Region getting new, free paper

Baltimore Examiner to target affluent areas with 250,000 copies

October 18, 2005|By NICK MADIGAN | NICK MADIGAN,SUN REPORTER

Local residents living in affluent neighborhoods will begin receiving a free tabloid newspaper next spring, published by a Denver corporation owned by billionaire Philip F. Anschutz.

The Baltimore Examiner will be the third in a chain of free papers - the others are The Washington Examiner and The San Francisco Examiner - owned by Anschutz's Clarity Media Group, which intends to start similar periodicals in dozens of other American cities.

In Baltimore, Clarity Media Group plans to deliver most of its 250,000 papers to specific ZIP codes, but also has purchased 2,000 newspaper racks to be placed around town.

The new paper, which will be published Monday through Saturday, will compete against The Sun, whose most recent Audit Bureau of Circulations figures ranged from 203,289 copies on Tuesdays to 292,089 on Fridays. On Sundays, The Sun's circulation amounts to about 430,675. "There are some who would draw an artificial battleground between us and The Sun," said Michael Phelps, who was named publisher of The Baltimore Examiner. "I don't see it that way at all. There is room in this market for two newspapers."

Asked how a fledgling publication will succeed in a difficult climate for newspapers generally, Phelps said that the Examiner would target readers who are most valued by advertisers. "Our model is to deliver the newspaper in saturate fashion in the neighborhoods and the locales that the advertisers want the most," he said.

Phelps, 59, also said the paper would emphasize local news. "I'm hoping that what we choose to cover, and how we cover what we choose to cover, engenders and stimulates an ongoing conversation among our readers about what's good and what's not good in the Baltimore community and how the community can move forward and do better."

The publisher would not say where the paper would be headquartered, noting that negotiations are still under way for office space. He also could not predict how big his staff would be. "It's going to be big enough to publish a great newspaper," he said.

The paper would be Clarity Media's first to be started from scratch, given that both the San Francisco and Washington operations evolved from purchases of newspapers that were already in place.

"We serve more than 1.2 million readers each week," said Williams, the spokesman for The Sun. "Our advertisers know that The Sun is the best way to reach the Baltimore market. And as long as we continue to deliver value we believe our readers and advertisers will continue to reach for The Sun."

Williams acknowledged that The Sun had lost readers in recent years, as have most other daily newspapers in the United States, under pressure from market forces such as the Internet and cable television.

To attract more readers, a redesigned Sun was launched last month, leading to a small increase in single-copy sales, Williams said.

Rumors that the Examiner would move into Baltimore had been circulating for months. They were based in part on The Washington Examiner `s naming of Herbert W. Moloney III as its publisher.

Moloney had been chief operating officer of Vertis Inc., a Baltimore advertising company that works closely with print media, and spent 21 years working for Knight Ridder, which owns The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Miami Herald.

In an interview last week, Moloney declined to say whether the Examiner in Washington was turning a profit, noting that Anschutz's newspaper companies are privately held.

"We're private," he said. "We don't release any information about our financials. I don't think any business is in it to lose money."

The Examiner papers - the name has been trademarked in more than 60 cities around the nation - are attempting to carve out a niche in which their snappy graphics and succinct articles find a place among busy urban readers. Their editorial stance is generally conservative.

Erik Wemple, the editor and media writer for the Washington City Paper, a free weekly, said the Feb. 1 launch of The Washington Examiner has not had any effect on the way his paper covers the news.

"Whatever troubles we're experiencing I attribute to forces larger than the Examiner," said Wemple, whose paper's circulation hovers at about 90,000.

But there are some who wonder how a free newspaper can succeed when so many papers, including some of the biggest in the country, are experiencing declines in circulation and revenue.

Thomas Kunkel, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said Anschutz's plans are "more interesting as a business experiment than as an editorial product."

"The guy behind it is a billionaire who presumably knows something about business," Kunkel said. "We can assume that he knows a market opportunity when he sees one."

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