Sunday, March 25, 2007

Examiner re-writes its online history

The San Francisco Examiner, owned by Republican billionaire Phil Anschutz (pictured), is re-writing its history at Changes made March 19 by a computer user signed on as "SFEX" (an abbreviation the company sometimes uses) eliminate references to the paper's radical downsizing from when it was owned by the Hearst Corp. Also, eliminated was a paragraph discussing its turnover in editors. Changes can be seen by clicking on the word "(last)" at several points on this page:

    In 2000, Ted Fang and his mother, Florence Fang, obtained the Examiner name, its archives, 35 delivery trucks and a subsidy of $66 million (over three years) as part of the Hearst Corporation's acquisition of the Chronicle. The last day the Hearst Corporation published the Examiner was November 21, 2000.

    On September 12, 2001, the front page of the Examiner featured a photo of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on fire as the result of the September 11, 2001, attacks, and the accompanying headline read: "BASTARDS! A Changed America."

    On February 24, 2003, the Examiner switched from a broadsheet to a tabloid and became a free daily newspaper. Three days later, the Fangs laid off 40 staffers in the paper's circulation and news departments. The switch to a free tabloid was made easier by the fact that a profitable free tabloid, the Palo Alto Daily News, was operating just 20 miles south of San Francisco, providing a model the Examiner could copy.

    On February 19, 2004, Denver, Colorado-based billionaire Philip Anschutz purchased the Examiner and its printing plant for $10.7 million. His new company, Clarity Media Group, launched the Washington Examiner in 2005 and Baltimore Examiner in April 2006. A redesign of the three newspapers was completed in 2006 by Robb Montgomery.

    Management -- The Examiner has had three editors since August 2004. Vivienne Sosnowski was executive editor from that month until December 2005, when she was transferred to the Washington Examiner. She came from Canada, as did her replacement, Calgary Herald editor, Malcolm Kirk. Kirk was executive editor from December 2005 until he returned to Calgary in July 2006 to become publisher of the Calgary Herald. On July 20, 2006, the Examiner announced it would promote managing editor James Pimentel to the executive editor post.


    In 2000, The Fang Family obtained the Examiner, as part of the Hearst Corporation’s acquisition of the Chronicle. On February 19, 2004, Philip Anschutz of Denver, Colorado purchased the Examiner and its printing plant. His new company, Clarity Media Group, launched the Washington Examiner in 2005 and Baltimore Examiner in 2006.

    New Business Model -- Under Clarity ownership, the Examiner pioneered a new business model for the newspaper industry. The Examiner, designed to be read quickly, is presented in a compact, tabloid size without story jumps. It focuses on local news, business, entertainment and sports with an emphasis on content relevant to local readers. It is delivered free to targeted homes in San Francisco and San Mateo counties, and to single-copy outlets throughout that market area. Its circulation is audited by Certified Audit of Circulation (CAC). As of January 2007 The Examiner had a circulation of 190,000 daily and 250,000 weekend copies, making it the highest-circulation newspaper in San Francisco and San Mateo counties.
For the record, the Audit Bureau of Circulations says the SF Chronicle's daily circulation is 373,805 and on Sunday it is 432,957.

So far, nobody has complained to Wikipedia about these self-serving changes. (Photo of Anschutz by Matthew Staver, Bloomberg News Service.)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Growth of free dailies halts in Toronto

Perhaps there's a saturation point for how many free daily newspapers a city can support. And perhaps Toronto has reached that point. Grant Robertson, a reporter for the paid Toronto Sun (whose parent company also owns Toronto's "24 Hours"), says readership of the commuter dailies Metro and 24 Hours fell in Toronto in 2006, marking a shift for the segment, which has been the fastest growing in the industry for several years. Metro, which has become the fourth-biggest paper by readership in Canada's largest market, had an 11.7% drop in weekday readers, to 372,800, said Newspaper Audience Databank Inc. Weekday readership of 24 Hours, the fifth-biggest Toronto paper, fell 1.1% to 345,700.

Tribune's Baltimore Sun may launch free daily

The new publisher of the Baltimore Sun, Tim Ryan (pictured), says he wouldn't rule out the possibility of starting a free daily to take on Republican billionaire Phil Anschutz's Baltimore Examiner. Ryan, as this Associated Press story makes clear, is no neophyte to newspapers or free newspapers. Of note was the fact that he oversaw the profitable RedEye free daily in Chicago for the Tribune Co., which owns the Baltimore Sun and the free daily amNewYork. Of course whether he is allowed to expand depends a lot on the fate of the Tribune Co., which is under pressure from shareholders to increase its profitability.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Success of '24 Hours' raises questions

In Toronto, Canada, the city's paid-circulation daily, the Sun, is losing readership while the city's 4-year-old free daily 24 Hours is growing. And that's raising questions for Quebecor Inc., the company that owns both papers. A story by the Sun's Grant Robertson says that when Quebecor chief executive Pierre Karl Péladeau visited the Sun's newsroom, journalists wanted to know where the Sun fits into the company's plans.

