The publisher of the Washington Examiner plans to launch a Baltimore edition of the free daily tabloid in the spring, the company announced yesterday.
Clarity Media, an investment vehicle controlled by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, plans to distribute 250,000 copies Monday through Saturday through 2,000 news boxes and home delivery, attempting to push its daily circulation on some days above that of the Baltimore Sun. Yesterday, the Sun reported average circulation of 246,336 as of Sept. 24. The Baltimore Sun also owns a chain of suburban newspapers.
The Examiner plans to deliver the majority of copies to homes in affluent neighborhoods, said publisher Michael Phelps, the same strategy Clarity has pursued in Washington and in San Francisco of targeting the households that advertisers covet.
How successful that strategy has been is not clear. The privately held Clarity Media does not release financial information. Phelps said both papers have been "meeting projected targets" in advertising and distribution. The paper's circulation in Washington is about 260,000 Monday through Friday and 250,000 on Saturday. The San Francisco circulation is 163,000 on weekdays and 381,000 on Saturday.
Phelps said he sees opportunity in taking on an established metropolitan daily in Baltimore which has seen its profit margins squeezed by decreasing circulation, flat advertising revenue and escalating newsprint costs.
"The decline in paid circulation has caused some pretty serious gaps in reach for advertisers," he said. He said the Examiner will make a play for advertisers interested in ads inserted as supplements.
So far, he is the Baltimore Examiner's only employee. Yesterday he began visiting potential advertisers. Phelps said he already has candidates for editor. The Baltimore paper will be produced by a Baltimore staff. He himself will settle in Baltimore by the end of the week, he said.
Clarity has trademarked the Examiner name in more than 60 cities, including Baltimore.
Baltimore competitors reacted coolly to news of the Examiner's impending arrival.
"We're not afraid of competition. We know how to fight," said Don Farley, publisher of Baltimore City Paper, a free weekly that has a circulation of 84,000.
"A tabloid that's dropped free into people's driveways should have very little effect on the long relationship we have with our readers and our advertisers," said Alonza Williams, a Sun spokesman, in an e-mailed statement.
The Examiner will probably have an impact on the Sun's circulation, said newspaper analyst John Morton. "It's bound to have some negative impact on the Sun. We just don't know how much or if we'll be able to tell," he said.