Thursday, May 31, 2007

Canadian publisher sells free dailies

CanWest, the largest publisher of newspapers in Canada including the Ottawa Citizen and the Vancouver Sun, is selling its one-third interest in the Metro newspapers in Edmonton, Ottawa and Vancouver to Metro Internationl and Torstar Corp., the publisher of the Toronto Star newspaper. Metro International and Torstar will now be 50-50 partners in the two Metro papers.

As a result, Torstar and Metro International will now own five Metro papers across the country -- including ones in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton.

CanWest this year rolled out its own free daily, RushHour, in Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa. As a result, it was essentially competing against itself as long as it held its share in the Metro papers.

“We had come to the conclusion that these two properties are no longer a strategic fit for our publishing group,” Dennis Skulsky, president of CanWest MediaWorks Publications Inc.

Metro Canada executives were happy CanWest was pulling out of the partnership: "With a consistent ownership structure now in place in all five English Metro markets, the Metro newspapers will be managed with a single-minded focus on the development and growth of the Metro brand across English Canada," said Jagoda Pike, president of Star Media Group and chair of the board of directors of the English Canada Metro newspapers.

Proving readership challenges Examiner

Media Life Magazine has a mostly positive piece about the Baltimore Examiner, but acknoledges half way down that the Phil Anschutz-owned paper is still struggling to prove to advertisers that it is being read. "The Examiner had a third-party study done that says everyone’s reading it, but when you are out in the market and in the neighborhoods, it doesn’t look like it. There’s a lot of newspapers in driveways,” said Erin Borkowski of the Baltimore ad agency Trahan Burden & Charles. Complaints that unwanted Examiners are piling up on driveways haven't helped. However, Examiner Publisher Michael Beatty is quoted as saying that only about 5 percent aren’t picked up. While some national advertisers including Macy's have used the Examiner in its first year, Borkowski said, "We have a couple of clients not buying into it ... When you are trying to get new clients, everyone seems to be saying, ‘Who is reading it?’"

Monday, May 28, 2007

National sports newspaper planned

We read, with some amusement, that somebody is planning a national sports newspaper for the United States. The rumor of such a launch is reported by the World Editors Forum Editors Weblog, which attributes it to Henry Scott, formerly of Metro International and now managing director of newspaper product development company Gansevoort Media.

It shouldn't be a surprise that somebody is considering a sports daily for the U.S. since a number of them have popped up in Europe in the past two years -- "Sportzeitung" in Germany, "Diario Desportivo" in Portugal and "Sport24" in Italy. But this isn't an easy niche. Two sports dailies in sports-crazed Spain ("Penalty" and "El Crack") have failed.

But could it work in the U.S.? That question was asked and answered 17 years ago. "The National," an all-sports daily published Sunday through Friday, debuted January 31, 1990 and lasted 18 months. Its editor was sports journalist Frank Deford (pictured), now with Sports Illustrated and HBO. Deford brought with him some of the country's top sports writers including Chris Mortensen, Mike Lupica, Jay Mariotti and Steve Rosenbloom. The National used the Wall Street Journal's nationwide distribution network. The paper was financed by the late Mexican businessman Emilio Azcárraga Milmo, chairman of the Galavisión Spanish TV network.

When The National folded on June 13, 1991, everyone had a theory about its demise. A recession didn't help. The growing popularity of ESPN's "SportsCenter" also had to be a factor, as it was becoming the primary source of national sports news for fans. And The National was unable to wrestle fans away from their local papers, which offered both in-depth coverage of regional pro teams and often exclusive coverage of high school sports.

Today, a national sports daily would face two more challenges -- a decline in national print advertising and competition from a number of national sports news sites including, Yahoo Sports and CBS and These sports sites aren't just aggregators of copy generated by others — they have their own reporters getting their own scoops in real time.

Of course memories are short. And there's apparently a lot of money out there for people who want to start free dailies. Consider the fact that Metro International hasn't made a profit at any of its U.S. locations in seven years and yet a phone company from Iceland intends to bankroll one of Metro's former executives to start its own chain free dailies in major U.S. cities. That doesn't make any more sense to us than a national sports daily.

