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.