Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A big "oops" in Santa Barbara

When you print an apology that includes the sentence "The Daily Sound would never advocate for the assassination of our president or any other person," you know you're having a bad day.

The free daily in Santa Barbara, California, is apologizing for a column that many readers apparently interpreted as a call to take the life of the president.

Of course there are two sides to any story, and this is no exception. The Daily Sound printed this piece (here is a link) December 10 by Gina Perry, a resident who writes a column every other week for the paper. She slams Obama supporters including those who wanted to put a $200,000 bounty on the head of U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Tom Donohue, who is speaking out against the president's healthcare plan and proposed carbon emission legislation. The "bounty" was for anyone who could dig up personal dirt on Donohue that would force him to resign.

At the end of the column, Perry writes, "The most dangerous extremist in this country is the one running it. Perhaps a bounty should be put on his head."

Jeramy Gordon, the publisher and founder of the Daily Sound, wrote in a December 16 apology, "Even if the assassination of our president wasn’t Perry’s intended meaning — which she claims — it’s a conclusion that many highly educated people came to."

To Gordon's credit, he didn't fire Perry. His reasoning: "we carry the old-school ideal that fighting opposing opinions with more opinions and more words is the most effective way to right a perceived wrong." And to that end, Gordon has printed numerous letters critical of him and Perry.

Many publishers would have fired her in the hopes that the controversy would go away. At a corporate, chain-owned paper, it's easy to imagine a boss at the home office calling the local publisher and yelling, "What the hell is going on there? Fire that woman!"

On the other hand, Gordon did offer a full apology and explained that the column wasn't edited before being published. "This is truly an unfortunate situation and we’ve learned our lesson that guest opinion pieces need to be more closely monitored," Gordon wrote.

Still, we can imagine that when the calls started rolling in after Perry's column first appeared, Gordon probably felt like somebody in a Southwest Airlines commercial that has the tag line "Want to get away?"

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Column about snow causes a storm

A controversy has erupted in Colorado over a free daily's firing of a reporter who criticized Vail Resorts for exaggerating snowfall reports.

The reasons behind the firing of Bob Berwyn are in dispute.

A Denver Post columnist says Berwyn was fired by the Summit Daily News for his Nov. 19 column, which chided Vail Resorts for saying it got so much snow that it had to shut its headquarters down. The company's headquarters are in the Denver suburb of Broomfield — 70 miles from the slopes on Colorado's front range. While it was snowing in Broomfield, it was sunny on the ski slopes.

Berwyn pointed this fact out at the end of the column.

"I sometimes wonder whether the ski industry wouldn't benefit more from being completely transparent about weather and snowfall with its customers," Berwyn wrote.

The Summit Daily News, based in the ski town of Breckenridge (above), gets a lot of its advertising from Vail Resorts, the owner of ski-lifts and real estate offices in that town as well as Vail.

Berwyn told the Denver Post that Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz called to cancel his ads — and two weeks later Berwyn was out of a job.

The publisher of Summit Daily News, Jim Morgan, denies that pressure from Vail Resorts led to Berwyn's firing.

Morgan wrote: "[O]ur decision to terminate his employment [was] based on a series of events, documented in reviews over a significant period of time."

Adding another dimension to the controversy, Katz, the head of Vail resorts, issued a news release complaining Berwyn never attempted to reach the company for its side of the story. Also, Katz asks why would he be hyping the snow in October, when his resorts aren't even open?

Katz says he only put his ads on a "temporary" hold after he suspected Berwyn was repeating what Katz said was a private conversation they had after the column. Katz said he never threatened to permanently pull his ads.


All of this left my head spinning. Maybe it's a case of a big advertiser pushing around a newspaper over critical coverage, or perhaps it is a bad reporter making up a story as to why he got fired. I don't know.

And if Berwyn is going to go after the ski industry for exaggerating snow accumulations, why didn't he do it as a big blockbuster front-page story instead of a sentence or two buried at the end of a long column?

One other thing I don't know, and this has nothing to do with journalism, but why does a ski resort operator have its headquarters 70 miles from the slopes?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Washington Post redesigns Express

The Washington Post has redesigned its free daily, Express, by changing fonts, adding more color and going to a magazine approach on the front page.

Instead, Express now has a cover story each day consisting of a headline and large photo — but no text. Inside Express is devoting a full-page to the cover story, giving a writer an opportunity to go into more depth than usual.

The redesign wasn't a radical change — sometimes designers go nuts and readers don't recognize the new product — but instead appeared to be tweaking of an already successful free daily.

Unlike RedEye, TBT, Metro or amNewYork, Express isn't putting much celebrity news on the cover. Instead, the D.C. free daily has a heavy diet of hard news. Recent cover stories include:
    • Dec. 1: "Obama's War," a preview of his national TV speech on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan.

    • Dec. 2: The White House party crashers complaining their lives have been destroyed.

    • Dec. 3: The beginning of stem cell trials.

    • Dec. 4: The implications of the NBC-Comcast merger.

    • Dec. 7: "Emissions: Impossible," a preview of the Copenhagen climate conference.

    • Dec. 8: The uprising in Tehran.

    • Dec. 9: Improving test scores in D.C. schools.

    • Dec. 10: "The War and Peace Prize," the president's Nobel Peace Prize.

    • Dec. 11: "On Notice," the Metro transit system's boss is under the gun.
Notice that the biggest tabloid story during this period — Tiger Woods — wasn't a cover story, though it was teased on the front a couple of times.

"Our goal is to pack more news onto our pages than ever before while at the same time making the paper more attractive and easier to navigate," said a front page note introducing the redesign on Nov. 30.

As for the fonts, Express changed its news headline font from Knockout to Flama, its features headline font from Miller to Farnham, and its body copy (and decks) from Miller to Fenway. Also, they're using Popular in places.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Chicago RedEye increases circulation to 250,000

Amid the financial disaster that is the Tribune Company, there is a shining star — RedEye, the company's free daily in Chicago. It attracts readers in the coveted 18-34 age group that its older sibling, the Chicago Tribune, is unable to reach.