For the record, Quebecor officials say they have no intention of turning the Sun into a free paper.

Speculation that the Sun might go free was fueled by Péladeau's decision to increase the page size of 24 Hours so that it is the same as the Sun. And with that change, the two papers are printing many of the same pages each day. 24 Hours in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary and Edmonton have also gone to this longer tab format.

Quebecor officials say the company can get away with duplicating pages between the two papers because their markets are different. 24 Hours draws women, while the Sun attracts men with more sports and its daily girly photo.

WINNEPEG BOMB: The Sun story notes that if Quebecor starts a free daily in Winnepeg, that town's traditional daily newspaper, the Free Press, has developed plans to print its own free daily. The project to develop the free daily is called Eclipse. "We call it Project Eclipse because it's a Sun killer," Free Press publisher Andy Ritchie said. The plan, estimated at about $150 million (Canadian), is "like having a nuclear bomb -- you only use it if you have to."

Boston Metro to print baseball daily

Boston Metro has announced a partnership with the Boston Red Sox to produce the official free game day publication for the baseball team called Metro GameDay. The Boston Globe (whose parent, the New York Times Co., owns 49% of Boston Metro) reports that the 12-page free daily will be distributed at all 81 home and postseason games in Boston -- about 15,000 copies per game. In a statement, Charles Steinberg, a Red Sox executive vice president, noted that the "Red Sox Magazine will still be available inside the park with full color photos and more timeless literary features."

The baseball daily will start on April 10, the team's home opener, one week before another free daily, Boston Now, launches.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Examiner publisher touts house in story

After his house had been on the market for three months, Baltimore Examiner honcho Michael Phelps decided to advertise it in his own newspaper. Not as an ad, but as a story. A story which failed to note that it was the publisher's house.

The story on page R4 of the March 16 edition of the Examiner carries the headline "Historic elegance" and describes Phelps' house as the week's "Top Pick." The lede says "Today a certain home in Roland Park is described by those who know it as 'elegant' and 'magnificent.'"

Of course the rival Baltimore Sun had a field day with the revelation. "Lots of home sellers would kill for that kind of free publicity, especially since the glowing descriptions — 'elegant' and 'magnificent' in the lede alone — appear in what looks like an objective news article," wrote Sun columnist Laura Vozzella. "Luckily in this case, the seller had an in with the publisher - himself." Vozzella points out that when the article ran, the house had been under contract for six days at $595,000 and she guesses the real estate section was printed in advance. Executives at billionaire Phil Anschutz's Clarity Media didn't return Vozzella's calls and the editor of the Balitmore Examiner, Frank Keegan, hung up after saying he didn't know who owned the home.

Phelps was the publisher of the Balitmore Examiner when it launched in April 2006. When the Examiner group hired Baltimore Sun advertising executive Michael Beatty in November, it gave Beatty the publisher title and elevated Phelps to the position of chief executive officer of the Baltimore-Washington Examiner Group, overseeing Anschutz's papers in both cities.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Boston free daily to launch April 17

An Icelandic telecom which hopes to one day have a chain of free dailies in the U.S. has announced that it's first paper, in Boston, will start April 17. As we have previously reported, the editor of Boston Now will be Russell Pergament, who helped start the Boston Metro and ran freebie daily AM New York. Dagsbrun (stock ticker symbol ICEX) is headquartered in Reykjavík, Iceland and owns Vodafone Iceland, Sena (a movie theater operator), Wyndeham Press (a UK printing company) and other companies in the media or phone business. In the U.S., it will operate newspapers under the name 365 Media.

As the Boston Herald notes, the new Boston Now will have a lot of competition -- the town's traditional broadsheet, the Globe, a paid tabloid, the Herald, a free daily tab, Boston Metro, and two alternative weeklies, Phoenix and Weekly Dig.

One other note. An earlier story about Boston Now said Pergament would emphasize staff-writen local stories. Now the Herald story says Pergament is trying to recruit local bloggers to write for the paper. Maybe he will do both. Or since the start date has been advanced from the summer to April 17, maybe it's easier to use material from blogs than it is to build a local newsroom.

