While traditional big city newspapers struggle to hold on to readers amid a slow but steady nationwide circulation decline, they find themselves facing increased competition from the growing number of free dailies popping up in major markets.
Free newspapers, such as The Baltimore Examiner, amNewYork, and the Metro in Philadelphia, are not likely to offer hard-hitting investigative pieces or in-depth corporate profiles. But they do provide a quick summation of major news events all packaged so it can be read during a 20-minute bus, subway, or commuter train ride.
"There's not a lot of padding because they're not large papers," notes Sal Cataldi, president of Cataldi Public Relations in New York. "But they do like to run a lot of photos, and they're more than willing to work with you if you can service them with a picture."
Floyd Weintraub, amNewYork SVP of business development, says the newspaper deliberately tailors its content for a cash-rich and time-poor audience, but adds that most readers fit into the classic "young urban professional" demographic. Noting that the average amNewYork reader is about 34, he says, "We track about 10 years younger than The New York Times or Daily News, so we have the audience that everybody says they want to get."
But reaching out to free dailies can be a challenge. "Most of them have a very small staff, so they're hard to reach, and that certainly impacts their desirability," notes Suzanne Tavani, SVP with Tierney Communications. "But here in Philadelphia, the Metro has been around for years and is considered a real newspaper."
Amy Christopher, SVP with Baltimore-based Warschawski Public Relations, says free dailies rely heavily on wire services for hard news, but also do a lot of trend pieces. "We've concentrated on getting factoids and small items into The Baltimore Examiner, such as notice of a national lacrosse tournament taking place in this area," she says.
Despite the papers' often robust circulations, no one goes so far as to suggest you can, or should, build a PR campaign around targeting free dailies. "It's a good supplemental hit, and it does get read," says Cataldi. "But if you staged a big stunt, and the only daily coverage you received was from amNewYork, the client would be disappointed."
But Jeff Guaracino, communications VP with the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp., says: "It does give you another way to get your message out, and these free circulation outlets are really gaining in their numbers."
PITCHING... Free dailies
Free dailies tend to have very small staffs, so if you want to generate the hit, you're going to have to be very persistent and do a lot of the legwork for any story
Keep it short; most readers of free dailies want their news in small bites they can read easily while commuting
Most free dailies skew younger, so make sure your pitch is tailored for that demographic