On January 4, RedEye plans to boost its circulation from 200,000 to 250,000 a day — a 25% increase — to keep its retail outlets well stocked with the paper throughout the day. It is also boosting distribution to the campuses of about 30 colleges.

RedEye's content is a combination of "to the point" news (short stories), a heavy helping of pop culture and lots of entertainment coverage. If you want in-depth political or business coverage, pick up the Tribune.

"RedEye is a key brand within our content portfolio, reaching Chicagoans that are young and time-pressed. Advertisers realize that RedEye connects them with this audience better than any other player in the market," said Kurt Mueller, general manager of RedEye.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Buyer emerges for Arizona free daily

Randy Miller — the owner of a free daily in Telluride, Colo., and a weekly in Tucson, Ariz. — has reached an agreement to buy the free daily East Valley Tribune in Mesa, Ariz., rescuing it from closure.

The Tribune switched from paid to free in October 2007. But earlier this year owner Freedom Communications entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, which forced the company to either close or sell unprofitable operations. Freedom put the Tribune up for sale, and if no buyer was found by Dec. 31, the paper was to close.

Terms weren't disclosed. But Miller said he hoped to keep a "substantial number" of the Tribune's remaining 140 employees, according to a report by the Tribune.

Miller is the former owner of the Colorado Daily in Boulder, one of the earliest free dailes. He sold it in 2007 to the owner of Boulder's other newspaper, The Daily Camera.

Miller currently owns the Telluride Daily Planet and the Tucson alt-weekly The Explorer. Miller's Explorer is printed on the Tribune's new, $4 million press, which he will now own.

The Tribune won a Pulitzer this year for a series that showed how a sheriff's emphasis on enforcing immigration laws reduced response times for other types of crime.

A major challenge Miller will face is increasing the Tribune's advertising base, which has been hard hit by the downturn in the housing market.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Good news, bad news

The good news ... Metro says it has become the 5th largest circulated newspaper in the United States, with a combined circulation (Boston, NY and Philly) of 590,553. Metro claims it is the country's fifth largest circulation paper, pulling ahead of the Washington Post, with 582,844 (Monday-Saturday).

Of course advertisers still favor paid circulation papers, so the Washington Post will continue to charge more per column inch than Metro. But Metro, and other free dailies, continue to have strong and growing readership numbers while paid papers are losing ground.

The Washington Post, for instance, lost 5 percent of its circulation year over year in the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation. The San Francisco Chronicle saw its circulation plunge 26 percent during the period. Nationally, the overall decrease in paid circulation was 10 percent.

Metro has another bragging right — it commmissioned a Scarborough survey which found Metro was No. 1 among adults 18-49 in its three markets.

The bad news ... The experiment of converting the Mesa (Ariz.) Tribune from paid to free circulation has failed. The owners, Freedom Communications, have announced the paper will close Dec. 30 unless a buyer is found. That will result in the layoff about 140 employees.

Despite winning a Pulitzer a year ago, the Tribune hasn't made money in two years. The paper started in 1891. Mesa is a suburb of Phoenix, an area hard-hit by the housing industry meltdown.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Metro puts serifs on headlines

Metro in NY, Philly and Boston will unveil a redesign on Monday that a press release says will help the free daily in "targeting the hard-to-reach metropolitan." The big changes we see on the front are:
    1. A new serif headline font
    2. No copy on the front, just teases and photos
    3. A different shade of green for the flag.
Starting Monday, Metro will be divided into three sections:
    1. Local and world news, commentary, business and environmental topics
    2. "My Metro" — entertainment, education, pets, health, style, money, home, travel, technology
    3. Sports — previews, predictions, analyses, scores
Metro is also adding material from CNN, Self, Fodor’s, Wired,, Thrillist,, Geeksugar, Lucky and Flavorpill.

“Heightened expert analysis, commentary, powerful pictures and reader views will enhance Metro’s editorial core keeping the news dynamic, fresh and interesting," says Tony Metcalf, editor-in-chief, Metro US. "Metro is known to innovate, changing print and design history several times, and leading the pack in targeting the hard-to-reach metropolitan. This redesign is the next stage of that."

"This is a bigger change than a standard redesign; we are in the middle of transforming the newspaper itself," says Per Mikael Jensen, CEO of Metro International. “Our ambition is to continue to deliver the free newspaper of choice.”

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

New evening free daily starts in Toronto

Newsboys and girls, dressed in poorboy caps and white oxford shirts yelling "Extra! Extra!," handed out copies of Toronto's newest daily, t.o.night, to people on the streets of Canada's most populous city yesterday afternoon.

"We wouldn't dare launch another paper in the morning — there are already six out there," John Cameron, publisher of the newspaper, told the CBC. "The market is already oversaturated, in my opinion."

The free paper is printed on magazine-style glossy paper and carries mostly wire news stories and copy from Cameron's local entertainment Web site, BlogTO.

Cameron said advertisers are already responding.

"We are [the] last touch point that advertisers get before consumers go home — readers are sitting on a train on the way home. They want to be entertained," said Cameron. "And there's ... nothing there to provide that."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bulletin: An ad lead for free dailies

Budweiser has launched a new campaign with the slogan "Good Times ... They're Out There," and they want to reach drinkers in the 18-24 demo. According to Marketing News, Bud's interested in free dailies that target young readers: "[P]ress executions will focus on free dailies and magazines such as Time Out, Shortlist, Empire and Total Film to target people when they are looking for a night out."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Palo Alto paper goes from tab to broadsheet

    CORRECTION: The following item incorrectly stated that the Daily News in Palo Alto, Calif., was the first free daily to go broadsheet. Actually, the Starkville (Mississippi) Dispatch has that distinction, launching on June 8, 2009. Our thanks to Peter Imes of the Dispatch for pointing out the error — Nov. 17, 2009
The pioneering Daily News in Palo Alto has made another innovative move — switching this morning from a tabloid to a full-sized broadsheet. first reported the change July 25.

