Examiner plans Sunday edition

Home delivery to be cut to 2 days a week

May 09, 2008|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun Reporter

The Baltimore Examiner, the free tabloid that made its debut two years ago, will launch a Sunday edition this summer, cut home delivery of the newspaper to two days a week and reduce by 80 percent the number of papers printed on days it's not delivered.

Denver-based Clarity Media Group Inc., which also owns the Washington and San Francisco Examiners, said all three papers would begin Sunday home delivery to targeted neighborhoods July 13.

The Baltimore Examiner will be distributed in boxes, by hawkers and at convenience stores Sunday through Friday, with papers also delivered to homes on Thursdays.

The newspaper is currently delivered in affluent neighborhoods across the Baltimore metropolitan region Monday through Saturday.

The Baltimore Examiner will print 335,000 Sunday papers, with 315,000 of those being delivered and 20,000 put in news racks, Clarity chief executive Ryan McKibben said. It will continue to print 256,000 papers on Thursdays, with 236,000 of those being home-delivered.

But it will cut press runs on Monday-Wednesday and Friday to 50,000, all of which will be distributed in news racks or other outlets. It currently prints 256,000 on those days, with all but 14,000 being delivered. It will not produce a paper on Saturdays.

"We're better aligning our assets to serve our readers and advertisers," McKibben said. "Sunday is the strongest advertising day of the week and the largest advertising day of the week."

Examiner Publisher Michael Beatty said the paper would expand its home delivery on Sundays in affluent neighborhoods in Howard, Harford, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties and Baltimore City. But the paper will not expand in Carroll County where it can't overcome the Carroll County Times' lock on the local advertising market, he said.

"Sunday is the time of the day that people really like to spend with their newspaper," Beatty said. "By having an aggressive single-copy approach, with a large home delivery footprint on Thursday and on Sunday as we increase our penetration, we're going to be able to offer our advertisers 38 percent better reach in adult readership."

With the costs of newsprint and gasoline soaring, cutting back on home delivery days seems to make economic sense, said John Morton, an independent newspaper industry analyst in Silver Spring.

Sunday is also the most lucrative day to distribute a newspaper, with the mass of prepaid advertising circulars and coupons available, Morton said. Clarity's move also comes as Sunday circulation at metropolitan newspapers is down an average of 3 percent to 5 percent a year, he added. The Sun's Sunday circulation is down 1.2 percent.

"When you don't have a Sunday paper you're really missing out on the biggest advertising day of the week," Morton said. "But we have no idea how [the Examiner] newspapers are doing financially because they don't report any of that."

A private company owned by conservative billionaire Philip F. Anschutz, Clarity Media does not release financial results. The company's strategy is "targeted advertising" by distributing newspapers to households with disposable income. McKibben said the Washington Examiner's Maryland readers and Baltimore would give the combined papers the largest Sunday circulation in the state. Content will continue to be shared among the three papers.

The Sun's Sunday circulation in the six months ended March 31 was 372,970, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Timothy Thomas, vice president of new business development for The Baltimore Sun Media Group, which publishes The Sun and b, a new tabloid for young adults, as well as various community newspapers, said he doesn't expect The Sun to lose advertising or circulation to the new Sunday competitor, the first since the Baltimore News American closed in 1986.

He believes the Examiner is targeting advertising inserts.

"For years now, we've had many competitors for our pre-print advertising circulars, such as the Penny Saver and direct mail," Thomas said. "We've had that competition already and those pre-print advertisers have stayed with The Sun because we offer the best value."

Thomas also said that research by Scarborough Research has found that three-quarters of Examiner readers also read The Sun and he doesn't expect that to change. Beatty said Examiner market research showed fewer duplicate readers.

Thomas said the changes are more of an example of the Examin er's struggle in the market. "This is an indication that the Examiner continues to search for a successful business model," he said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Andrea K. Walker contributed to this article.

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