Portugal to get free daily

Magazine publisher Cofina SGPS says it will invest $2.7 milllion (U.S.) to launch a free daily in Lisbon, Portugal that will start June 6, according to a report by Thompson Financial, citing an anonymous source at the media group. The paper will be called "Meia Hora" and will have a press run of 100,000 a day with a page count of 24-32 pages in ful color. It will compete with paid dailies Publico and Diario de Noticias.

Cop in Vancouver poses as free daily reporter

Dean Broughton, editor of Vancouver's "24 Hours" free daily, is filing a complaint with British Columbia police after a plainclothes officer posed as a reporter for his newspaper in order to arrest a protester who planned to demonstrate outside an Olympics organizing meeting, according to the New York Times.

“Developing sources will be more difficult now. There will be a thought that we’re working with the police,” Broughton said. “We’re two years old, and when you’re in the free daily world you have to work extra hard to establish your credibility.” He added, “You have to wonder if the police would do this to a bigger player.”

Police in that area have done this before. In 2005, another police force in British Columbia posed as a crew from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to trap an escaped convict.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Examiner stands behind embattled editor

UPDATE: Balitimore Examiner Editor Frank J. Keegan is now out of jail after posting $75,000 bail and his boss, publisher Michael Beatty, said he paper stands behind him following his arrest yesterday (see item below). "Like every citizen, Frank Keegan should be afforded the presumption of innocence as the judicial process moves forward," Beatty's statement said. "Frank Keegan is a valued and experienced editor of the Baltimore Examiner and we stand behind him. His employment will not be effected [sic] unless warranted by future events or findings."

Examiner editor arrested on gun charges

The editor of billionaire Phil Anschutz's Baltimore Examiner was arrested last night (May 23) and charged with pointing a shotgun at his neighor's family during a dispute over cigarette smoking, according to a police report quoted by the rival Baltimore Sun. The Sun said Frank J. Keegan (pictured), 58, is charged with three counts of second-degree assault and two gun violations and was being held at a police department facility awaiting a bail hearing.

Police said Keegan has been involved in a long-running dispute with a neighbor, who has complained about smoke coming from Keegan's row house. Last night at 11, the neighbor called a paramedic, saying his 3-year-old daughter was having trouble breathing because of the smoke. The neighbor said he then pounded on Keegan's front door and heard Keegan say, "You [expletive] lunatics, get away from my door." Then the neighbor claims he saw Keegan pointing a shotgun at his family, and the non-smokers backed off. Police seized a 12-gauge shotgun and a 9 mm pistol from Keegan's house as he was being arrested.

So far there's been no comment from Keegan's bosses at the Examiner. Keegan came to the Examiner in January 2006 after he had been fired by the Connecticut Post in Bridgeport, Conn., where he had worked for three years.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The New York Times loves free dailies!

The New York Times, America's most respected newspaper, has written two stories in the span of 11 days about free daily newspapers. This might not mean much to you green eyeshade accountants out there (who run newspapers these days), but to giddy journalists it's a sign that our industry is finally being taken seriously by the leader of the Mainstream Media. Of course it helps that the Times owns 49 percent of Boston Metro. Still, nobody from the business side tells the newsies at the Times what to write, right?

OK, the substance of the today's article gives us pause. The article is about how the Tribune Co.'s amNewYork has a better Web site than Metro International's Metro New York, but that Metro is going to change all of that in the "not-too-distant future," according to Publisher Daniel E. Magnus.

Also quoted by Times reporter Maria Aspan is amNewYork's Diane Goldie, who acknowledges that her paper's site doesn't have the staff to compete with other news sites in the NY metropolitan area, it has its own niche and is frequently quoted by Yuppie (do we still use that term?) sites such as Gothamist, Gawker and Curbed. The strategy, according to Goldie is: “They read the paper on the subway, and you give them something really substantial to go online for." (She ended her sentence with a preposition, but only somebody over 60 would have pointed that out.)