Chicago Red Eye to add Saturday edition

The Chicago Tribune's free daily, RedEye, is adding a Saturday home-delivered weekend edition, starting May 5. The weekend RedEye said in a story that it expects to have an initial distribution of 100,000 copies, 50,000 less than the weekday edition, which also targets young urban professionals. "We've always tried to focus on being where most of our readers are at, and Saturday mornings that's primarily at home," said Brad Moore, RedEye's general manager, who intends to add newsroom positions with the weekend expansion.

The RedEye, which became profitable last year, has seen strong demand for ads in its Friday edition, which it says has been "sold out" for months. Apparently some of those potential ads will appear in the new Saturday edition.

And RedEye got a positive mention from the Chicagoist Web site, which is usually is catty toward other media outlets.
    Whether you like it or not, the Red Eye is in touch with its 685,500 readers, and it is touching more people daily (allegedly). We don't really care if you're on the bandwagon or not, we just think it's time that everybody faces the fact that the Red Eye is the Wave of the Future (TM), and it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

Has the 'Red Eye' lawsuit been settled?

Maybe the lawsuit over the title "Red Eye" has been resolved? A few weeks ago, Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago free daily "RedEye" sued Fox News for trademark infringement for launching an overnight news program also called "Red Eye."

Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal notes that on Fox News's Web site, the "Red Eye" program is now being called simply "Greg Gutfeld's Show" with no reference to "Red Eye."

By the way, Rosenthal pokes fun at his employer's claims in the lawsuit. He writes:
    Besides pushing Fox News for a new name, the newspaper company also seeks unspecified damages, alleging that Gutfeld's show and its Internet site "contain nearly identical content" to Chicago's free weekday RedEye tabloid and its Web presence.

    The suit specifically cites such topics as Anna Nicole Smith, Barack Obama and the Oscars.

    Honest. Unique stuff like that.

3 or 4 free dailies per city

You may recall that last year we had some fun kicking around the crew at "Media Life Magazine," which fell for Metro International's ridiculous claim that it invented the free daily newspaper. We pointed out that free dailies began in the U.S. in the 1970s, long before the first copy of Metro was discarded on the tracks of a European subway system. Well, Media Week is writing again about free dailies, pointing out things you probably know already if you're reading this blog on a regular basis. We didn't see any glaring errors this time. The story suggests that one day many cities will have three or four free dailies.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Metro's PR machine cons AFP

You've got to wonder about the accuracy of a news story when it begins with a blatant factual error.
    STOCKHOLM (AFP) - The Scandinavian country is home to Metro, the first free daily newspaper, launched in 1995 and which revolutionised the European press, putting pressure on weak traditional markets.
The "first free daily newspaper"? Not even close. Free dailies started in the United States in the 1940s when a publisher in Northern California began what is now known as the Contra Costa Times. That publisher converted his free dailies into paid papers in the 1950s. But the free daily newspaper returned in 1970 when a college newspaper was forced off of its campus in Boulder, Colorado, due to its editorials about the Vietnam War. The university's pro-war regents hoped the paper would die. It didn't. Instead the Colorado Daily became a community newspaper covering both the campus and the outlying community. As graduates of the University of Colorado began to put down roots in other Colorado cities, free dailies began sprouting in Aspen, Vail, Summit County, Steamboat Springs, Glenwood Springs, Telluride -- and this was all before 1995, when Metro launched in Sweden. That same year, three founders of free dailies in Colorado got together and formed a free daily in the San Francisco suburb of Palo Alto in 1995 -- again, before Metro ever started. The Palo Alto Daily News became a widely copied model of a free daily newspaper, producing a profit nine months after opening its doors. Metro has never made a dime in profit in the United States.

That history casts doubt on the rest of this AFP article about the explosion of free dailies in Sweden and Metro's alleged dominance of them.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Netherlands: 4 free dailies, a 5th is possible

Holland is known for its windmills and dykes -- and soon, perhaps, for its free dailies. It now has four of them (Metro, Sp!tz, Barneveld Vandaag and De Pers) and, according to Editor's Weblog, a fifth might soon be on the way. The fifth, called Dag (meaning Day) is being planned by Dutch publisher PCM and telecom KNP. The Editor's Weblog story discusses the distribution battles between the three and the court injunction that's keeping one editor on the bench.

Free daily launches down under

Brisbane, Australia's third largest city (population of 1.8 million), has a new free daily -- mX -- produced by Queensland Newspapers, the same company that owns the town's traditional paid morning paper, the Brisbane Courier Mail.

"We are aiming for a different audience (than the Courier Mail), so we are going to get a completely different sort of news," said mX Editor Neil Melloy. "That's what they have found overseas – it's picked up a whole new audience, it's the young audience who aren't reading newspapers." While circulation will start at 40,000 copies a day, that figure is expected to grow.