The move is certainly a risk. Part of the distinctive style of the successful Daily News (formerly the Palo Alto Daily News) was its compact "long-tab" format, 11- by 16.25-inches. The size allowed it to display three or four news stories on the front as well as a strip of ads at the bottom. The format, which debuted in 1995, has been frequently copied.

But a risk is probably what the Daily News has got to take at this point in its history. For its first 10 years (1995-2005), the paper was a major success story, with its circulation going from 3,000 to 67,000 per day. The page count ranged up to 100 per day. Each edition carried a couple hundred local ads. It sprouted sister papers in five other San Francisco Bay Area communities.

In 2005, the original owners sold the paper and ownership changed a couple of times, from Knight Ridder to McClatchy and now to MediaNews Group, a chain known for cost-cutting, not innovation. Changes by new management, including the firing of a popular editor, jolted the paper's momentum into reverse. Before long, the Daily News was closing editions, laying off employees and desperately making format changes to stop the slide.

To make matters worse, the former owners opened a competing paper, The Daily Post.

In May, local management decided to switch the Daily News switched from the long-tab to a short tab (10.75- x 11.375 inches). A source said the Daily News switched from a commercial printer to presses operated by a sister paper in San Jose, Calif. The San Jose pressmen didn't want to print the long tab size paper that the Palo Alto Daily News had been using.

The move wasn't communicated to the boss of MediaNews Group, Dean Singleton, who was furious when he saw the small format. He likes broadsheets.

While the broadsheet size gives the Daily News several advantages:
    1. Many advertisers prefer to buy full-pages in broadsheets and balk at tabloids.

    2. MediaNews owns other dailies in the Bay Area, and all are broadsheets. Converting the Daily News to the same size pages as the other papers would make it easier for publications to share pages and ads.

    3. Some readers feel tabloid-sized papers are trashy while broadsheets represent higher-caliber papers. (I completely disagree with that sentiment, but I know some people feel that way.)
It's been a rough couple of years for the Daily News. Obviously management hopes this move will get the paper back on track.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Free daily thrives in Denver suburb

In the discussion of free dailies, one successful paper hasn't received much attention. The Aurora Sentinel has been serving the Denver suburb of Aurora since 2004. The Sentinel is a tab with a page count that ranges from 24 to 28 Monday-Friday and 56-60 for its weekend edition, according to Managing Editor David Cole.

Cole has a newsroom with 10 people, and a couple more if you count interns.

Of Denver's suburbs, Aurora is the largest with more than 300,000 people.

"We're more like a metro area," Cole said.

For a century, Denver had two paid-circulation dailies, The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News. On Feb. 27, the Rocky closed, leaving the Post as the big paper in Colorado.

"The demise of the Rocky has been a boost, but not a real noticeable one. Circulation is up a bit, but advertising is still pretty stagnant — like everyone else. We're independent, and we've been in the black the entire time, so we're hanging in there," Cole told us in an e-mail.

The Rocky's demise didn't leave Denver without newspaper competition. The city still has a feisty alt-weekly, Westword, and a free daily, The Denver Daily News, which is part of a group that includes the Vail (Colo.) Mountaineer and The Daily Post in Palo Alto, Calif.

The Denver Daily News stays in Denver, however, and the Aurora Sentinel stays in Aurora.

"I think what (Denver Daily News editor) Tad (Rickman) is doing is admirable, but we don't consider them as competition," Cole said.

The Denver Post circulates in all of that city's suburbs, but with budget cuts, its newsroom is smaller and less ambitious than in the past.

"The Denver Post largely ignores us, and we regularly scoop them on good stories," said Cole.

The Sentinel transitioned from a weekly to a daily, a shift that more community weekly papers might consider.

Cole explained that the Sentinel has been in existence, in one name or another, for more than 100 years as a weekly, mailed to home subscribers.

In 2004, Sentinel Publisher H. Harrison Cochran launched the Aurora Daily Sun, a free rack daily Monday-Friday. He continued to publish The Aurora Sentinel once a week, mailing it to subscribers.

Two years ago, he combined the Aurora Sentinel and Daily Sun under the Sentinel title. Now they're a five-day daily, with a weekend edition.

Colorado has 13 free dailies — more than any other state. In addition to the Aurora Sentinel and Denver Daily News, there are free dailies in Aspen (two of them!), Boulder, Colorado Springs, Frisco, Glenwood Springs, Granby, Steamboat Springs, Telluride and Vail (two).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Free daily takes on paid daily in Mississippi

Starkville, Mississippi, a city of 24,000 that is home to Mississippi State University, has become one of the few places in the United States with two separately owned daily newspapers, one of them being a free daily.

The paid daily in town is the Starkville Daily News, established in 1903. But The Commercial Dispatch in nearby Columbus has also served Starkville for many years.

On July 8, the Commercial Dispatch launched the free Starkville Dispatch, which is now available in the afternoon Monday through Friday and on Sunday morning.

“In a time when most news about newspapers is doom and gloom, we hope this expansion will show that our industry is still alive and viable in the Golden Triangle,” said Dispatch Editor and Publisher Birney Imes in an announcement July 8. “Starkville is a dynamic community, and the distance separating it and Columbus seems to be shrinking all the time. Residents of both communities visit the other for work, entertainment, dining and education.”

(We were tipped off about this story by Piet Bakker's Newspaper Innovation blog. All tips to are appreciated.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Toronto to get an evening free daily

Toronto, which already has two morning free dailies (24 hours and Metro), will get an evening free paper called t.o.night starting Sept. 8.

It's not part of a newspaper chain, like nearly all of Canada's free dailies, but instead is the product of web-oriented company in Toronto, FreshDaily, which publishes three city-centric websites (Toronto’s blogTO, Vancouver’s Beyond Robson and Montreal’s Midnight Poutine) covering arts, music, film, fashion, food and local news. Each site has two full-time editors and draws content from a host of local contributors, with advertisers paying the bills, according to local multimedia commentator Neil Sanderson.

