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.