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Bay Area becomes incubator for free daily newspapers

April 19, 2005

KGO-TV Channel 7

How do you get your news fix? If you said the Internet you’re not alone. But now the Bay Area has become an incubator for the newspaper of the future. They’re free, popping up everywhere, and aimed at attracting young eyeballs. So what’s behind the trend?

Newspapers in America are institutions, most dating back over 100 years. But readers don’t have to wait for the presses to crank out a paper to get their news.

Television, cable and satellite and the Internet have spawned a wide range of 24 hour news sources.

Connie Nguyen gets her news online.

Connie Nguyen, Internet news consumer: “It’s faster, it’s more available. I think you’re too busy in the morning to drop a newspaper and read it.”

Nguyen and others in their 20’s and 30’s are new targets for the newspaper industry. And in the Bay Area, where they don’t read mainstream papers, free daily papers are trying to entice them.

Scott McKibben, San Francisco Examiner publisher: “We know that this generation feels that they should not have to pay for their news, so the free concept, the compact size, the tabloid … we’re a smaller newspaper, they can read it quicker, the stories are shorter.”

Traditional newspapers may have fostered the free news model by making their content free online.

For example, more people read the New York Times on the web each day than subscribe to the paper.

Free daily papers have popped up in Chicago, Washington D.C. and several other cities.

The Palo Alto Daily News, along with four other free Peninsula papers, was recently purchased by Knight Ridder, the owner of the San Jose Mercury News.

William Woo, a visiting professor at Stanford, was the long-time editor of the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

He believes it’s content that will win readers, young and old. And young readers won’t abandon the Internet for newspapers.

William Woo, former newspaper editor: “They are going to be multimedia consumers through their life, and I think if you expect them to move away from their broad media base and substitute newspapers for it, it’s going to be a long hard night for that to happen.”

Sold out newspaper racks — that’s exactly what newspaper publishers want to see. But that’s not always the case. Change is coming to the newspaper industry, but that change is going to be slow.

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