Aspan's article concludes with a big wet kiss for the free daily industry:
    Metro and amNew York are the two New York entries in the thriving free daily newspaper market. The papers, with their easy-to-read format, have helped cut into the print circulation of larger metropolitan papers.

    But why should commuters continue relying on a free paper’s Web site once they are at their computers?

    “If you’re looking for local news, the free papers may be a better voice,” said Barry Parr, a media analyst for Jupiter Research.

    “We’re certainly advising papers that they should have Web sites,” he said, “and I don’t think there’s a distinction between paid papers and free papers.”

Correction: Wrong owner for London's Metro

Our May 10 item headlined 'Is Murdoch interested in the NY Times?' contained a significant error — Metro International does not own a Metro in London. The Metro in London is owned by Lord Rothermere, same owner as London Lite. We regret the error. (The item has been corrected.)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Do free dailies need a trade association?

There's a story in Editor & Publisher about the idea of creating a trade association for free daily newspapers. Henry Scott, the launch publisher of Metro New York, is testing the water about such an association as he prepares for a June 18-19 conference of free daily execs in St. Petersburg, Fla. He argues correctly that free dailies share some common issues, such as.
    1. Some cities make it difficult to circulate free papers.

    2. Some free dailies want their distribution to be measured by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which currently measures the readership of paid papers but won't touch free publications. The hope is that if your paper is audited by ABC, national advertisers would suddenly find your publication and place big ads.
As free dailies become a bigger player in the media business, it will be interesting to see what other issues such an association will take on.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Free daily reaches Pittsburgh suburbs

A lot of paid dailies have TMCs, weekly newspapers mailed to non-subscribers that give the paper "total market coverage." The Greensburg Tribune-Review, located in suburban Pittsburgh, has since 2001 has taken the TMC concept further by delivering an afternoon daily to the doorsteps of residents in selected Zip codes.

The Tribune-Review, owned by philanthropist and conservative Richard Mellon Scaife, has for years been battling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazzette, owned by the Block Family, owners of the Toledo Blade.

Editor & Publisher magazine says that the Tribune-Review's afternoon paper, Trib p.m., began at the start of the Iraq war, when one of the paper's correspondents was embedded with the Marines iand the other was in northern Iran with the Kurds. Their reports often arrived too late for the deadlines of the morning Tribune-Review, so the paper began printing a 7,000-circulation extra with room for their stories.

"It was a great way to test a tab and the afternoon market," Tribune-Review CEO Ralph Martin told E&P.

Now 34,000 copies of the afternoon paper are delivered to homes and it is drawing new advertisers the morning Tribune-Review wasn't getting, such as local retailers and restaurants. "We have been able to get a lot of those street-level merchants we were not able to get before," says Hooper.

Who else is delivering a free daily to homes? Billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz is delivering his conservative Examiner newspaper to homes in San Francisco, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The E&P article says Copley "tried and failed" with its Today's Daily News in northern San Diego County, although we called a representative of that paper who said they continue to publish five days a week (Tuesday-Saturday) and continue to deliver 75,000 papers to homes in Carlsbad, Escondido, Oceanside, San Marcos and Vista, Calif. The article also includes in the free home-delivered category the OC Post, which was started by the Orange County (Calif.) Register last August. But the OC Post is a paid newspaper -- it costs 25 cents or $19.95 annually for home delivery.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Metro loses $6 million in U.S. in 2006

Metro International's annual report for 2006 is out and after you read past the kind comments incoming CEO Dennis Malamatinas (formerly head of Burger King and a Saxo Bank), you start looking at the numbers. Turn to page 30 and you'll find that Metro lost $6.7 million in the United States at three papers, Philadelphia, Boston and New York, each of which have been around for more than five years. The company's profit center remain Sweden.

Is Murdoch interested in the NY Times?

