Thursday, July 31, 2008

Free daily apparently planned in L.A.

With the Los Angeles Times shedding staff and cutting back coverage, this could be a good time to start a free daily in Los Angeles. Here's an ad that popped up on Craigslist. We're trying to find out who placed it. If you have any information, our e-mail address is
    NEW FREE DAILY NEWSPAPER LAUNCHING - in search of leadership team (Mid Wilshire)

    Reply to:
    Date: 2008-07-29, 7:13AM PDT

    We are going to launch a FREE daily newspaper here in Los Angeles. We will also be developing a companion website. The initial circulation will be between 200,000 and 350,000 daily M-F, no Saturday edition and a 500,000 circulation Sunday edition which will be available nationally.

    It will be distributed free of charge throughout the Los Angeles market through alliances with key retailers and vendor box distribution. Additionally you'll be able to subcribe to it and receive home delivery for $50 a year.

    The financing is secure and the ownership (comprised of some remarkable wealthy Angelenos you probably have heard of) is eager to assemble a small idea team that may be comprised of some of our intial hires. The ownership team comes from a wide array of businesses exclusive of traditional media. So...

    The goal is to make the paper sustainable within 30 months. Employees will profit share and the company will never be sold and never turned public without a majority vote of the employees.

    We are looking for writers, web developers, photographers, editors (that can write), designers and seasoned sales professionals. If you have experience here in LA we know who you are, if you do not but are looking to break in, fine.

    We've secured office space in the heart of the city. When we launch, our staff will likely number between 75 and 100.

    Right now we are seeking people with ideas who are willing to share them in strict confidence. You will not be paid for this time now but, you may be considered for what will likely be the most coveted media jobs in the country.

    The interest list is forming, are you in? Send us your resume, we'll let you know if we want clips.

    Your application will be CONFIDENTIAL and we are an EOE.

    Location: Mid Wilshire
    it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
    Compensation: no pay
    PostingID: 774473716

Quick in Dallas switches to weekly

A.H. Belo Corp. plans to lay off 14 percent of the staff of the Dallas Morning News and convert its 100,000 circulation free daily, Quick, into a weekly. Belo says its total sales are off 21 percent this year which includes a 12 percent drop in online sales. It hopes to cut $50 million company-wide.

Quick will now focus more intensely focus on the entertainment interests of young single adults and drop much of the hard news coverage the paper was providing.

The move comes as the Dallas Morning News is about to start a free 16-page broadsheet newspaper called Briefing that is being thrown on the driveways of non-subscribers in high-income areas. When Briefing was announced, rumors about the fate of Quick began swirling. Just this week, the start date of Briefing was changed from Aug. 22 to Aug. 27.

The Dallas Morning News launched Quick on Nov. 10, 2003 in an attempt to head off another free daily planned in Dallas, the A.M. Journal Express. The Journal Express lasted six months. In the four-and-a-half years since then, Quick apparently wasn't able to become a strong enough asset that it could escape the budget ax.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this posting said Briefing had already started, which is incorrect.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Metro interested in U.S. network of papers

The chief executive of Metro International, Per Mikael Jensen (pictured), says he's interested in forming a network with other U.S. free daily publishers to attract national ad dollars. He told in an e-mail:
    A national sales-network could attract national advertisers. The U.S. is very different to Europe in the fact that U.S. doesn't really have any national newspaper at all. The largest by circulation newspaper is USA Today which [reaches] only 1 percent of the population. In Europe, you often find the largest newspaper being both national and covering up to 7-8 percent of the population and in terms of readership reaching more than 20 percent of the adult population.

    We can do the same in America. Imagine a newspaper — or rather, a network of newspapers — all targeting that very hard to reach audience of urban, affluent, active 20-40 year old readers in millions. If we joined forces, we could reach as many as 30 million readers per day and hence really competing with TV, national magazines etc.
Are you listening RedEye? tbt*? Examiner? Dallas Quick?
    And I would be very happy to create the network together with the local players, which in return means that they could maintain their local strength but adding new revenue.
Are you listening Palo Alto, Conway, Vail, Denver, San Mateo, Santa Monica, etc.?
    In fact, if some company decided to invest say $2-$400 million USD I strongly believe that they could create that national network of newspapers that would be extremely competitive in the national market. A 300.000 circ free newspaper with some 50-70 staffers can be run for less than 20 million USD per year. If created in a network, costs would be significantly less for the following editions.

    Could it happen? I strongly believe so. If the local publishers aren't willing to do it, I'm sure somebody else will do it on their own and hence represent maybe the biggest threat to independent, local publishers.
It is almost as if he is laying down the gauntlet! It's time everybody who is in the free daily business, or wants to be, discuss this.

A few thoughts of my own:

1. Metro is now in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Tribune has free dailies in Chicago and Baltimore. The Examiner is in San Francisco, Baltimore and Washington. Belo has one in Dallas. Denver has a strong independent. Freedom newspapers has one in suburban Phoenix. Poynter has one in St. Pete, Fla. And there's a gaggle of free dailies in the San Francisco Bay Area and another gaggle in the Colorado Rockies (Vail, Aspen, etc.). There's a free daily network right now if everybody wants to cooperate.

