Sunday, December 30, 2007

Colorado Daily publisher moves on

Randy Miller, publisher and former owner of the free Colorado Daily in Boulder, is leaving the paper after seven years. Miller is buying the Tucson (Arizona) Explorer, a free weekly. Miller bought the Colorado Daily in 2001 for $2.38 million after a previous owner filed Chapter 11. The Colorado Daily originally was the student-run campus paper at the University of Colorado, but it split away from the university in 1971 in a dispute with the school's regents over its Vietnam War coverage. For many years, the Daily competed for readers with the Boulder Daily Camera, that city's mainstream paid daily. In 2005, the Camera's owner, E.W. Scripps, bought the Daily from Miller but asked him to stay on as publisher. "After seven years, I think that I've accomplished most of the things that I want to do with the Daily," Miller told the Daily Camera. Al Manzi, who heads the Camera, will assume the publisher role in the interim until a new general manager is named.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Metro takes ad wraps to a new level

The ad wrap concept -- where an a four-page advertising section is wrapped around a newspaper, turning the front cover into an ad -- has been taken to the next level by Metro Canada. In its Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa editions, the front pages last week were mock front covers for the "Springfield Shopper," the Simpsons' hometown newspaper. The other three pages also had copy promoting the movie.

"We do a fairly significant number of cover wraps, with traditional branding and execution. But what the Simpsons (promo) did was provide content. It's the first time we've done that to this extent, across Canada," the paper's associate publisher, Irene Patterson, told

Free daily expert Piet Bakker points out that Metro's review only gave the movie three stars out of a possible five. So, at least in this case, it doesn't appear as if such an overwhelming ad influenced the paper's editorial product, Bakker writes in his Newspaper Innovation blog.

In the U.S., the Examiner chain is also doing ad wraps including one in November for the movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium." The movie was produced by Walden Media, a company owned by billionaire oilman Phll Anschutz, who also owns the Examiner.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Expansion of free dailies slows

By three measures, the growth of the free daily newspaper industry slowed in 2007.
    1. The University of Amsterdam's Piet Bakker, an expert on the industry, reports that the combined worldwide circulation of free dailies increased by only 13 percent — the slowest percentage increase since 2003.

    2. Bakker also says more free dailies have closed in 2007 than in previous years (though there were still more launches in 2007 than closures).

    3. The third measure comes from MediaLife Magazine, which found that U.S. media buyers were less interested in free dailies this year than in 2006.
Asked "What is the most interesting issue or trend in newspapers right now?" only 11 percent said "free dailies," down from 16 percent a year earlier. No. 1 was "circulation woes," a paid newspaper phenomenon. MediaLIfe goes on to say:
    A good share of readers are still undecided about the impact of the free papers, nearly two thirds, or 63 percent, in the recent survey. That's down from 79 percent in July 2006.
Interestingly, the remainder are more sharply divided on how well free papers will fare. This time around, 18 percent dismissed freebies as a passing trend, versus 12 percent 18 months ago.

But this time 18 percent also saw the free papers as very promising, versus 10 percent in the earlier survey.

(We have a slight difference of opinion with Bakker about the number of free dailies to open and close in the U.S. He says the U.S. gained one free daily in Boston and lost a Spanish language paper in Dallas-Ft. Worth. That's correct, but his numbers didn't include the switch of a suburban Phoenix daily (East Valley Tribune) from paid to free. So instead of the U.S. gaining one free daily and losing one, the actual ratio is three new papers to one closure. Not included is the The Messenger in Mount Airy, N.C., which distributes to homes for free but costs 50 cents in racks. It is arguable whether The Messenger fits into the category of free dailies.)

Mathematics aside, Bakker's point is still valid -- the free daily frenzy has slowed in the United States. The industry is growing, but not by the astronomical rates of years' past.

On the other hand, free dailies are on fire in Canada with six launches this year. Most major Canadian cities have three of them. The chains are Metro Canada (owned by Toronto Star and Metro), 24 hours (Quebecor Media) and RushHour (CanWest).

As a result, overall newspaper readership (free + paid) is stable in Canada, according to the industry group Newspaper Audience Databank. The Toronto Star, reporting NAD's 2006 results, wrote:
    While free daily newspapers and online editions of newspapers continue to grow and attract readers, the survey, considered the key benchmark for newspaper readership, indicates they have not cannibalized existing newspaper readership as much as has been feared.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Metro says, 'Czech please!'

For those keeping an eye on Metro International, new chief executive Per Mikael Jensen has made another move as part of his effort to get the giant free-daily company in the black: He sold a 60 percent stake in Metro Czech Republic to that country's MAFRA media group. Terms weren't disclosed, but Jensen is quoted in a news release as saying: "This transaction will bring significant saving opportunities as well as possibilities of packaging Metro with some of the very strong MAFRA titles, which will accelerate the process towards profitability. As such, this is a good example of Metro International's strategy and dedication to stronger financial performance." The sale follows last week's announcement by Metro that it is scrapping a money-losing real estate edition in Stockholm, where the chain got started in 1995.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Editor: RedEye succeeds by being relevant

RedEye, the Chicago Tribune's free daily, is making money, growing its circulation and adding editions. In its fifth year in business, RedEye is probably the most successful major market free daily in the United States -- and is seen as a model for others to copy. In September, Los Angeles Times Publisher David Hiller said he is considering starting his own version of RedEye.

We asked RedEye Editor Jane Hirt (pictured) the following questions. RedEye appears to be successful at reaching the 18-34 demo. How did you do it?

