers.
6. Miami-Fort Lauderdale -- none. Maybe one reason is that Miami and Dade County have become increasingly Spanish speaking, but Broward County (Ft. Lauderdale) certainly has enough English-speaking potential readers.
7. Washington -- three. The newest is The Politico, which was launched earlier this year by the Albritton family, owner of the town's ABC affiliate and the defunct Washington Star. Anschutz has an Examiner there, with a number of conservative commentators, who apparently are trying to compete with the paid Washington Times for that segment of the market. Washington's biggest and most successful free daily is the Express, which was launched by the Washington Post out of fears that Metro would be coming to town.
8. Houston -- nada.
9. Atlanta -- nope.
10. Detroit -- zip.
11. Boston -- two. Metro and the new BostonNOW, owned by an Icelandic phone company that plans to launch 10-12 free dailies across the U.S.
12. San Francisco -- three. The Examiner, the San Francisco Daily and The City Star. This could be the most saturated media market in the country. It's also home to three alternative weeklies, several community weeklies, a handful of glossy city magazines and Web sites of every stripe. Six more free dailies operate in the suburbs, giving the Bay Area a total of nine — the most of any market in the country and maybe the world.
- 19. Baltimore — one. An Anschutz Examiner. Rumors that the incumbent Baltimore Sun is planning one too.
20. Tampa-St. Petersburg — one, the "tbt*" which is owned by the St. Petersburg Times (which, in turn, is owned by the Poynter Institute) and is targeting the 18-34 audience. It may also have an impact on the rival Tampa Tribune (owned by Media General) like the Chicago RedEye has had on the Sun-Times.
21. Pittsburgh -- one. A suburban paper, the Greensburg Tribune-Review, is delivering a free afternoon daily (called Trib p.m.) to selected Zip codes in steeltown. (See our May 13 item on this paper.
22. Denver -- one, the Denver Daily News, an independent.
- 32. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA -- one, Link, a youth oriented free daily owned by The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk last year (See our May 5 item on Link.
- 39. Nashville -- one, The City Paper, independent.
While some markets probably have too many free dailies (San Francisco, Washington, Boston) most of the Top 50 cities don't have any. As paid papers crumble, the opportunities in these unserved markets look more attractive.
(If you see any errors in this report, please e-mail me at email@example.com.)