2. Don't be fooled by the doom and gloom reporting about our economy. Smart investors buy low and sell high. Now's the time for free dailies to invest and prepare for a boom ahead.

3. Paid dailies will soon die, but that doesn't mean print journalism is dead. The demand for free dailies is strong. People prefer the format of a printed paper to one that they have to read online. Printed newspapers will be here for many years to come, but large metro dailies which rely on elderly subscribers are doomed.

4. Free dailies have dominated Canada because the major newspaper chains operate both free and paid papers in each market. As readership in paid papers declines, free daily readership increases. Advertisers end up staying with newspapers, which have kept pace with the times.

Let's have a robust discussion about this. Let's get a national network going. Let's push a few paid daily companies into going national with free dailies. Now is the time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Readers love free daily newspapers

Residents of Palo Alto, California, can't get enough of the free daily newspapers available in their town. The first free daily was the Daily News, which started in 1995 after the collapse of the town's paid circulation daily. The founders of the Daily News, after selling to Knight Ridder four years ago, returned in late May to start the Daily Post. So Palo Alto — the home of Stanford University and many high-tech firms like Hewlett Packard — is seeing a rebound in printed newspapers. It's what the techies might call "Old Media." And, as the Post reports in its July 22 issue, demand for the printed word is soaring:

The part at the end about contacting local businesses seems a bit tacky -- too much like a PBS station beg-a-thon -- but the implication is clear enough: Local advertising makes or breaks these community-oriented free dailies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Metro CEO proposes network of free dailies

The head of Metro International, the worldwide free daily chain, tells Reuters that free dailies in the U.S. should consider forming a network for the purpose of attracting ad dollars. Mikael Jensen offered the idea as he announced disappointing quarterly results. Jensen said his chain is looking to grow in Latin America, Asia and Russia, while Western Europe and the United States are ripe for consolidation.

We've got an e-mail into Jensen for comments about his national network. Here's a previous posting on U.S. markets served and unserved by free dailies. Metro is now in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Tribune has free dailies in Chicago and Baltimore. Belo has one in Dallas. There's a solid independent in Denver. Freedom newspapers has one in suburban Phoenix. Poynter has one in St. Pete, Fla. And there's a gaggle of free dailies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Sure, none exist in places like Atlanta, Miami, Houston and L.A., but if the network succeeds, those markets could have papers overnight.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Aspen Daily News marks 30 years

The Aspen (Colorado) Daily News is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a number of stories in its July 20 edition about its history. (See "Editor's Note," "The road to relevancy," Muckraking publisher looks back, "Who needs advertising?" and a time capsule from 1978.)

While it wasn't the first free daily, in this era where media outlets are repeatedly bought and sold, the Aspen Daily News has had the same owner since the beginning, Dave Danforth.

The paper has an independent streak, it tackles controversial subjects and takes pride in the fact that its news coverage has cost it advertisers. The paper's slogan is "If you don't want it printed, don't let it happen."

The Aspen Daily News began as a single-sheet newspaper on July 1, 1978. In a few years, the paper bought a press and switched to newsprint. In 1988, Aspen got its second daily. The Aspen Times, then a weekly, decided to publish a daily to compete for ad dollars that were moving from the weekly to the Aspen Daily News.

It's hard to imagine a town of 12,000 residents supporting two newspapers, but 20 years later, both are still operating. Aspen is, of course, known for its skiing, but the summer season is strong there too. The weakest times of the year for business are the spring and fall, yet both papers year around without interruption. The Aspen Times is six days a week and the Daily News prints seven days. Shown here is the Aspen Daily News press room. The photo is from the paper's website.

In the free daily industry, most of the attention is paid to commuter dailies like Metro, amNewYork, 24 Hours, RedEye, the Examiner chain, and so on. But a format that receives less attention is the community daily, which seems to have a higher number of profitable papers which have been in existence longer than the commuter dailies. Both Aspen papers are examples of quality commuter dailies. And Aspen's competitive zeal has spread to Vail, where that town just got its second free daily earlier this month.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Examiner kills suburban editions in Bay Area

The Examiner chain has been getting a lot of positive press about its plans to introduce a Sunday newspaper in San Francisco, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The new edition starts this Sunday, July 13. The move makes sense if you're delivering to homes because people are usually home on Sundays. Why clutter their driveways or doorsteps with unwanted papers on the other days of the week?

But even with the addition of a Sunday edition, the Examiner is cutting costs. First, it is eliminating Saturday editions in those three markets. In other words, the Saturday product is being repackaged and delivered a day later.

And in the Bay Area, the Examiner is dropping its suburban editions serving communities south of San Francisco in San Mateo County. The Examiner plans to close its bureau there and move those staffers to a San Francisco office. Starting Monday, San Mateo County residents will receive the same Examiner as readers in San Francisco.

The Examiner, in all three markets, will have a large, home-delivered circulation on Thursdays and Sundays. The other days of the week, readers will need to visit the Examiner websites or pick up a paper from a news rack. They won't be delivered to homes as in the past.