Free Metro Dailies Not Reaching New Audiences

A bad bit of news (reg req'd) for the newspaper industry that had been using free metro dailies to reach new audiences — in theory:

While they are attracting some hard-to-reach readers, including younger and minority, they have been small gains that have had more to do with distribution strategies — such as giving papers away free in mass transit areas — than with the availability of alternative, free papers. The main effect has been that heavy newspaper readers simply read more, picking up the freebies in addition to their regular paid dailies.

But see this new effort by The Washington Post (reg req'd) — a very interesting move (video podcasts).

One thing the major dailies (e.g., The Washington Post and The New York Times) realize is that the Internet is not print. Before you say something sarcastic, reflect that newspapers have to date largely reproduced their print editions online, albeit with some dynamic features.

They will ultimately need to do much much much more to get where they need to go. And that may require all kinds of multimedia and dynamic functionality. (They don't need to become Google or Yahoo!, but they need to think and act very differently than they currently do.)

The local market is the newspapers' to lose. Next year we will either see them making strong innovations and gains or falling terribly behind. I hope it's the former and not the latter.

Caroline Little, CEO and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, will be one of the keynote speakers at ILM:05 and will address many of these issues.

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