T.o.night was announced on blogTO, which said the new paper will be published 5 times a week with an initial circulation of 100,000 copies a day. All copies will be distributed between 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. near subway stops and other transit touch-points in the downtown core.

"As far as local content, t.o.night will put more emphasis on event information, restaurant reviews and other happenings that will allow readers to plan their evenings as they look to unwind after a long day at the office," the company's announcement says.

The announcement also said, "the new daily will also come complete with a full page of local content created by blogTO."

RUSHHOUR'S OVER: Piet Bakker's Newspaper Innovation blog reports that CanWest's RushHour free dailies in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton have quietly closed. They launched in 2006 after the youth-oriented free daily Dose came and went. The free daily market in Canada is owned by Metro and 24 hours/heures.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Vail Daily's attempt to hire rival backfires

Two years ago, the most senior news writer in Colorado's Vail Valley, Randy Wyrick, was fired by the Vail Daily newspaper and ended up becoming a truck driver.

When the Vail Mountaineer started last year, one of its first hires was Wyrick.

Now, according to the Mountaineer, the Vail Daily's editor and publisher, Don Rogers, has offered Wyrick a job.

"Evidently, Mr. Wyrick is only now an attractive hire once he became a key employee of the Mountaineer," the Mountaineer's attorney, Todd I. Freeman, wrote in a cease-and-desist letter to the Vail Daily.

In the letter, which the Mountaineer gleefully printed on its front page July 17, Freeman says the Vail Daily has tried to lure away other Mountaineer employees including its senior salesman.

The Vail Daily hasn't commented on the letter.

The letter is the most recent in a series of skirmishes between the free newspapers that began when the Mountaineer began printing 13 months ago. Mountaineer owner Jim Pavelich started the Vail Daily in 1984 and sold it in 1993 to the Reno, Nev.-based Swift Newspapers chain. He launched the Mountaineer because he was disgusted at his old paper's negative tone, which he said conveyed the idea that its writers hated living in Vail.

In the past year, the papers have battled over whether the Mountaineer can distribute at Starbucks (apparently the Vail Daily has an exclusive deal) and over deals the Vail Daily allegedly made that gave low rates to advertisers who promised not to buy space in the Mountaineer. In other words, it's an old fashioned newspaper war in one of the nation's last two-newspaper towns.

Free daily in California going broadsheet

In Palo Alto, Calif., the Daily News is once again going to change its page size. This time it will become a 21-inch deep broadsheet.

The paper, one of the earliest and most successful free dailies, dropped its distinctive long tab (16.25-x-11-inch) format in May for a short tab that's almost a square (11.5 inches wide by 11.25 inches deep).

The change was made because the paper switched presses from a commercial jobber to a facility owned by its parent company, MediaNews Group, where the San Jose Mercury News is printed.

I'm told that this fall, the Daily News will switch to the same size as the Mercury News, 11.5 inches wide and 21 inches deep.

Free dailies have usually been printed as tabloids because they're easier to hold, especially on mass transit. The Daily News doesn't distribute much of its circulation on mass transit, but instead relies on the public to pick up its papers from news-racks or other public distribution points. So the size change might not be that important to Daily News readers.

Traditionally, advertisers have favored the broadsheet size, especially department stores which have wanted to display women's apparel in a large format that would allow big photographs. This switch to a larger size might result in more ads, which would be good news for a paper that has been forced to eliminate several of its editions and discontinue publishing on Sundays and Mondays due to a drop in advertising.

CORRECTION: The previous item incorrectly stated that the Daily News of Palo Alto, Calif., would be the first free daily to go broadsheet. That reference has been omitted. Actually, the Starkville (Mississippi) Dispatch has that distinction, launching on June 8, 2009, more than two months before the Palo Alto paper switched to a broadsheet. Our thanks to Peter Imes of the Dispatch for pointing out the error — Nov. 17, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Paper's owner flips over format change

Funny story out of California. I'm told that Dean Singleton, head of MediaNews Group, became irate when he learned that his free daily in Palo Alto, Calif. had drastically reduced its page size without telling him.

The Palo Alto Daily News had been 16.25 x 11 inches, but local management decided to shrink the size to 10.75 x 11.375 inches.

The change was made in early May, but apparently nobody told the boss. When he found out, he became enraged. He demanded to know who made the change, and apparently some management positions have changed as a result.

A source says the Daily News switched from a commercial printer to presses operated by a sister paper in San Jose, Calif. The San Jose printers didn't want to print the size paper that the Palo Alto Daily News had been using.

In the next few months, the Daily News will either revert to its previous size or, possibly, go to a broadsheet. If it does, it might be the first free broadsheet ever -- an interesting idea.

I've thought for many years that free dailies might attract more upscale readers (and top dollar advertisers) if they became broadsheets. The Palo Alto Daily News, which has blazed trails before, might reach new heights as a broadsheet. It's certainly worth a shot.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Metro Philly briefly suspends publication

Metro Philadelphia stopped printing last week but could be back on the streets as early as today, its owner tells the rival Philadelphia Inquirer.

"We decided to take a few days off," said Yggers "Julius" Mortensen, chief executive of Seabay, which financed the sale of the Philly, Boston and NY Metros to former Metro International CEO Pelle Tornberg. "I can confirm that we're not closing down."

There's no word of the closure on the paper's website.

Metro employees said the newspaper announced in last Thursday's issue that it was taking a week off to celebrate Independence Day, the Inquirer reported.

The Inquirer story did not give the exact reasons for the closure, which came one month after the paper was sold to Seabay.

Mortensen said the suspension "quite regular" and was "no reflection" on either the newspaper's health or the poor business climate for the news media.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Paper sorry for 'Jewish descent' reference

Readers of Colorado's Vail Daily were offended by an article that said a burglary suspect was “of Jewish or Eastern European descent.”

The paper apparently decided to use the offensive term after getting a news release from the sheriff's department that said the suspect had “dark hair, large nose, pierced ears, narrow face and eyes that were close together.”

But the sheriff never used the term “of Jewish or Eastern European descent" -- that was something the Vail Daily staff created on their own, according to a story by Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick.
    Similar articles have routinely included suspects described as Hispanic or white, with no expressions of outrage from readers. ...