Here's the Courier Mail's story introducing its new sister paper. Above are Krystal Muller and Britt James, who are checking out the paper's first edition in this Courier Mail photo.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Want to be "vice president of sales"?

Is the Examiner group was in dire straits? Check out this ad for a "vice president of sales."

Who advertises for a vice president of anything? Isn't "vice president" supposed to be a special job? Not something you advertise on, right? But consider the Examiner's current state. If you page through the Examiner free dailies, you'll see that they have maybe 20, 25 paid ads per day. Obviously not enough to break even. The Examiner was planning to go into 70 cities a couple of years ago. They seemed to have hit a dead end after paper No. 3. And check out the weird job interview process, as described by the Washington Post:
    [Stephen G.] Smith was recruited for the Examiner job by a headhunting firm. His interview with the intensely private [Phil] Anschutz took place in an airplane hanger at Dulles International Airport, after the billionaire flew in on his private jet from New York. The politics of the two men align. Anschutz is conservative; Smith describes himself as "to the right of the journalism spectrum ..."
Can't you see Smith talking to some mysterious guy like the "Smoking Man" from the X-Files?

But the job has another title besides Vice President. According to the ad, the "VIP of Sales has the opportunity to work with the local papers to build and execute strategies ..." The VIP of sales! Hey, you're not just a vice president, you're a "very important person" too!

Free dailies race to be first in Calgary, Edmonton

There must be vast parts of Canada that are utterly unremarkable. Calgary and Edmonton must be among those areas -- at least if you're a newspaper publisher. From what we can tell, Calgary and Edmonton were cities in Canada for 100 years or more, but it was only in Feburary that the free newspaper industry discovered them. One company, Sun Media Corp. (Quebecor), said, "Hey, don't you know that there are cities in the province of Alberta called Edmonton and Calgary." So they raced to launch editions of their "24 Hours" in those cities. Both cities are in the Alberta province, which the CP (a frequent source of news for Canada's free dailies) says is "growing rapidly and attracting workers from other parts of the country. The advertising market is strong because the retail, construction and housing sectors are all booming." OK. So when is Metro International arriving? According to Media In Canada, March 5 in Calgary and in April 2 in Edmonton with 60,000 copies in each of the two markets (a total of 120,000 in Alberta).

Commentary: For years we've been reading about how the traditional printed newspaper is history and that the Web is the future. Yet it's funny that, in order to be seen in these new Alberta markets, you've got to print a helluva lot of newspapers -- like 120,000 a day in Alberta, or 2.5 million in a month. Imagine that it costs 10 cents (U.S.) to print each copy of these papers, a number we know varies based on page count, paper supplier and other factors. Still, that's $3 million a year. Is there that much advertising in, where, Alberta? Oh well, let's watch these titans of free dailies duke it out.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Small-town New Hampshire paper profiled

Ed Engler, left, and Adam Hirshan, right, are two of three co-owners of the Laconia (N.H.) Daily Sun, a free daily in a small town that is going up against an established paid daily. The New Hampshire Business Review reports on the Daily Sun, calling it "an example of a new type of paper: tabloid format, low budget, small staff, strongly focused on local news, and free." (Photo by Jodie Andruskevich. The third owner, not pictured, is Mark Guerringue.)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Three free dailies battle in Alberta, Canada

Three free dailies -- Metro, 24 Hours and RushHour -- have descended on the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in the Canadian province of Alberta. The question is whether the 1988 Olympic city of Calgary (population 1 million) and the oil town of Edmonton (730,000) can support three free dailies along with their traditional paid papers.

"The free dailies can really thrive in Toronto, very simply, because of the transit system here," Account Director Scott Stewart of Genesis Media tells Media in Canada. "When you look at newer or emerging markets, you still don't have the overdeveloped transit systems like you do in Toronto. Three free dailies in that market takes a Toronto-centric view that maybe that market can't bear. They'll face challenges."

Circulation: Quebecor-owned Sun Media's 24 Hours, 50,000 in each city; RushHour, 5,000 in Edmonton, 10,000 in Calgary; Metro, 60,000 in each city. These are initial numbers -- all figures will likely increase.

History: Until last year, Vancouver had three free dailies battling for readers from April 2005 to May 2006 -- 24 Hours, Metro and Dose. It was the only market in Canada with three free dailies at the time. Dose's owner, Can West, pulled the plug, because the publication was burning more cash than expected. From what we hear, the two remaining papers in Vancouver still aren't making any money, though 24 Hours is closer to success than Metro.