New afternoon free paper, hawked by kids shouting “Extra! Extra!”
July 30, 2009 5:47 PM   Subscribe

“With t.o.night, you too can remember the good old days, when Mom, Dad, Junior, Little Suzy, and Skip would all sit around the radio and listen to blogs on the Internet.” The solution to the decline of newspapers? Launch a new one, charge nothing for it, fill it with wire copy and stories from a city blog, publish it weekday afternoons, and hire kids to wear “poor-boy caps” and shout “Extra! Extra!” while handing it out.

t.o. night (sic) will be a new afternoon free commuter paper in Toronto. City blog Torontoist – not the one supplying “content” to the paper (that’s BlogTO) – approaches this new competition with delicious skepticism. Maybe Torontoist has learned its lesson, since its own partnership with a paper (the storied Globe and Mail) generated content that goes without updates for unbloglike weeks at a time.
posted by joeclark (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Ugh. It's just as well the garbage strike is over.
posted by randomination at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2009

They tried this in Boston with BostonNOW, a mostly blog-content newspaper, and that crashed and burned.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:15 PM on July 30, 2009

BostonNOW was not a "mostly blog-content newspaper." It was Metro Lite, filled mainly with AP stories, with bits of blog posts appended to the margins like Sergio Aragones cartoons in Mad, only nowhere near as funny.
posted by adamg at 8:49 PM on July 30, 2009

Australia has MX, which always reads to me like the front page of Fark. Only I can wad this us an lob it at someone!
posted by Jilder at 9:32 PM on July 30, 2009

BostonNOW was not a "mostly blog-content newspaper."

Well, I sit corrected. Shows you how much I read it.

They hyped it as a "mostly blog-content newspaper" which struck me as a stupid idea. Apparently, it didn't even deliver on the stupid idea!
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:42 PM on July 30, 2009

"t.o.night - the newspaper for people who've already read Metro."
Hope it contains plenty stuff about the 905s, since it's mostly going to be read by folks heading back out there. Also, how can they work when Dose didn't? (ooh yeah, maybe they'll pick up COMIC STRIP; definitely the worst comic on the web, but we miss it.)
posted by scruss at 4:52 AM on July 31, 2009

They come up with this idea every three or four years, especially in Canada. Around 2005-06, there was a kind of algal bloom of them in Vancouver. Four of them launched within like a month of each other. You couldn't walk a block in downtown without the city's quasi homeless, now quasi-employed, thrusting one or another at you. They also basically quadrupled the number of newspaper boxes on the sidewalks overnight which caused a bit of controversy by itself.

A friend of mine wrote for one of them (Metro) for a while. She was kind of a serious journalist - not the sort of person who's worked for newspapers for ten years, but she'd done some articles for mass market magazines and really knew what she was doing. She watched it basically start at the lower middle in terms of content, (actually sending reporters to cover city council meetings and do their own coverage of local issues) and almost immediately start diving down, down, down. The reporters were the first to go, actually - this one was an expansion of a product that had been successful back east - and before long they were cutting back on local content and just piping in more and more material from the parent version.

Around the time they tried running a full page ad on the front cover, she gave up. Metro is still around. It's pretty unreadable and they don't pay people to hand them out anymore. You just find piles of them in the street, like urban tumbleweeds. I _think_ "24" has also hung on somehow, but two of them just went belly up.

They were massive money sinks for their owners, especially after trying to break out of the clutter they'd just created by blowing money on TV ad campaigns. (God those were obnoxious, especially The Dose, which decided it was going to be hipper and edgier than thou. Their ads were just total WTF.) And they also created a huge glut of available ad space, driving down rates just when they needed that to not happen. Local ads were hard to find in any of them. It was mostly full page ads from national chains that had been sold in Toronto

So even at their best, these things were hardly saving the newspaper business. And at the level where they seem to gravitate, they're little more than penis-enlargement spam, that also kills trees into the bargain. But maybe it's about time for someone to look at the relative lack of free dailies out there for the commuter audience and think that represents an unserved market.
posted by Naberius at 6:43 AM on July 31, 2009

This is one of those things that charms the hell out of me (nostalgia, community and all that), before I go "Wait, that'll never work!"
posted by Rykey at 6:45 AM on July 31, 2009

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