Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leaving your heart in San Francisco

Tony Bennett sang about losing one's heart in San Francisco, and the publishers of a free daily in that famed city by the bay may soon feel that way. The (San Francisco) Daily Post announced this week that it is pulling out of San Francisco. The paper moved its offices to Palo Alto, a toney university town about 30 miles south of San Francisco, about six months ago. But they still continued to distribute in San Francisco while they essentially built a new paper in Palo Alto. The publishers know something about the market in Palo Alto. They're Dave Price and Jim Pavelich, who started the Palo Alto Daily News in 1995 and sold it in 2005 to Knight Ridder for $25 million.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

An idea for Detroit's newspapers

Detroit's two newspapers announced Tuesday that they are stopping home delivery four days a week and will only sell a scaled-down version of their papers on those days in racks and stores. (Read the AP story. Photo by the AP.)

The move is a cost-cutting measure as the two papers struggle to survive. "We have to change the way we deliver that news — not just in subtle ways, but in fundamental ways," said David Hunke, Detroit Free Press publisher and chief executive of the partnership with the Detroit News.

If he's serious about fundamental change, he should consider making one or both of the papers free on the days they're not delivered to homes. While the bean counters might be horrified at losing single-copy revenue, those quarters would be replaced with dollars from new advertising. Free papers reach a much broader audience than paid papers. The pass-along rate is higher, meaning advertisers get more bang for their buck. Free papers tend to reach the younger readers advertisers desire.

To prove all of that, make one of the papers free and keep the other paid. Run them with separate management teams. After a year, see which one is ahead, and convert the other to that format.

Ads in free dailies work -- sometimes too well!

An advertiser in the free daily AMNewYork has been arrested after a scam in the paper was too successful. The New York Post reports:
    Raadiya James, 22, is accused of buying an ad in AM New York on Dec. 2 that mimicked an official announcement from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development offering cheap apartments on West 57th Street.

    In exchange for a $5 application fee, the home-seekers were offered a shot at studios for $538 and two-bedrooms for $823.

    Over the next few days, more than 1,000 money orders poured into a post-office box.

    But authorities picked up on the alleged scam and when James came to pick up the loot, she was arrested.

Rapid turnover in publishers in Vail, Colo.

It's not often that a newspaper goes through two publishers in one month. But that's what happened this month at the Vail Daily.

Steve Gall, who had headed the paper for 19 months, resigned "to pursue other opportunities," the Vail Daily announced on Dec. 4.

He was replaced by Steve Pope, who was the paper's publisher in 2005 and early 2006 before he was promoted to a regional management job with parent company Swift Newspapers. Then on Tuesday, Pope gave notice so he could take the publisher's job at the Colorado Springs Gazette.

Pope's move to the Colorado Springs' paper is a bit of a head-scratcher because the publisher's slot has been open since August. Why take the Vail job only to quit two weeks later and take the Colorado Springs job instead? Why not take the Colorado Springs job in early December and not bother with Vail?

The official line is that the Colorado Springs job is a big step up for Pope. But we hear that the Vail Daily isn't a fun place to work anymore compared to the first time he was publisher. The founder of the Vail Daily, Jim Pavelich, who sold the paper in the early 1990s to Swift, has started a new paper, the Vail Mountaineer, which is taking away business from the Daily. The Vail Daily has responded by offering advertisers steep discounts — as much as 90 percent — if they agree not to advertise in the new paper. But the strategy may backfire because Swift loses money on the discounted rates.

By the way, at the Gazette Pope will succeed Scott McKibben, who was the publisher of the San Francisco Examiner when it was purchased by billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz.

Metro U.S. did better in 2008 than 2007

Has Metro finally found the right formula for U.S. audiences? This year the paper has had a successful redesign and appears to be attracting more mainstream advertisers — major department stores instead of fly-by-night 1-800 ads. Metro is growing its real estate sections at a time when real estate isn't supposed to be doing that well. And Metro seems to have more ads than in the past and probably a higher yield per page.

"Metro U.S.'s performance in 2008 is very promising and has improved a lot compared to 2007," Metro chief executive Per Mikael Jensen (right) told in an e-mail Wednesday. "We really feel that we are embraced by readers and advertisers.

"So whilst everyone else seems to have a hard time, we have seen big improvements," Jensen wrote. "Our base of advertisers and our yield per page has, as you point out, been increasing during the year."

A year ago, there was talk that Metro was going to close or sell its three U.S. editions (New York, Philadephia and Boston). Jensen put the papers on the market, but there were no takers. Of course the financial meltdown has halted all lending for mergers and acquisitions, so even if somebody was interested, they couldn't get the financing.

Now Jensen tells us, "I’m very sure that Metro has a great future in U.S."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Personnel changes at several free dailies

Metro, the international chain of free dailies, announced yesterday that it has named Tony Metcalf as its Editor in Chief for Metro U.S., overseeing editions in Boston, Philadelphia and New York.

