The Diario Libre case

Two thirds of the world circulation of free newspapers is in Europe, with many countries having market shares of free newspapers of 25% or more. In more than dozen European countries the largest newspaper is a free paper. Outside Europe this is quite rare.

One of the most interesting exceptions was presented at the 1st World Congress of Free Press in Madrid yesterday when Adriano Miguel Tejada, director of Dominican Republic free daily Diario Libre talked about his paper.

Diario Libre launched 10 May 2001 in a country where paid papers were very political and expensive. It started with a circulation of 75,000 – distributing Monday to Saturday.

Circulation is now 112,000, while the paper counts at least 32 pages, 16 of them with ads. Often the page count is more, especially on Mondays (the Monday edition I got had 92 pages, including a 32 page classified section). Saturday a special magazine ‘Estilos’ is inserted while there are also other classified inserts and commercial full color inserts.

The paper owns its own printing plant. It is mostly home delivered (by a fleet of 113 motorcycles that make several rounds) and available in public places like cafetarias, hotels, doctors’ offices, banks and shops.

After seven years Diario Libre is the best read paper in the country, reaching 36% of the total readership, competitor Al Dia (also free) has a 9.5% share. It increased total readership in the country as well. In 2001 26% of the Dominicans read newspapers, against 47% now.

The paper employs 50 journalists, and is available at 800 distribution points. Local adverstisers can opt for targetted distribution with inserts in special areas in capital Santa Domingo. The paper has a online e-paper, an English language service, and even its own online daily TV program.

The paper reached break-even in the 3rd year, and made profits after that.

In 2002 two other free dailies were launched: El Expreso and Ultima Hora. Both stopped publication in 2003.

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