East Bay Media Market Grows with ‘Daily News’ By MATTHEW ARTZ

Friday May 13, 2005

The East Bay media market became a little bit more crowded Tuesday with the roll-out of the East Bay Daily News. 

Operated by Knight Ridder, the nation’s second largest newspaper chain, the free daily will be published Monday through Friday and seek to attract mom and pop advertisers not served by the chain’s other papers. 

“This is a healthy area economically with a lot of small independent businesses. We think there is room for another good paper,” said Dave Price, co-publisher of the Daily News Group, which Knight Ridder purchased in February. 

Price is no stranger to starting small daily papers. Along with his partner Jim Pavelich, he in 1995 founded the Palo Alto Daily News and later four sister papers in Redwood City, San Mateo, Burlingame and Los Gatos. All of the papers turn a profit, he said. 

Micro-dailies, as they are called in the newspaper world, focus on businesses that don’t have the money or presence to advertise in big daily papers. The concept has grown in popularity in recent years. Fr ee dailies have opened in New York, Boston, Washington, D.C. and many smaller towns and turned enough of a profit to make the big chains take notice. 

“Knight Ridder is definitely playing around here trying to stop competition on the low end,” said Ron Wo lf, co-founder of the wire service Ascribe. “There’s no doubt that the Palo Alto Daily News took a lot of money out of Knight Ridder’s pockets.” 

Peter Sussman, a Berkeley resident and former president of the Northern California chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists, said the paper gave Knight Ridder “a huge amount of potential monopolistic marketing muscle.” 

In addition to its flagship paper, the San Jose Mercury News, Knight Ridder, owns the Contra Costa Times, West County Times, and the Hills Newspapers, which includes the Berkeley Voice, Alameda Journal, El Cerrito Journal, the Montclarion and the Piedmonter. 

Price said the new paper was starting out with an office in Richmond and a circulation of about 5,000, but would soon move to Be rkeley and distribute 10,000 papers every weekday. He added that Knight Ridder had no immediate plans to roll out other micro-dailies in the area. 

Besides Berkeley, the paper aims to serve Rockridge, Emeryville, Piedmont, Kensington and Albany, mixing lo cal news with national and international stories supplied by the paper’s parent company. 

Price said the paper’s editorial page would reflect Berkeley’s political leanings and that its news pages would seek to appeal to a wide audience.  

East Bay Express Editor Stephen Buel welcomed the new competition. 

“I try to think that more voices are always good,” he said. “I am happy to have another source of news out there.” 

Price said he was not concerned that the most recent attempt to publish a free paper e very weekday in Berkeley, the original Berkeley Daily Planet, folded after three years in the red. “I don’t think they really understood our model in any respect,” Price said. 

Wolf questioned if the group’s first new offering under the Knight Ridder bann er had abandoned its successful formula of targeting a specific market. 

“I don’t know if a reader in Piedmont has any great need for an Albany business,” he said. “This [paper] has a corporate ‘spread the umbrella too widely’ feel when the concept that worked for them was to keep the umbrella small.” 

Although he noted the new paper could be a potential money maker for Knight Ridder, Sussman wasn’t impressed by its debut. 

“It’s an attempt to impose a formula without any advance understanding or attempt to communicate with the local community.” he said. “My overall impression is one not of respect for the community, but rather contempt for it.”›