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).