Scarborough has done a study of free dailies in Dallas, NY, Chicago and Boston.
The high points:
- "[W]hile they are attracting some hard-to-reach
readers, including younger and minority, these are small gains that
have had more to do with distribution strategies–such as giving papers
away free in mass transit areas–than with the availability of
alternative, free papers. The main effect has been that heavy newspaper
readers simply read more, picking up the freebies in addition to their
regular paid dailies."
- Free dailies are simply a way to have more
"touch points with existing readers and to increase brand mind share
and loyalty among the existing base."
- The minority readership impact was less pronounced in Dallas, where there is a less-developed mass transit system.
- The overall impact of free dailies,
meanwhile, remains relatively insignificant, with a total circulation
of about 2 million; and with much of that readership coming from
existing newspaper readers, the paper raises the question of whether
the freebies have been worth the investment by their publishers, a
combination of independents and existing major newspaper publishers in
- In a final point, the paper raises the
question of whether freebies can "directly monetize" their free daily
audience from advertisers. "Existing advertisers might resist
incremental pricing to reach mostly the same readers in markets like
New York, Chicago, or Dallas. For some papers, this argument may be a
barrier for some advertisers. In non-competitive markets, such as
Dallas, the free dailies offer message frequency for advertisers for
which this is attractive."