Thursday, October 18, 2007

Switch to free gets a warm review

The suburban Phoenix East Valley Tribune's switch from paid to free distribution has received a warm review from a local journalism professor who previously was editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Tim McGuire of Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism still isn't sold on the concept of free dailies, but he says that the East Valley Tribune's debut of its new format Wednesday "was better than I had hoped or imagined." McGuire writes:
    "The quality of the debut edition of the EV Tribune indicated to me that this is not a slap-dash desperate effort, but rather it is a valid, laudable attempt to figure out the puzzle. The industry should celebrate that effort."
The first issue included this note from Executive Editor Jim Ripley who admitted that readers didn't like changes made to the paper in August and that the new format reflects what people wanted. He explains the thinking that went into the switch and then answers a key question about home delivery of the 102,000-circulation paper: "Why should I pay for a subscription if I can get it free?" Ripley's answer: "Well, you get home delivery seven days a week. You get all of the daily sections, sports and nation/world, and get all the weekly sections that I enumerated above. If you are a regular news and sports consumer, you’ll want the full package on your driveway."

The swtich attracted attention from other media:

• Local news talk station KTAR reported that the Tribune will be delivered to 500 locations free of charge, and that the number will increase over time. Publisher Julie Moreno is quoted as saying she expects some subscribers will later on decide only to read free issues. "Over time, we may see that some people will transition that way. But, as long as they're reading, that's our main concern," Moreno said.

• The Business Journal of Phoenix quotes Moreno as saying the switch will allow the paper to do a better job targetting news and advertising. "Part of this process involves creating separate editions of the paper for the specific geographic areas we serve. That way we can bring you local news and advertising specific to where you live," she said.