The announcement formalizes the role Metcalf has had since February, when he was asked to temporarily head up the chain's newsrooms after Metro cut 27 positions. Metcalf was planning to return to the Middle East, where he had worked as a editor and publisher, when he was tapped for the temporary job.

Metro's decision to give Metcalf the title of U.S. editor is an indication that the chain plans to keep open its U.S. papers. The three had been on the block earlier this year, but no buyers emerged.

Prior to Metro, Metcalf served for four years as the owner and editorial director of "7 days" in Dubai. Previous to that, he was Global Editor in Chief for Metro International, overseeing the launch of Metro World News, a newswire utilizing Metro's reporters in cities around the world. Metcalf has been involved in launches of Metro around the world including Boston, Toronto, Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Hong Kong and Seoul.

"Metcalf's global media background, coupled with his localized experience, makes him perfect to helm Metro US," said Georg Tsaros, managing director and publisher of Metro New York. "Metcalf is ideal to unlock the vast editorial potential of Metro in the United States."


Amanda Barrett, who has been promoted by the AP to be its deputy editor for the Eastern U.S. Regional Desk in Philadelphia. She arrived at AP last year from amNewYork. She was the free paper's Web site editor.

In California, two big changes at the Tahoe Daily Tribune, the free daily based in South Lake Tahoe owned by Swift Newspaper. Mary Jurkonis has been appointed publisher. She most recently served as publisher of the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza in Incline Village. Jurkonis succeeds Gail Powell-Acosta.

Also at the Tahoe paper, city editor Elaine Goodman has been promoted to managing editor. Before joining the Tribune in November 2004, she worked for the Reno Gazette-Journal and the Palo Alto Daily News, another free daily.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Legislation proposed over delivery method

A city councilman in Alexandria, Virginia wants to create a "do not deliver" list, similar to "do not call" lists for phone solicitors, designed to curtail unwanted deliveries of the Washington Examiner that have been piling up on driveways and lawns. WJLA-TV in Washington reports that councilman Justin Wilson's "do not deliver" law would include fines against newspaper publishers who continue to deliver despite requests from residents who ask the paper to stop.

WJLA interviewed one resident, Amy Bayer, who said that when she has called, deliveries would stop for a few months, and then start again later. Another resident interviewed by the TV station pointed out that when unwanted newspapers accumulate, they tip off would-be burglars that nobody's home.

Earlier this year a Maryland legislator, Tanya Shewell, proposed similar legislation but was talked out of it by the Examiner, which promised to do a better job. The Examiner also faced the threat of such legislation in San Francisco earlier this year. But the Examiner has since reduced delivery to homes from six days a week to two as a cost-cutting measure. The cut-back appears to have taken some of the steam out of a "do-not-deliver" list in Frisco, though the complaints keep coming.

SPEAKING ABOUT THE EXAMINER, the company has announced that it is closing its printing plant in Maryland that had printed its Washington and Baltimore editions, and will outsource the work to other printing companies. The move will allow the Examiner to shed 101 jobs from its payroll. The Examiner says the move will allow it to print more color ads.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wyoming free daily turns 30

When the Jackson Hole Daily began Dec. 1, 1978, it was probably the smallest daily newspaper around in at least two ways.

The initial press run was just 2,000 copies for a winter resort that was essentially closed until the ski season started later in December. And the actual size of the paper was unique too -- not a tabloid, but half the dimensions of a tabloid, what printers call a "quarter fold."

In a story about the paper's anniversary, writer Angus M. Thuermer Jr. notes that the pressman waited all night for the small newsroom to finish the first edition. He fell asleep in the newspaper's conference room.

The press finally started at around 5 or 6 in the morning -- even though the idea was to print it the night before. The delivery person couldn't wait any longer and left for another job, which meant the editor and a sleepy salesman had to distribute the first issue on their own.

Thuermer's article continues:
    [Then-editor Paul] Bruun emphasized that 30 years ago there was no ESPN, no USA Today, no CNN. Fax machines were rare and the Internet was a long way off.

    “There was none of that,” Bruun said.

    The product, however, stirred great interest. The Daily, perhaps the world’s smallest, had it all.

    “How delighted people were,” Bruun said, “at the crossword puzzle, the Peanuts cartoon, the little synopsis of stock-market quotations, the gold prices. That was fun.”

    Today the Daily thrives under the leadership of Managing Editor Dava Zucker and a staff of copy editors and layout artists. Four-color photography and advertising are standard, and the publication covers everything from world and national affairs to business, local entertainment, opinions, sports, weather and art in a 15-inch-tall tabloid format.
At the time there were only two other free dailies -- The Colorado Daily in Boulder, born in 1971, and the Aspen Daily News, which began five months before Jackson Hole.