Thesis on Italian ‘freepress’

There is only a limited cannibalization of paid papers because of the availability of free dailies (called ‘freepress’ in Italy) according to Beatrice Ferrario’s master thesis in Media Management at the University of Lugano.

Beatrice Ferrario researched readership and circulation of paid and free newspapers (Leggo, Metro and City) in four Italian markets: Rome, Milan, Turin and Florence.

When looking at the profile of the reader, free dailies’ readers are rather similar to the readers of the most read newspaper in any market. In Rome, for instance, the readers of Il Messaggero were not that different from the readers of free papers. Explanation would be that free papers are – just like the best-read local paper – ‘regular’ papers read by the average citizen while Corriere della Sera readers (in Rome) have a different profile. If there is competition, it would be between frees and the best-read in any market.

Competition between free papers is substantial too, with high overlap between the different titles, particularly in Milan and Florence.

Proving substitution, however, was difficult because circulation of free dailies is not audited by the national auditing organization; readership of free dailies is researched by Audipress only since 2006 (they were introduced in 2000/2001 in Italy. The long term effect is therefore not very clear.

Although there might be some cannibalization, many readers of free dailies are exclusive (2.3 million, 4% of population in 2007) readers. Free dailies also seem to attract more younger women than paid papers.

The thesis (in Italian) can be downloaded from here.

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