    Our readers point out that while mentioning ethnicity is always a slippery slope, using “Jewish descent” is a bit different because Judaism is, first of all, a religion. They argue we probably wouldn't describe a suspect in a suspect as Christian or Muslim. They're probably right.

    On the other hand, many Jews — some of whom observe and some of whom don't observe the religion — consider Judaism to be their ethnicity and their culture. Eastern European Jews often don't feel connected to any one country. That's because their families originated in territories that either changed hands between governments or their families had to flee their villages under threat of massacre and death. Many of these Jews, therefore, think of their Jewishness in the same way their neighbors identify themselves as Irish, Mexican, Swedish or Japanese.

    Because of that — and in the press of deadline — we found it appropriate that someone could be described as looking Jewish.
According to Zalaznick, two editors saw the "Jewish descent" reference before the paper was printed. It appears nobody lost their job over this one.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Does size matter? The jury is out!

A free daily in California has reduced the height of its pages from 16 inches to 11.25 inches.

The Palo Alto Daily News made the change May 5, according to the San Francisco Peninsula Press Club. The move was required when the paper changed press rooms. But it raises the question of what size do readers prefer?

We don't have any opinion on that, but we can see the pros and cons. The pros are that a smaller paper might fit under a person's arm better and increase page count. The cons are that there are fewer objects to see on each page and a taller paper won't be mistaken for junk mail.

Palo Alto, a city about 30 miles south of San Francisco, is a fiercely competitive market for free dailies, with the Palo Alto Daily News (recently changing its name to "The Daily News") dominating the market for years. The Daily Journal, based in San Mateo, began distributing in Palo Alto a few years ago. And the founders of the Daily News, who sold the paper in 2005, have started the Palo Alto Daily Post. And each paper has a different page size. It may take years to sort out which page size readers prefer the most.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tobacco ad ruling hits Canadian free dailies

With cigarette ads prohibited on TV in Canada, free dailies have benefitted from tobacco advertising. The Tobacco Act allowed cigarette ads in publications if they had an adult readership of at least 85 percent. A new bill in the federal legislature (C-32) would eliminate that provision. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said the tougher advertising regulations are in response to a "wave" of tobacco advertising in the last few years in publications that are easily accessible by young people, according to a report by CanWest, a publisher of free dailies. Publishers are crying foul. If these new restrictions are approved, free dailies could be hit hard.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Free daily planned for Cape Cod

Here's one from the I-wish-I-had-thought-of-that department: GateHouse Media New England will launch a free, seasonal daily on Cape Cod that will start in June and end on Labor Day.

The new publication, Cape Cod Day, will publish Tuesday through Saturday and will be distributed free across Cape Cod at hundreds of locations with an average daily distribution of 25,000, according to announcement posted on the company's WickedLocal website.

“The focus on the new daily paper will specifically target the tens of thousands of summer visitors, as well as vacationing Cape Codders, who enjoy this beautiful place we get to call home year-round,” said Mark Skala, publisher of GateHouse Media’s Cape Cod region. “The editorial focus of Cape Cod Day will be to produce fun, informative stories and resources for readers such as local news, things to do with the family, arts and entertainment features, and stories that highlight the people, businesses and natural beauty of the Cape environment.

“This is a paper produced by Cape Codders who call Cape Cod home and want to offer visitors and tourists a glimpse of the Cape through our perspective,” said Skala. “This new free daily will also be an affordable alternative to advertisers, and to readers who don’t want to spend $1 a day for a newspaper.”

Gate House already publishes a number of weekly papers in the area, and the new paper will be produced out of its newsroom in Orleans.

Within hours of the company’s internal announcement about the planned launch, Skala said the sales force had already booked front page ads with local Cape Cod businesses for the entire 11-week print run.

“The initial response so far to Cape Cod Day has been incredibly positive and encouraging,” said Skala. “People are hungry to have an alternative source for news, information and a new, affordable opportunity for local businesses to advertise.”

The concept has been tested before. In Portsmouth, N.H., Ottaway Newspapers has published a summer-only, five-day-a-week paper, the Daily Beachcomber, for the past two seasons, Editor & Publisher points out.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Anschutz's San Francisco City Star burns out

Three months after closing the Baltimore Examiner, conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz is halting daily distribution of one of his papers in San Francisco — The City Star.

The City Star will become a section on Wednesdays and Fridays within The Examiner, Anschutz's other free daily in San Francisco.

The 12-page final edition of The City Star on Friday (shown here) consisted of 15 state and national wire stories even though it said "San Francisco's Free Daily Neighborhood Newspaper" on its masthead. Not one mentioned any of San Francisco's neighborhoods. The front page stories were about the state budget crunch, a star of the "slum dog" movie losing his home in India and rapper DMX being released from an Arizona jail.

The final edition had only 11 display ads (not including classifieds). The number of people laid off wasn't known.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Metro sells NY, Philly, Boston to its former CEO

The Metro International chain announced today (May 11, 2009) that it is selling its three U.S. editions to a group started by former Metro chief executive Pelle Törnberg (pictured) for $2 million.

Törnberg was the founding CEO of Metro, which started in Sweden in 1995. He expanded Metro around the world, but left the company in 2007 with heavy debts. Metro found new readers, but had a harder time finding profits.

Törnberg's Seabay Media Holdings will publish Metro under a service-and-licensing agreement with Metro International, a European holding company with newspapers worldwide.

The three newspapers — in Boston, New York and Philadelphia — have a combined circulation of 590,000 copies per day and reach about 1.2 million readers.

The New York Times Co. will retain its 49 percent stake in Metro Boston for now. But with the Times under pressure to cut costs, it could possibly sell that stake.

The sale follows Metro International's closure of its operations in Spain. Most of Metro's losses last year came from its operations in Spain and the U.S.

