Tuesday, October 30, 2007

RedEye fends off cannibals, celebrates 5th

RedEye celebrated its fifth birthday yesterday by bumping its circulation from 150,000 to 200,000, becoming the largest circulation daily newspaper within Chicago's city limits.

More importantly, RedEye is grabbing younger readers who wouldn't dream of picking up the stodgy 160-year-old Chicago Tribune, the mother paper of RedEye.

"There is very little cannibalization there. It's a different audience," Brad Moore, general manager of RedEye, tells Editor & Publisher.

Advertisers are less interested in the 55+ crowd the Tribune attracts and more desirous of people between 18 and 34 years of age, the target of RedEye. RedEye grabs them with headlines like "Who tops Maxim's unsexy list," "Vote in the Most Beautiful Dog Contest" and "Holidates — Five spots to mix, mingle and find the perfect match for any holiday."

Unlike the Metro International model of free dailies, RedEye doesn't have much wire copy — most of it is staff written and aimed directly at its key demographic.

What Metro lacks is the detailed coverage of local government, schools and business that have been a mainstay in daily papers — the kind of coverage readers, once they buy a home and begin to raise a family, care about.

That kind of coverage is the bread and butter of Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald, northwest of Chicago. The Chicago Tribune, in announcing RedEye's circulation increase, made it clear that the youthful free daily would be going after the Herald.

One way Metro will go after the Herald is by distributing at every Metra commuter rail stop in the Chicago metropolitan area. Any other efforts to go after the Herald's readership weren't disclosed.

RedEye is one of the few commuter free dailies that's profitable. Others, like the Examiner papers (in D.C., Baltimore and San Francisco) or Metro (NY, Boston, Philly) continue to bleed red ink. Last month, the LA Times (which, like RedEye, is owned by the Tribune Co.) said it was considering a free daily modeled after RedEye.