Jane Hirt: We have been successful, Clyde, and the not-so-secret secret ingredient is relevance. We strive every day with every decision to be super relevant to our target audience: commuting Chicagoans in their 20s and 30s who are time-pressed, socially active and all over the place when it comes to media consumption. In the office, we talk about our readers every day as we make coverage decisions and chose our Page 1 stories/photos/headlines. And readers are considered in business decisions as well, including the types of advertising we pursue and how we distribute the paper. Did you have to "dumb down" straight news to get there?

Hirt: Not at all. Readers tell us that one of the most valuable aspects of RedEye is its concise nature: We get to the point, and for busy readers that's priceless. Shorter, to-the-point, interesting stories aren't dumb, they actually require smarter editing and editorial discipline. As for story selection, RedEye contains traditional headline news tailored to the target RedEye reader who wants to stay plugged in. The paper also contains lots of pop culture coverage, photography, bold color and humor where appropriate. It's a combination of all those things that keeps RedEye bold, lively and -- yes, I'll say it --quite smart. Chicago seems to be a very political city. I haven't seen any editorials in RedEye. How does the paper stay out of politics? Are you being pushed/pulled by politicians to support/propose various proposals?

Hirt: The simple answer is, that as an edition of the Chicago Tribune, RedEye's editorial position is voiced on the Tribune's editorial page. Beyond that, RedEye is not a very political paper as compared to traditional newspapers. When we do cover politics, it tends to be when pop culture and politics collide (as when Oprah endorsed Obama) or from the standpoint of "What does the reader need to know in order to vote."

Beyond that, we don't devote much space to traditional political analysis or the behind-the-scenes "politics" of politics. Our readers haven't asked that of us. But just because we don't have an editorial page, doesn't mean there isn't opinion in RedEye. Besides our columnists, regular readers of RedEye know that RedEye definitely has a voice. It's expressed in our sassy headlines, our bold visuals, and in the humorous quips you'll find sprinkled throughout the paper. A few months ago you added a Saturday edition. Is a Sunday paper on the horizon?

Hirt: In May we launched a Weekend Edition of RedEye to meet demand of weekend readers and pre-print advertisers. It's home delivered for free on Saturdays to anybody who signs up for it, and home delivery is actually the only way to get it at this point. (It's not in the honor boxes.)

The weekend edition has a slightly different editorial feel, as readers have told us they have different needs and desires on the weekend. For example, it's a little less newsy and much more events-oriented than the weekday paper. So far, it's been successful, revenue and readership-wise.

As for the horizon, anything is possible, Clyde. Our opportunities to grow seem endless at this point. I wouldn't rule out anything.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

New Metro CEO begins making cuts

COMMENTARY: The decision by the new CEO of Metro International to kill a home-delivered real estate edition in Stockholm, Sweden may not seem that significant in North America. But the move by Per Mikael Jensen (pictured) is the first of many cuts he is planning to get his far flung company back in the black. Metro hasn't said where his review of the company's operations will take him next. But in the United States, Metro has three papers — in Boston, Philadelphia and New York — and none of them are profitable. In the most recent quarter, sales were off 12 percent in Boston and 5 percent in Philadelphia compared to the same period last year. New York was the only bright spot with a 18 percent jump. If Jensen's aim is to eliminate all money-losing papers within the 100 city chain, then these three U.S. editions are goners. But they probably have survived this long because of the prestige factor -- Metro really can't claim it is a worldwide company without a presence in the United States. Is prestige more important than profits? Maybe so, since the real estate pub Jensen killed was in the city where Metro began.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Examiner blogger accused of plagiarism

It's bad enough that a blogger on the San Francisco Examiner website was caught stealing stories from other papers without attribution. But to make matters worse, Executive Editor Jim Pimentel says that the Examiner doesn't edit blogs before they are posted, and that errors are only corrected when they're discovered afterward. The plagiarism and Pimentel's answer were reported by a rival paper, the San Francisco Weekly. The Weekly says that unpaid blogger Sharon Gray "created the appearance of being an unusually industrious investigative reporter, writer, and photographer, when in fact much of her work consisted of material taken from elsewhere on the Internet." While aggregating content from other sources is done widely on the Internet, the standard practice is to attribute the source of the information -- something Gray did not do. After Pimentel was questioned about Gray's blog, it disappeared from the Examiner's website.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Paper drops Monday, Tuesday editions

In Eureka, California -- a city of 26,000 on the Pacific Coast some 275 miles north of San Francisco -- the town's free daily has announced it will no longer publish print editions on Mondays and Tuesdays in the new year.

The death of the two editions is perhaps the first casualty in an intense battle between the town's two dailies:
    • The Eureka Times-Standard, which is paid, 153-years-old (that's old by California standards) and owned by a national chain, MediaNews Group of Denver, Colorado, headed by Dean Singleton.

    • The Eureka Reporter. which is free, almost 2 years old and owned by local millionaire Rob Arkley Jr. Arkley, who owns several local businesses including a bank, started the Reporter because he felt there wasn't enough local news in the Times-Standard.
Here's a link to a 2006 San Francisco Chronicle story that describes the newspaper war in detail.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

What's happened to the Examiner?

Online people won't see what readers in Baltimore, Washington and San Francisco get when they find the Examiner on a doorstep, driveway or newsrack. Covering the Examiner on many days is a four-page "wrap" consisting of four pages of advertising — on the front, second page, second-to-the-last page and back page. What happened to the idea that the headlines you put on page 1 sold your newspaper? The Examiner has abandoned that idea and now -- according to this report by the San Francisco Press Club -- has abandoned front-page news for an advertiser story about a Christmas event at the zoo. Has the Examiner thrown in the towel?