Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Baltimore Sun will launch RedEye-like tab

The Tribune Co., which has successful free dailies in Chicago and New York, plans to launch another one in Baltimore on April 14. The Tribune's Baltimore Sun will publish a free daily called b (that's right, the title is a single lowercase letter) that will target young adults like the company's successful RedEye does in Chicago. In fact, it plans to use copy from RedEye.

A few years ago, the Sun was Baltimore's only daily. That changed in 2006 when billionaire Phil Anschutz brought his Examiner there. Then a week ago another billionaire, Mort Zuckerman, announced he would be starting a Baltimore edition of the New York Daily News. Obviously there are differences between these papers. For instance, the Examiner is free and thrown on driveways (which has become a controversial practice) while the Daily News presumably plans to charge readers.

On the other hand, the b will be distributed free weekdays in newspaper boxes, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and college campuses, according to a story in the Sun. That's how RedEye and the Metro chain (Boston, Philly, New York) do it. The circulation will start at 50,000 copies a day and increase to 100,000 by the end of the year.

The new paper will be “a smart, fun and free daily conversation about readers’ headlines, their neighborhoods, their friends, their hangouts, their hang-ups, their opinions, their music, their sports and their interests,” said Baltimore Sun Media Group Director of Content Development Monty Cook, who headed the team that developed the concept.

A press release from the Sun said:
    A newly recruited team of multimedia-savvy journalists and bloggers, led by Editor Anne Tallent, 33, will create original content for the print and online editions of b, with additional material from sister Tribune publications like RedEye. There will be extensive entertainment and nightlife content and listings from Baltimore, another [Baltimore Sun Media Group] young adult site, along with video, podcasts, music downloads and other multimedia.

    But the best reading in b and on may well come from its readers. Both the tab and the website will have multiple channels for readers not just to give feedback, but to submit their own stories, blogs, photos and video. Tallent and her team expect that eventually this user-generated content will make up as much as a third of the publication.
Tallent was previously a features editor for the Baltimore Sun. Brad Howard, previously a circulation executive at the Sun, has been named general manager of the b and Amy Kowal will lead the sales team.

The new paper will be located in a separate building from the Sun, its former Baltimore County bureau in Towson, Md., close to several of the area's larger college campuses, according to a memo from Sun Publisher Tim Ryan.

A big advantage for the b is that its staff can draw upon the experience of the RedEye crew in Chicago. RedEye started in 2002 and became profitable in 2006. It has captured the 18- to 34-year-old demo for the Tribune Co. while hurting the tabloid-sized Chicago Sun-Times.

The staff of the new paper is already having fun with its one letter name. The press release announcing the paper's launch said the ad reps will be part of the "b-2-b" sales team. And the release ended with "b hits newsstands April 14. b ready!"