Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Mass-Transit Appeal

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Mass-Transit Appeal

Article excerpt


Commuter papers' success in reaching young readers and professionals has traditional dailies considering their options

Three years ago, when a European media conglomerate pulled into Philadelphia with a free daily designed for commuters, traditional dailies publicly pooh-poohed the paper, with its colorful presentation and abbreviated stories.

That was then. Today, they're taking a second look at the free- daily model. The Boston Globe was early in dipping its toe in the water, striking a deal to share help-wanted advertising with Boston Metro, Philly's sister paper and the other U.S. edition of Luxembourg-based Metro International. The Washington Post endorsed the concept when it started its own commuter tab, Express, last month, while its suburban competitor, Journal Newspapers, converted its District distribution from paid to free. A freebie paper readying for launch in New York City later this year will have majority backing from the Tribune Co.

Such experiments aimed at drawing the elusive young reader could be just the beginning. Other companies are rumored to be looking into commuter papers elsewhere. Steve Diller, a partner at consulting firm Cheskin in Redwood Shores, Calif., said he's been told of such papers being planned in three cities. He wouldn't identify the companies behind them or target cities, saying only, "They're serious."

What's happening? "We're bringing young readers back to newspapers," explained Russel Pergament, the founding publisher of Boston Metro who's heading up the New York paper, to be called amNewYork.

Commuter papers have been shown to be read by huge numbers of professionals and attract lucrative advertising, while paid dailies face limited growth prospects and have all but lost the ability to charge a premium for home delivery, said a just-released report from the International Newspaper Marketing Association, "Outlook 2004: The Battle for the Individual. …

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