Sometimes it's more interesting to note what a newspaper has left out of an article rather than what was included. Such was the case with today's New York Times story about the battle between London's free evening newspapers, London Lite and TheLondonPaper. The story repeated the information posted on this blog April 27th about how the two papers have hired private detectives to spy on each others distributors to catch them dumping papers.

But two conspicious things are missing from this story.

First, there's no mention in the story of the men who control these free dailies. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. publishes The London Paper and Viscount Rothermere's Associated Newspapers prints London Lite. In the U.S., Murdoch is big news -- he controls Fox News Channel, hated by liberals in the media, and the NY Post, whose circulation has just topped the NY Daily News to become the No. 1 paper in America's biggest media market. Murdoch's name only appears in the cutline, not in the body of the story, which is what is read by most people.

Second, there's no mention of the fact that the New York Times Company is in the free daily business, with a 49 percent stake in Boston Metro. Boston Metro is part of Metro International.

We're not sure what to make of these omissions. In a 708-word story, wouldn't there be enough space to mention Murdoch's name once, or mention the NYT's stake in free newspapers?

Murdoch is planning to launch a business news channel in the U.S. this fall and is looking for a print partner -- a name he can use to elevate the stature of his new TV network. He made an offer last week for Dow Jones & Co., owner of the Wall Street Journal. So far, that offer has gone nowhere. Wonder if he has a similar offer out there for the NY Times, and that's why they didn't mention him in this piece? Note: This item has been corrected — the original item said Metro International owned Metro in London. However, the owner of Metro in London is owned by Lord Rothermere, same owner as London Lite.

Media Life Magazine gets it wrong again

COMMENTARY: Media Life Magazine. Ever heard of them? We didn't a year or so ago, and we read a lot of Web sites, magazines and newspapers. Whatever Media Life Magazine is, its stories are distributed online, and are quoted by many, but often contain glaring factual inaccuracies. You can read our rant about their ridiculous claim that Metro International invented the free daily in 1995. A bunch of other free dailies were operating in 1995 when Metro got the idea to do one of their own. Now Media Life writer Lisa Snedeker claims:
    Free dailies are not new. The Metro chain first launched in this country in 2001, in Philadelphia, and it has since spread to other cities.
Of course she doesn't care that free dailies started here in the 1940s in California, and a second round started in Colorado in the 1970s, and more were launched in the 1980s and 1990s. No Metro was first, she thinks. Nothing against Metro, but those guys have never made a dime in America. Yet many other U.S. free dailies -- ones that existed long before Metro -- have been successful both in terms of P/L and journalism. When you see glaring errors like this, you wonder how many other facts in such an article are wrong. Here's her article.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Don't let your free daily become litter

Free daily newspapers in London are under attack by environmentalists who see too many of the papers being thrown in the trash — unread. On June 13, an environmental group called Project Freesheet will have volunteers looking around London for discarded papers that will be collected for a photo at the end of the day.

Project Freesheet has received an incredible boost from Rupert Murdoch and Viscount Rothermere, who each own free dailies in London and who have circulated videos accusing the other one of intentionally dumping papers as part of a plan to inflate circulation numbers. The videos made by private detectives for the papers are on Youtube (and we've posted a couple of screen shots from an Associated Newspapers' video that purports to show copies Murdoch's "thelondonpaper" tossed in the trash.) asked the organizer of Project Freesheet, Justin Canning, the following questions:

Q: What prompted the creation of Project Freesheet?

Project Freesheet was started after reading an article in The Ecologist magazine which pointed out the environmental impact of the current freesheet phenomenon which was going unnoticed

Q: What is the objective of Project Freesheet?

PF is aiming to highlight the issues raised and encourage more debate on these issues whilst exploring new ways of producing newspaper in the 21st century.

Q: Who are the leaders of Project Freesheet? Does it have a board of directors and/or executive director?

PF was started and created by Justin Canning. It is a Not-For-Profit organisation

Q: Is there a place online where one can get more information about it?

The Web site provides most of our info. On there you can find a link to my blog which will give you a bit more background info on where i'm coming from

Q: Is Project Freesheet affiliated with or funded by any other organization?

