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.”