Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ex Metro NY publisher sues over pay, slogan

While Metro International attempts to sell its U.S. free dailies, it has been hit with a $117.5 million lawsuit by its former New York publisher who claims the chain is using his slogan without authorization and that it owes him back wages of $218,000.

Daniel Magnus, who was one of 27 people fired by the international free daily publisher last month, claims the slogan "All of the World in less of the time" belongs to him and that he didn't authorize Metro to use it. He says that Metro brass wanted him to backdate an affidavit saying he supposedly authorized the chain to use the slogan in 2007, but he refused, according to today's New York Post.

The suit also seeks back wages of $218,000 plus a 25 percent penalty charge. He claims the company cooked up the claim that he was let go "for cause." Magnus also says he should have been given a $150,000 bonus for his 2006 work instead of the $25,000 he received. The suit said Magnus was paid a base salary of $300,000 a year. Metro isn't commenting on the suit.

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 Metromix.com, 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 bthesite.com 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!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Four people put out new free daily in Utah

"This is a tabloid that we wanted to talk to the reader, and not at them," explains Josh Awtry, the editor behind The Buzz, the Salt Lake Tribune's new afternoon free daily. "And hopefully, readers can see that difference right off the bat. Serious headlines are written with weight. . . . And we have a lot more fun in the tone of our lighter stories, too."

Connie Coyne, the Reader Advocate at the Tribune, wrote this piece Monday about The Buzz. She writes:
    "Designed to be read in 20 minutes — the average time for a rider on TRAX (the local light rail system) — the publication boils down the best of breaking national and world news, local breaking news, business, fun facts, puzzles and sports. ... In order to make sure a staff of four people could produce this five days a week, the section size is limited and the individual pages are the same every day. There are defined spaces for advertisements and so much space for stories, photos, graphics and puzzles."

Tribune Co. will likely spare RedEye


The item I posted here Wednesday headlined "Tribune Co. cuts include RedEye" was wrong. I could blame it on an AP story, but I should have checked with RedEye publisher Brad Moore first.


When I saw the AP story about how the Tribune Company was going to supposedly cut staff from all of its products, including RedEye, I thought "That's nuts! RedEye is Tribune's ticket to the future!"

Major metro newspapers like the Chicago Tribune long ago lost the 18-39 crowd to TV. RedEye delivers that demo to national advertisers. RedEye, along with BostonNow, amNewYork, (Tampa-St. Pete's) *tbt, (Dallas) Quick, and a few others I could name are newspapers that people in that age group read. These papers have incredibly small return rates. We need more of them. And we need for those papers to print more copies each day. They could easily dominate their markets in terms of sheer numbers.

The following is directed to Sam Zell, the new boss at Tribune: You need to consider replicating RedEye in other markets -- South Florida, Baltimore-Washington, New Jersey, Atlanta ... just a few that come to mind.

MetroMix Los Angeles was a drop in the bucket -- a 100,000 circulation weekly in a city of 9 million. Who cares? If you're going to have an impact, print more papers, publish every day and report what the heck happened yesterday. That gets people to pick it up. It's old fashioned journalism but edited more tightly for the time-compressed reader of today.

You can cover music, movies, video games, etc., but also give them crime, sex, celebrities and powerbrokers doing bad things -- the stuff of daily newspapers since the days of the penny press. Young people will eat it up -- particularly if you toss out the AP Stylebook and write it with words these readers use in conversation.

Look, I know your consultants are saying that the Internet is the future. The Internet is wonderful, but print will always exist. People like to hold newspapers and books in their hands. Give them something they want to hold. Something they want to grab every morning. Something that's so essential to their lives that they willingly walk several blocks to get it every morning.

I'm glad you're not cutting RedEye. But you ought to be pouring money into it and funding similar papers in other markets. It is the salvation of the Tribune Co.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

LA Times launches clone of RedEye

The Los Angeles Times has rolled out its long expected version of the Chicago RedEye, Chicago's successful free daily oriented at the 18-to39 demo.

