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.