‘Dallas Morning News’ to Launch Free Edition to Non-Subscribers

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By: Jennifer Saba

As newspapers across the country trim sections and hundreds of pages, The Dallas Morning News is taking a 180-degree turn by rolling out a new print product.

The new offering, titled “Briefing,” is a free, 16-page broadsheet that will be home delivered to non-subscribers of the Morning News every Wednesday through Saturday. It launches Aug. 27.

The plan is to distribute 200,000 copies in the core Dallas market to households with incomes of $75,000 or more by 6 a.m. The target demo is adults 25-49, skewing toward women.

?The product is a unique edition of the Dallas Morning News,? said President/GM John McKeon.

“Briefing” will only be one section. While conducting research, Morning News executives found that these elusive readers don?t want an edition any bigger than the Morning News’ A section. As a result, the stories will be shorter, and will not jump. The free edition will also extensively use maps to pinpoint where stories are taking place.

Executives decided to go with the broadsheet format instead of a tabloid edition to give advertisers the opportunity to pick up ads from the Morning News and place them in Briefing for an incremental cost, though of course, they expect to attract new advertisers as well.

?We think we can make your ads work harder for you in the print product,? said McKeon.

Households that receive Briefing will have the opportunity to opt out of delivery.

Briefing is not like the company?s Quick (distribution: 100,000 copies). ?Quick is single-copy,? McKeon noted, whereas Briefing “is home-delivered. Quick is a tabloid, and Briefing is a broadsheet. Quick is a younger product, and the sweet spot for Briefing is 25-49. It does fill out a portfolio of products to serve different readers.?

In conjunction with the Briefing launch, the Morning News is going to expand Al Dia. Currently about 40,000 copies of the Spanish-language paper are home delivered and sold as single copy. The company is going to increase the press run to 120,000 copies on Wednesdays and Saturdays with 80,000 of those copies slated for home-delivery.

By launching Briefing, the Morning News concedes that more and more people are abandoning the paid print edition. In the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report for the six months ending March 2008, daily circulation at the Morning News fell 10.5%. Some of that loss was due to the weeding out of copies (like third-party sponsored) and distribution areas that were too expensive to maintain, but some of the declines were the result of fewer people buying the paper.

Briefing was developed to re-capture market share by going after affluent, time-starved readers who are aware of the Morning News but don?t buy it. Advertisers will be able to expand their reach through Briefing, which will be zoned to the ZIP code level for preprint advertisers.

Other newspapers have tried to adopt this strategy, including The Orange County Register in 2006. OC Post was a paid tabloid aimed at time-starved adults ?- skewed toward women with families -? who did not buy the Orange County Register. OC Post was shuttered about 18 months after it debuted.

McKeon acknowledges these are tough times for newspapers but added that it?s important to try and build market share: ?We are making an investment and we believe it will pay dividends for advertisers.”

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