But it's a weekly, not a daily.

MetroMix Los Angeles hit the streets yesterday with an initial circulation of 100,000 -- a drop in the bucket for a city with a population of 9.9 million. But there are early signs that the circulation will increase if MetroMix succeeds at reaching young readers who don't pick up the LA Times every morning.

"This is something for the Los Angeles Times that's really trying to reach a demo that we haven't before," Rich Stepan, the new publication's general manager, told Adage.com.

Both the LA Times and Chicago Tribune are part of the Tribune Co., which went private last year and is now led by real estate titan Sam Zell. On the same day MetroMix premiered, Zell announced job cuts likely to total 400 to 500 including 100-150 at the LA Times.

The Times says the new publication is based on its MetroMix website, and many of the articles in the first edition were teasers that directed readers back to that site. One of the new publication's features is "Ask A Comic," borrowing somewhat from the "Ask a Mexican" column in the LA Weekly, which will be MetroMix's rival.

The Times accomplishes several things with MetroMix. It stops a youth-oriented free daily from entering the LA market. It also will allow the Times to sell younger demos than its current paper, which has been losing ads and readers for years. It also gives a boost to the MetroMix website. While we don't have figures for that website, newspaper websites in general have seen their growth rates level off in the past few years. MetroMix may become a prototype Tribune can use in other markets where its papers need help reaching younger readers, such as South Florida, Baltimore and Hartford, Conn. And if things work out well, MetroMix could become a daily, giving advertisers more opportunities to reach these young readers.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

RedEye isn't spared from Tribune cuts

See correction above. Tribune Co. will likely spare RedEye from cuts, according to Publisher Brad Moore. The original, incorrect item follows.

The Tribune Co. announced today that it will be cutting hundreds of jobs at the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and even its profitable Chicago free daily RedEye. AP is quoting internal memos as saying 100 jobs will be cut in Chicago and 100 to 150 in Los Angeles. Cuts in Chicago are expected to come from the Tribune, as well as Hoy in Chicago, RedEye, Chicago Magazine and online products such as ChicagoTribune.com, according to Chicago Tribune Media Group spokesman Michael Dizon. The group has about 3,000 employees, Dizon said. Chief executive Sam Zell said in a memo to employees that "while I will do everything in my power to drive, pull and drag this company forward, I can't promise we won't see additional position eliminations in the future, if we continue at our current rate of cash flow decline. ... But, make no mistake. This is not my ultimate strategy for our company. I believe we can achieve greatness. I have staked my reputation on it."

More competition in Baltimore

The paid circulation Baltimore Sun and the free Baltimore Examiner will soon get a new rival -- the New York Daily News plans to enter the market with a Baltimore edition, according to the Washington-based website DCRTV. It won't be free but fairly inexpensive at $1.99 per week for home subscribers. The match-up pits Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman against Sun owner Sam Zell and billionaire Phil Anschutz, owner of the struggling Examiner chain.

Metro Toronto's founder heads to Halifax

Greg Lutes, who was Metro Toronto's first publisher and got that free daily going during a four-year stint, has been named publisher of Metro's new Halifax edition on Canada's Atlantic coast.

The Halifax paper will start on Thursday. It replaces the Halifax Daily News, which closed on Monday after suffering millions of dollars in losses, according to a report in the competing Halifax Chronicle Herald. Lutes left Metro Toronto in 2004 to take on the role of Publisher of the Moncton Times & Transcript. Prior to joining Metro Toronto, he also worked for several leading media companies in a variety of senior sales and management roles.

"It is very exciting to be back with the Metro family. Halifax, with its young, upwardly mobile population is the ideal market for the free daily -- Metro," Lutes said in a news release from Metro.