The transaction is scheduled to close June 1.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Philly publisher out after trying to buy paper

The buzz in Philadelphia is that Eric Mayberry is no longer publisher of that city's edition of Metro, but his parting with the company appears to be on friendly terms. Mayberry was negotiating with his employer to buy the paper. The negotiations fell through and now he's a consultant. Metro is among his clients. He plans to help Metro lobby for state and city legal ads now reserved for paid papers like the Philadelphia Inquirer. Mayberry also tells the Web site that he wlll write a column for Metro, subject "to be determined."

Metro International president Per Mikael Jensen says in a press release that Mayberry "is leaving Metro Philadelphia in much better shape than when he arrived."

As we have said previously, Philadelphia Metro was transformed during Mayberry's reign as publisher. The content became more lively and upbeat, with staff written stories replacing wire copy. The emphasis switched from trying to reach transit riders to reaching younger readers coveted by advertisers. Philly Metro also picked up a number of A-list advertisers, which has the effect of raising the stature of the paper.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Paid paper in Colorado launches free daily

Colorado, the state with the most free dailies, is getting yet another one.

The paid Colordo Springs Gazette announced Tuesday that on May 6 it will launch a new, free, four-day a week newspaper targeted at the city's downtown and west side and Manitou Springs.

The new publisher of The Gazette is Steve Pope, formerly of the Vail Daily, one of the first free dailies. Pope replaced Scott McKibben, who had previously headed the San Francisco Examiner, also a free daily. So it's our guess that the concept of free dailies had been talked about at The Gazette for quite a while.

Today's announcement suggests the creation of Ink is both a defensive and offensive move.

• Defensive in the sense that Colorado Springs is a ripe market for a free daily in a state where most of the other major cities already have them — Ink will make it less likely that somebody else will start a free paper in the Springs.

• Offensive in that it will attempt to attract small advertisers who can't afford the paid Gazette.

The printing schedule will be different than other papers — Ink will appear Wednesday through Saturday, hitting the days that advertisers have gradually moved toward in other newspapers.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

California free daily group makes deep cuts

The Palo Alto Daily News, located about 30 miles south of San Francisco, has eliminated its Sunday edition and closed its sister papers in three cities in neighboring San Mateo County.

Last June, the Palo Alto paper dropped its Monday edition. So, in less than a year, it has gone from publishing seven days a week to five. Only a few years ago, the Palo Alto Daily News was growing, adding editions and regularly printing papers with 100 pages or more. Now its page count ranges from 28 to 52 depending on the day of the week.

The three editions that were canceled were the Burlingame Daily News, San Mateo Daily News and Redwood City Daily News.

The three competed in an unusually crowded market of free daily newspapers. San Mateo County also has the San Mateo Daily Journal, The Daily Post (based in Palo Alto but distributed in San Mateo County), and the San Francisco Examiner, which has been a free daily for several years.

The departure of the Daily News should be helpful to the Journal and Post, which cover the county closely. The Examiner still distributes in San Mateo County but closed its Burlingame and Redwood City offices a couple of years ago, insiders tell us.

The other paper in that area is the San Mateo County Times, a paid broadsheet owned by MediaNews Group, which also owns the Daily News.

"The two newspapers have been sharing the same local stories and ads for nearly three years," an announcement on the front of the Burlingame Daily News' last edition said. "The Times will continue to cover the Burlingame area, so our readers and advertisers will not be left without a good local newspaper. It's been a good run and we will miss covering news in your neighborhood, but look forward to reading all about it in the Times."

Friday, April 03, 2009

Four free dailies drop the AP

The three U.S. editions of Metro (New York, Philadelphia and Boston) and the independently-owned Denver (Colo.) Daily News have dropped the Associated Press wire service in the past month.

Cost was a factor for all four publications. AP charges member papers based on their circulation, which puts free dailies at a disadvantage since a 100,000 circulation free paper doesn't generate anywhere near the revenue of a 100,000 paid circulation paper.

Other wire services such as Reuters and Bloomberg cost much less and still deliver the big stories. However, AP does a better job at regional news and sports — it has bureaus in all 50 states and can use the copy of its approximately 1,700 member papers.

CNN plans to offer a wire service for newspapers this fall, and that might lead to more defections from AP.

AP has also become less attractive to free daily publishers because its stories are now transmitted on a real time basis on a variety of different platforms — TV, radio, the Internet, mobile phones and even TV screens at point-of-sale locations such as gas pumps. The challenge for free dailies is to provide news to readers that actually seems new.

Metro intends to fill its pages with more staff-written material as well as copy from its papers around the world.

“We believe that the future of our titles lies in producing as much of our own material as possible,” Tony Metcalf, editor in chief of Metro USA, said in a statement. “By relying more on our own reporting staff, we make a substantial saving while protecting the newspapers’ quality and improving relevance to our local markets.”

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Starbucks ends ban of Vail paper

Starbucks has dropped its ban of one of Vail's two free daily newspapers, ending what had become a venti sized controversy at the Colorado ski resort.

The 25-year-old Vail Daily, owned by Swift Newspapers of Reno, Nev., struck an agreement with the local management of Starbucks to exclude the town's new free daily, the Vail Mountaineer, from its cafes.

When Mountaineer owner Jim Pavelich learned of the ban, he began to personally hand out copies of his paper in front of Starbucks, telling residents that his paper was under attack by two big corporations, Starbucks and Swift. He also told readers of the Mountaineer about the ban under a front page story with the headline "Corporate greed."

It didn't take more than a day or two for the ban to fall apart. Employees of Starbucks apparently felt sympathetic for Pavelich, who continued to pass out newspapers during a blinding snowstorm. According to the Mountaineer, they brought him hot coffee and gloves. Soon the ban was dropped.

The Vail Daily did not report on the Starbucks controversy. But in an April Fool's Day article, it attempted to make fun of the Mountaineer. The fictitious article claimed Pavelich had bought a stake in the Vail Daily because “I want to make sure they in fact do all those dastardly things I have been saying they are doing ... I’d sleep a little better if the rotten things I’m saying about them were actually true.”