At present PF is funded by Justin Canning. I am hoping that the website traffic will create some income for us through partnerships and banner ads

Q: Why the emphasis on free newspapers when they only represent 15% of the total circuilation of daily newspapers in Europe?

Freesheets are the focus of the campaign because they are free. People are given them whilst on their way to/from work. They are not purchasing them, so there is no process of ownership (which is another reason why they are not being recycled). The people that produce them market their product in a very aggressive manner by flooding the streets with hundreds of distributors who are given more papers than they can distribute (see web site under news section). And because of the low quality of the product it would not be purchased anyway

Q: Is your organization also targetting other users of paper, such as grocery stores (for bags), restaurants (bags, wrappers), book publishers, schools and government agencies?

I will be looking at campaigns like nappies, plastic bags, food packaging (anything to do with colossal waste that impacts on the environment) in the future

Q: Does it make matters better or worse that publishers use recycled newsprint? (I ask because, as you know, chlorine is used to bleach recycled paper pulp, and that chemical has been indiscriminately dumped in streams in Canada, killing fish and other living creatures. Some have concluded that this environmental tragedy is due to the demand by governments that newspapers use recycled paper.)

Indeed that is why we are encouraging the use of alternative polymer materials. Recycled paper is not the solution to the newspaper industry or the publishing industry in general. It is an improvement on over-use of virgin source material, but the solution lies in the use of materials that do not impact on the environment.

Q: Any suggestions on how free daily publishers could operate in a way that would satisfy your project?

The free daily producers have a responsibility to the product that they produce and the manner by which it is consumed and disposed of. If the product was made of organic polymers (that are already available) they would be able to:
    A) Recycle their product infinitely (presently paper recycling is limited to 4/5 cycles)
    B) Dramatically reduce their raw material costs by more effective recycling practices
    B) Allow the product to go to landfill in the knowledge that it is providing positive nutrients for the environment

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Netherlands gets 4th free daily

The Netherlands now has a fourth free daily, DAG, which rolled off the presses this morning (May 8) for the first time. It plans to distribute 300,000 copies a day in supermarkets, colleges, bus and rail stations. DAG joins Metro and Spits, which have been around for several years, and De Pers, which started earlier this year. The newspaper is a joint effort from telecom KPM and PCM, publisher of paid newspapers such as Volkskrant and NRC Handelsblad. The founders say they expect DAG to be profitable in two years.

Could Anschutz's next Examiner be in L.A.?

This Help Wanted listing posted by Phil Anschutz's newspaper company, Clarity Media, seeks a "National Sales Manager, West Coast Region," who can choose where he or she will work -- San Francisco (where Clarity has two dailies), Denver (Anschutz's headquarters) or L.A.

Does that mean the billionaire oilman is planning to open one of his free Examiners in Los Angeles? Not necessarily. Anschutz has substantial holdings in L.A. and certainly a lot of ad agencies work out of that city, so perhaps basing a national sales manager there makes sense. Then again, Los Angeles was one of the 70 cities where Clarity registered the name Examiner in 2005.

Oddly enough, Hearst Corp. had an afternoon paper in Los Angeles called the Examiner that closed in 1989 -- so an Anschutz L.A. Examiner would have instant name recognition. Moreover, it would give Anschutz (seen here in sunglasses) a chance to influence the entertainment media, particularly the movie industry. He has been trying to do that for years by backing family-friendly movies such as "Ray," a profile of musician Ray Charles. Currently Anschutz is embroiled in an ugly lawsuit with author Clive Cussler over who is to blame for the movie flop "Sahara."

Covering L.A. with free newspapers would be an expensive undertaking because of the city's size — a sprawling 469 square miles. And Anschutz's people tend to favor the "commuter daily" format that is popular in places with a heavy amount of mass transit, such as Europe, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is a city devoted to its cars. Getting motorists out of their cars so that they pick up an Examiner would prove to be a challenge.