Turnover plagues California paper

The general manager of billionaire Phil Anschutz's San Francisco City Star has left the 15-month-old paper. No replacement has been named for Humberto Najar, 38. Najar replaced founding publisher John Gollin, who stopped coming to work a month after the paper started. The City Star is an offshoot of Anschutz's San Francisco Examiner. We're told that most of the City Star's original staff has resigned including news editor Mike Krolak; editorial production editor Claudette Langley, advertorial editor Talia Salem and a number of sales reps.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Paid daily closes, replaced with free daily

Canadian printing giant Transcontinental announced today that it is pulling the plug on its 20,000-circulation Daily News in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and will replace it on Thursday with a free daily bearing the Metro label. Transcontinental will publish the new paper in a partnership with Torstar Corp and Metro International. The three companies have a similar partnership in Montreal.

The new paper should be more profitable because it will have fewer employees — about 20, compared to the 100 who put out the Daily News. Transcontinental senior vice president Marc-Noel Ouellette was quoted by the CanWest News Service as saying he only expects 65 workers will actually lose their jobs since some will be hired by his company's weekly papers in the region.

Ouellette said the new paper will be published five days a week instead of seven, and will have a count of 20 to 24 pages per issue compared with the 56 to 60 pages the Daily News had been publishing.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Metro has good news, bad news

Metro International is back in the black with a $5.1 million profit in the fourth quarter. While that is a 56 percent decrease from the same quarter in 2006, the chain's sales were up 12 percent -- from $124 million to $139 million. (Click on graphic for details.)

That's the good news. The bad news is that company suffered a $28 million loss in 2007 compared to a net profit of $13 million in 2006. And that's probably the headline you'll see in the financial media.

But with the gains in the fourth quarter — its first quarter with former Danish TV executive Per Mikael Jensen as chief executive — Metro is turning a corner.

Metro did better in France, Italy, Chile, Hong Kong and Canada. The company's problems are in Spain and the U.S.

Metro has put its three U.S. papers — Boston, New York and Philadelphia — up for sale, and not a minute too soon. A statement from Metro says its fourth quarter in the U.S. was "very disappointing" following good revenue growth in October.

In the fourth quarter (October-December), Metro Boston had $2.3 million in sales, Philadelphia $2.4 million and New York $3.5 million. During the same period, the three papers had a combined loss of $2.8 million. For the year, Metro had combined sales of $34 million and a loss of $12 million in the U.S.

To cut costs, Metro is combining operations at the three papers, which previously were somewhat independent of one another. Those three papers remain up for sale, but Jensen wouldn't comment on how the bidding is going. We have reported previously that billionaire oilman Phil Anschutz, owner of the struggling Examiner chain, isn't bidding, but BostonNOW owner 365 Media (Iceland's phone company) was interested.

While Metro has not made a profit in the U.S., Jensen said his chain is doing better in Canada because it has gone coast-to-coast and has become a factor in the national advertising market. He admitted that the same could not be said for Metro in the U.S., which has a presence in only three markets.

But Metro had some eyepopping news to report:

"Our joint venture operations have delivered an additional $0.3m EBIT (Earnigns before interest and taxes) in Q4 including a quarterly profit in Brazil after only eight months of operation. The improvement arises from the operations in Mexico, Korea and Canada which all continue to deliver improving profits. Canada's sales have increased 53 percent in Q407 versus 2006 and it is now the second largest Metro operation in terms of revenue."

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Salt Lake City gets free afternoon paper

The Salt Lake Tribune's new afternoon free daily, The Buzz, premiered Friday, February 1. The plan is for hawkers to pass it out between 3:30 and 6:30 weekdays. It goes to press at 12:30.

Judging from the first issue, The Buzz will use one photo for the cover to emphasize its main story, though there were teases at the bottom for other stories. The first edition was 24 pages. It's main story was on the death of LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley. The other stories were three paragraphs or less. The sections included "the primer," "the city," "the wire," "sports & rec," "finance," and "twilight."

The Buzz has been in the works for several months, though its working title was "The Flash." The paper will help the Tribune grab at the 18-to-34 demographic while making it less likely that another free daily would start in the growing Salt Lake City market. The Tribune is owned by MediaNews Group, the Denver-based chain headed by Dean Singleton, who has previously criticized the free daily concept.