During the Christmas holidays I got the chance to read papers that were send to me in the last months. My collection is growing by the week, still some titles are missing but most free papers are now in my crowded office. Last months brought me papers from Australia, Austria, Romania, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Slovenia, Germany and South-Africa.
Special thanks for the whole week of Manly Daily copies. The oldest free paper alive, launched in 1906 and now owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd. The paper missed only one publication day in more than a 100 years. The November week I got, showed a thick tabloid, 48 pages average during weekdays, 92 on Saturday (not including the 80 page real estate special and the 96 page real estate magazine). Almost every day the paper also contained some advertising inserts. Lots of local news and lots of ads, including many classified.
Slovenian new launch Zurnal24 counted 32 pages and is printed in the typical Austrian / Eastern European ‘Kleinzeitung’ format: only slightly bigger than an A4 page. Modern looks, many pictures, short stories and graphs. The paper is available in several local editions, 25% ads which is not bad to start with. Recently the paper also started to distribute a Saturday edition for free. I am not fluent in Slovenian so I cannot say anything about the content. (It was send to me by one of the journalist of a competing paid paper, thanks.)
The fourth Swiss free paper .ch “Die Zeitung der Schweiz” I can read. Competition is high in Switzerland, but news seems hard to get sometimes. Content was rather bland of the copies I saw, too little hard news, no exciting stories on page one. Here also: graphs, short news items and pictures; but in a rather quiet design. Only 4 of 32 pages were devoted to ads, but it was from the first weeks. The paper also has the ‘Kleinzeitung’ size. The life style bits in the middle looked actually better than the news section.
The whole range of Expres papers from Romania were given to me by the publisher: Hunedoara, Cluj, Timis and Arad. The chain is owned by Austrian publisher Vorarlberger Medienhaus (Inform Media in Romania). Also these editions are printed in the small A4-format. The editions counted 16 pages and although my Romanian is just as bad as my Slovenian, I could see that Britney Spears, Victoria Beckham, Beyonce, Madonna, and Hale Berry are international ‘brands’. Lots of sports in Expres. the papers are printed partly in black and white; advertising is still rather weak in the new editions, better in the older ones.
Austria saw several closures in 2006, in Innsbruck, Graz and Kärnten free dailies were closed down. In the Austrian capital Vienna there is heavy competition between Heute and paid/free model Österreich while both titles also compete in the third city Linz with local free daily Oberösterreichs Neue. The paper is also published in the small format. (Also the market leader in Austria, Kronen Zeitung and second paper Kleine Zeitung are published in the small size.) The paper counts 24 pages in full color and is typical ‘free’ with very short stories and an emphasis on pictures. No focus on hard news in Die Neue, not too much hard local news, probably because it is owned by the local paid market leader (Oberösterreiche Nachrichten, by Medienhaus Wimmer). Not too much advertising either in Die Neue yet.
The fourth Spanish free daily ADN send some special copies of the Pamplona editions. The first had a wrap, sponsored by the Navarra regional government about the risk of taking drugs, in particular xtc pills. To get the message across, the model on the wrap had a small pill on her forehead, while all other pages of the paper had a hole perforated in the spot of the hole. Another copy, also sponsored by Navarra regional government, was devoted to the fight against racism, in order to make clear that everybody, no matter were they came from, was equally important, all names of countries, regions and cities were crossed out – on all pages. This issue caused a lot of discussion according to the publisher.
For the first time I also saw copies of Universal, a joint operation of Spanish airline Iberia and Planeta. The paper is distributed on Iberia flights. The paper has a hard time competing with paid papers being distributed for free by airlines, and therefore also looks more like a quality paper than a typical free paper. Published in tabloid and with lots of text and not too many pictures. Quality of paper and ink is also excellent. Every day 24 pages in full color. Stories are longer and cover also economics, books, art and culture. Advertising is minimal which would lead to conclusion that Universal might be a difficult business model, heavy competition and a rather expensive editorial concept. The paper was launched in 2005 and has a circulation of less than 50,000.
Not only in Spain there are special inflight free dailies. One of the remaining free German papers, Primetime by Süddeutsche Zeitung, was picked up by one of my colleagues travelling on Lufthansa. The A4 daily has 16 pages in full color and is printed on high quality thick magazine paper. It contains the afternoon updates by leading German quality paper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Content is written by the staff of the paid SZ paper. Almost half of the pages are filled with ads, two of them with jobs. Every day it has a special corner “tomorrow in Süddeutsche Zeitung” to lure readers to the paid mother paper.
Only a few weeks after I visited Portugal last year a fourth free daily was launched: Meia Hora, by Cofina/Metro News, also publisher of first Portuguese free daily Destak. The name means half hour, indicating that the paper wants to offer more content than a ‘regular’ free daily. It calls itself a free quality newspaper, stories in Meia Hora are longer while pictures are not so prominent, design is stylish. Content reflects this ‘quality’ approach with many items about arts, culture, foreign politics, science, and economics. Meia Hora is printed in full color and generally counts 24 pages with four to five pages of advertising, sometimes with an extra wrap with ads. The paper was launched in Lisbon in June, in September a Porto edition (30,000 copies) was launched.
Also some copies of The Times arrived, the free daily by South African paid Sunday paper “The Sunday Times”. Subscribers to the Sunday Times also get the daily Times for free – home delivered. The Times is a full grown tabloid, 32 pages in full color, the daily extra 8-page Careers section not included. The Times is really competing on hard news, background and scoops with other paid papers. Not a cheap business model and also with an extensive online offer, the paper delivers excellent quality to the subscribers to the Sunday Times. Nice feature is the good ‘letters to the editor’ page. Apart from the 8 pages Careers, the copies contain 4 to 7 pages of ads.
Still missing: Global Noticias (Portugal), Curentul (Romania), News (Switzerland), E15 (Czech Republic), 5min (Latvia)