As NAA Winds Down, Panel on Free Papers Gets Publishers Riled Up

By: Jennifer Saba One of the last sessons at the Newspaper Association of America conference in San Francisco sparked the most tension.

During a packed session on free newspapers, Paul Ginocchio of Deutsche Bank Securities highlighted revenue and growth stats on Web sites. Though growing like gangbusters, the punch line was it takes eight unique online readers to equal one print reader, and newspapers are far away form achieving that, he said.

Chris Ma, vice president of The Washington Post Co., spoke on the development of its free commuter paper, Express. The thoughtful Ma was challenged by audience members, especially by Gannett?s Newspaper Division President Gary Watson, who pressed him with questions about advertising possibilities, the paper?s frequency, and readers per copy.

This only got the audience fired up, and Steve Pope, publisher of the Vail (Colo.) Daily, another free daily, stood up and delivered an astonishing and somewhat cocky presentation. His paper has a past-week readership of 91% overall and 94% among 18-34 year olds, he asserted. Pope made it sound easy, as he virtually taunted the audience with market share, advertising, and revenue.

Some walked away from session -- which went over by 20 minutes (usually people are running for the door) -- energized, while others looked confused or even taken aback.


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