Friday, March 27, 2009

A rollicking newspaper war in Vail

A battle between the two free dailies in the beautiful ski resort of Vail is getting downright ugly.

The Vail Daily, the town's 25-year-old chain-owned paper, has obtained a deal with the local Starbucks stores to keep the other paper out of those stores. The other paper, the Vail Mountaineer, fired back with a front page editorial slamming the deal, headlined "Corporate Greed."

The editorial played off of the idea that Starbucks is an out-of-town chain and the Vail Daily is owned by an out-of-town chain, Swift Newspapers of Reno, Nev. The man who sold the Vail Daily to Swift, however, is Jim Pavelich, who is the driving force behind the Mountaineer.

According to the Mountaineer, the Vail Daily also threatened two children's charities just prior to their fundraisers by threatening to withhold any support if the charities accepted free ads from the Mountaineer. The Mountaineer also claims that the Vail Daily is offering deep discounts to advertisers if they sign a nondisclosure agreement promising not to disclose their ad rates to other customers of the paper. The Vail Daily hasn't used its paper to respond to the allegations.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Denver daily shows how it is done

With the closure of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, the free daily in that city, the Denver Daily News, is making the most of the situation. It's headline Friday proclaimed "We're a 2-daily town." And the local TV media has picked up the story. Here's a link to the report on the local Fox affiliate. One correction to the item below. The Denver Daily News's circulation is 22,001. Given a pass-along rate of two or three per copy, and the DDN could be a very potent competitor to the city's remaining paid daily, The Denver Post.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Media got it wrong about Denver's newspapers

If you're like me, you've read a dozen stories by now about the death of Denver's Rocky Mountain News, which closed just short of its 150th birthday. The Rocky had been battling head to head with The Denver Post for more than a century. But every story I've seen has suggested that after the Rocky's final issue on Friday, Denver had become a one newspaper town.

Actually, Denver has a successful free daily newspaper that has been plugging along for eight years: The Denver Daily News, circulation 10,000.

It may not be a paid newspaper nor as large as the Post or Rocky, but it makes money and serves the community with news five days a week. The paper's distribution area includes the upscale Lodo neighborhood and most of downtown Denver.

Owner Jim Pavelich says newspapers need to be able to adapt to a changing business model if they are to expect to survive.

“Newspapers are not a dying industry, they’re a changing one,” Pavelich says, according to a story in his own paper. “It’s sad to see such an institution shut down, but we’ve expected it for years."

"That’s why we started the Denver Daily News eight years ago. The days of the big monopoly newspapers are done, but we think our model leaves room for growth," he explains.


The closure of the Rocky means another change in ownership of Boulder's Colorado Daily, one of the earliest free daily newspaper. The Rocky's owner, E.W. Scripps Co., was partners with the Post's owner, MediaNews Group, in a number of publications in the Denver area including the Boulder Daily Camera and its Colorado Daily. With Scripps pulling out of Denver, it has turned over ownership of those papers to MediaNews, headed by Dean Singleton of Denver.

Singleton is quoted in the Post as saying he sees opportunities for for joint projects between the Post and the Boulder papers. For instance, instead of both the Post and Camera each assigning a reporter to cover the Denver Broncos, the papers will share the work of one reporter.

The Colorado Daily, which had been an independent newspaper from the early 1970s until about two years ago, now shares office space with the Boulder Daily Camera, which had long been its competitor.

The Colorado Daily was the student newspaper at the University of Colorado in Boulder until 1971 when the university's regents kicked it off campus due to its anti-Vietnam War views. It became a viable, independent community newspaper over the next couple of decades while never dropping its liberal politics. Now, ironically, it is headed Singleton, who was one of George W. Bush's major fundraisers.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

New Portland, Maine free daily hits streets

The editor of the new Portland Daily Sun admits that on the paper's first day people asked him if he's lost his mind. "I joke with them and say 'You know newspapers are dead because you read it in the paper,'" told KCSH-TV. While large metro dailies are having problems, Robinson said that free dailies are holding their own and that Portland is an ideal market because it is a walkable town with lots of coffee houses and an issue-oriented population. "Portland is a news factory. And the reason it's a news factory is that the residents care." For more information, see the January 6 post below.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Santa Barbara free daily drops Monday

The Santa Barbara Daily Sound is dropping its Monday edition temporarily due to the economic slowdown. The move comes a little over 18 months after it opened a Saturday edition. So the Sound will operate five-days a week.

"A move of this calibre allows us to avoid layoffs and maintain the same level of content to which our readers and advertisers have become accustomed," said owner Jeramy Gordon. "We can’t just sit around pretending it’s business as usual and hope for a donation. Hard times call for tough decisions and responsible management."

Please note that I corrected this item. I said previously that the Sound's Saturday edition was less than a year old when it is actually a bit over 18 months old.

A beautiful day in the neighborhood

The Vail (Colorado) Mountaineer printed a photo this week of Mr. Rogers, the late host of the PBS program "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood," in the middle of a front-page editorial about the business practices of the competing Vail Daily. Both are free daily newspapers. The Vail Daily started in the 1980s while the Mountaineer began last summer.

The editorial blasted the Vail Daily for allegedly offering advertisers 90% discounts if they didn't advertise in the Mountaineer. If the advertiser agreed, then they would have to sign a nondisclosure agreement to stop them from talking about the incredible deal they just got. Apparently the Vail Daily was worried those businesses receiving steep discounts might tip off the paper's regular advertisers, who would demand such discounts as well.

However, the editorial made no mention of Mr. Rogers even though his picture was placed in the middle of the page.
Here's the backstory: The current editor of the Vail Daily is Don Rogers who, we're told, bears a resemblance to the TV host.
Guess it's one of those jokes where you had to be there to get it.

Maybe Don Rogers should reply with an editorial welcoming the Vail Mountaineer to the neighborhood.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Anschutz to close Baltimore Examiner

Conservative billionaire Phil Anschutz (at left) has decided to close his Baltimore Examiner but keep open his other free dailies in San Francisco and Washington. All three are said to be losing money, but Baltimore was losing the most. About 90 people will be fired. The paper's final edition will come out Sunday, February 15.