Then again, the competition is weak -- the the once mighty L.A. Times (building at left), now owned by Sam Zell, and L.A. Daily News, controlled by notorious cost-cutter Dean Singleton, are both in a downward spiral. A healthy L.A. Examiner could clean up. But whether famously liberal L.A. would go for a conservative publication is another question -- maybe there's enough Republicans there to make it workable? When the L.A. Times did a hit piece on Republican Arnold Schwartzenegger four days before he was elected governor, thousands of residents canceled their subscriptions.

It may also be that Anschutz is unwilling to open more newspapers until the existing ones make money. Remember all the talk two years ago about how Anschutz planned to open dailies in cities across the country? Anschutz hasn't opened a paper in a new city since April 2006 when the Baltimore Examiner hit the streets, bringing Clarity Media's momentum to a grinding halt. Even though Anschutz is a billionaire, he probably doesn't like to lose money more than anyone else.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Will blog items help new daily? Jury's out

The New York Times reports that bloggers like having their work printed in BostonNOW, that city's new free daily, because it helps them reach more people and they retain the copyright to their work. But the downside is that bloggers often don't operate by the same ethical standards as newspaper employees. For instance, they take free tickets and other gifts from sources, which is a no-no in most newsrooms. "If all that happens is every review is a puff piece, then we know something's wrong with the system," said David Weinberger, author of the book "Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder." "But if they're interesting dissections by people quite knowledgeable about the subject matter — bloggers covering the Boston Ballet who like the Boston Ballet and say so — then that wouldn't be so bad." BostonNow, funded by the Icelandic phone company Dagsbrun, is that city's second free daily, opening its doors two weeks ago.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Youth-oriented "Link" growing steadily

"Link," a youth oriented free daily owned by The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., is picking up new advertisers every month since it opened seven months ago. asked David Mele, Link's publisher and general manager, the following questions about the paper:

Q: How is it going?

It's going very well. Reader acceptance has been tremendous, revenue is steadily growing, net distribution is climbing nicely, and we've seen no cannibalization of readership or revenue for our paid daily broadsheet, The Virginian-Pilot.

Q: What can you tell me about sales in the seven months?

We're a private company (owned by Landmark Communications) so I can't release specific financials. But sales have grown each month since launch. We have a core foundation from some of the largest advertisers in our market
(large grocery, large auto dealer, large real estate companies, large employers for recruitment ads) and we've added a good mix of local retail on top of that. Forty-eight percent of our advertisers are not Virginian-Pilot advertisers — meaning that they did not already advertise with our paid daily broadsheet. So we've brought "new money" into the company.

Q: Are you in the black yet? If not, when do you expect it will happen?

No, we are not in the black yet, and we expect it could take a few years for that to happen. But we are ahead of our profit budget at this point — which makes our parent company very happy.

Q: How large is your staff?


Q: Please break it down by editorial, sales, circulation, etc.

    1 — Admin
    12 — Newsroom (editor, design director, designers, copy editors, reporter, photographer) Note: we are currently hiring 2 more copy editors.
    4 — Advertising Sales & Design (But we also are supported by the Advertising Sales department of The Virginian-Pilot, our paid daily broadsheet.)
    3 — Marketing & Promotion
    3 — Circulation & Distribution
Q: How do you distribute your product (by hand, thrown on driveways, stores, work places, etc.)?

Our average daily circulation is approximately 32,000 (Monday-Friday). Fifty percent is via "samplers" (i.e., hawkers) in high pedestrian traffic areas during morning commute and lunchtime. The rest is through 1,000 rack and box locations in workplaces, apartments, fitness centers, colleges/universities, restaurants, bars, medical offices, etc. We are now testing limited free home delivery in targeted zones. Our return rate hit the single digits last week.

Q: What's surprised you since you started Link?

In addition to reaching our target readers (18-34 year-olds), we hear from a number of readers on either side of this age range who love Link. So the desire for quality, concise, colorful, quick-read news and entertainment
information seems to know no age boundaries.