Saturday, June 21, 2008

Paper that 'lost touch' gets a competitor

The founder of the Vail Daily, who sold that free daily to Swift Newspapers in 1993, on Friday launched another daily in that Colorado resort town.

The first edition of Jim Pavelich's new Vail Mountaineer was eight pages. It contained about 50 percent advertising from local businesses.

Pavelich said he started the Mountaineer because he is frustrated with the direction the Vail Daily has gone in recent years.

“It was the biggest tourist holiday of the year, and the big headline on the front page, and I’m paraphrasing, said something like, ‘I hate living here.’ And although I don’t remember the details, I remember that the headline was so unbelievably negative about nothing,” Pavelich told “I understand this is a real town with real issues, but they’ve lost touch.”

The Mountaineer was the second free daily Pavelich started in the past month. On May 27, Pavelich and Dave Price started the Palo Alto (Calif.) Daily Post. The Post is going up against a newspaper the pair sold in 2005, the Palo Alto Daily News, one of the most successful community free dailies. The now defunct Knight Ridder bought the Palo Alto Daily News for $25 million in 2005; in 2006 it was acquired by MediaNews Group.

Non-competition agreements from both sales have expired, allowing the former owners back into these markets.

In both cases, the new papers are entering markets where readers are already hooked on getting their news from free daily newspapers.

Vail isn't the only Colorado market where two free dailies are competing. Swift's Aspen Times has been going head-to-head with the independent Aspen Daily News for 20 years.

Despite the economic downturn and pessimism about newspapers, the Mountaineer is the fifth free daily to open in 2008. The others are in Baltimore; Halifax, N.S.; Salt Lake City and Palo Alto. Since the beginning of the year, BostonNOW has closed, the Manchester (N.H.) Express switched to a weekly, and the Nashville City Paper transitioned to an online product with a semi-weekly print editions.