When he opened the Baltimore Examiner in 2006, Anschutz's managers were convinced that they could build some synergy between it and the company's Washington newspaper. While 50 miles apart, they said the two could share the same printing plant while major advertisers could be convinced to spend money in both papers.

What they didn't understand is that Baltimore and Washington are culturally two very different cities. Washington, dominated by white-collar government workers and defense-industry types, has little in common with blue-collar Baltimore.

Moreover, it is widely assumed that Anschutz, who is active in Republican politics and fundamentalist Christian causes, sees his Washington Examiner as a way to influence policy in the nation's capital. On the other hand, Baltimore was expendable.

The closure of the Baltimore Examiner also shows Anschutz's pockets are not as deep as many had assumed due to his No. 36 ranking on Forbes' list of richest Americans. While 2008 was a bad year for most investors, things were far worse for Anschutz. For instance, he's a major shareholder in the Union Pacific Railroad, which lost 62% of its stock value in 2008 — about twice the percentage the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost during the same period. His stock in Regal Entertainment Group didn't do much better, dropping 43% of its value.

His attempt to establish presence in Hollywood also collapsed last year. The Los Angeles Times reported that Disney bailed out on the "Chronicles of Narnia" franchise that the studio had co-financed and co-produced with Anschutz's Walden Media because Anschutz got too greedy after the astounding success of the first Narnia film, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

As Anschutz's problems in Hollywood and Wall Street were escalating, he quietly put the Baltimore Examiner up for sale.

"Initially, we were optimistic that a qualified buyer could be found because of the strong assets of the newspaper, ranging from a hard working and professional group of employees to a local-centric focus that readers appreciated," Ryan McKibben, CEO of Anschutz's newspaper company Clarity Media, said in a letter to employees obtained by the Baltimore Sun. "We also felt that a buyer would be attracted to the market because the Baltimore Sun faced significant financial challenges. Over the course of three months, we worked with several potential local and national groups in the hopes of effecting a sale. But in the end, the economic dynamics that have ravaged the print media industry also prevented a sale of the Baltimore Examiner."

McKibben, in a different letter sent today to Examiner employees in Washington and San Francisco, said the company planned to keep those papers open and intends to invest in their websites.

"Specifically, we’ve invested in the future of the San Francisco Examiner by making substantial upgrades to your website — including a new design and vastly improved functionality that will be launched at the end of March 2009," McKibben wrote in a letter obtained by the San Francisco Press Club.

The web may be the Examiner's future. It has established a group of unpaid correspondents called "examiners" who are posting stories and columns on Examiner sites set up for every major city in the U.S. McKibben's statement suggests the company's focus going forward is on the Internet.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Free daily planned for Portland, Maine

Portland, Maine will soon be getting a free daily newspaper.

Mark Guerringue, publisher of the free Conway (N.H.) Daily Sun, said the Portland Daily Sun could start circulating late this month or next, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald.

The Sun's editor will be Curtis Robinson, a veteran of free daily newspapers in Vail and Aspen, Colorado. More recently Robinson was a public affairs professional in Washington, D.C.

In addition to Robinson, the paper will have two reporters. It will publish five days a week. The printing will take place in Conway, which is about 50 miles from Portland as the crow flies.

The Portland Daily Sun will join a growing network of free dailies that began in 1989 with the founding of the Conway Daily Sun. The other papers are the Berlin Daily Sun and Laconia Daily Sun.

In Portland, the Daily Sun will go up against the 147-year-old Press Herald and its Maine Sunday Telegram. They're owned by the Blethen family, better known as the majority owners of the Seattle Times. But the Blethens are negotiating to sell the Portland papers to an investor group that includes former defense secretary and Maine senator William Cohen.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Aspen newspaper eliminates Sunday edition

With all of the cities struggling to hold on to just one daily newspaper, Aspen, Colorado is unique — this silver mining town cum star-studded ski resort of 5,804 residents supports two separately owned daily newspapers.

The Aspen Times and the Aspen Daily News, both free dailies, have been battling each other for 20 years in the playground that Robert De Niro, Kevin Costner, Jack Nicholson, Antonio Banderas and Kate Hudson call home.

The competition keeps ad rates low and keeps reporters on their toes, worrying that they might be scooped by the other paper. And, after 20 years, one would assume the papers have been profitable, or why would their owners continue to fight for so long?

On December 31, the Times announced that it was eliminating its Sunday edition but would continue to publish the other six days of the week. Publisher Jenna Weatherred, in a note to readers, said Sunday was the paper's "least profitable edition" of the week.

Not un-profitable, but "least profitable."

At the same time, the chain that owns the Times, Swift Newspapers, pulled the plug on weekly newspapers in two other communities as well as a regional Spanish-language paper. And the Times publisher said she has reduced the staff of her paper by 20 percent, though exact numbers weren't given.

"My hope is that, once this recession turns around and things feel more secure in the valley, we will be able to bring back the Sunday daily and our small community weekly papers," Weatherred said.

Each of the papers are tabloid-sized yet have a strikingly grey layout with small headlines and lots of copy. On many inside pages, copy will run for 14 inches without so much as a subhead or pull-quote interrupting the column of grey. The Times appears to have a few more photos sprinkled among its columns.

The staff boxes of the papers show that each has a newsroom of 12 to 15 people. And though Aspen might seem like a small town, they have plenty of news to cover. Last week, for instance, a 71-year-old former miner killed himself after he forced the evacuation of Aspen's downtown when he planted bombs at four banks and a drinking hole in an extortion plot. The incident forced the town to postpone its New Year's Eve fireworks display, a favorite of tourists.

The would-be bomber, as he was preparing his explosives, left a hand-written letter-to-the-editor at the Times reminiscent of another Aspen resident, the late "gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Given the frequent controversies and celebrity sightings in Aspen, the attempted bombing probably was just another day at the office for the journalists at the Daily News and Times.

Aspen, a town with a lot of news, is fortunate to have two newspapers to cover it.