Newspaper readers in Regina and Saskatoon are finally catching up with the rest of the world. They now have not one but two – count em – two free papers to litter the streets with.
First came Verb more than a year ago, and now Metro News. Other prairie cities have been reading the Metro for more than a year. Transit riders in Toronto and Montreal have had the choice for longer than that.
The Regina launch has been fairly high profile, and not without at least one embarrassing gaffe. There has been radio and TV advertising marking the occasion. People with green vests have been standing by the Metro’s bright green street boxes handing out the product. And there was one infamous billboard that was briefly visible in Regina.
So, in the immortal words of Butch Cassidy ..
Exactly ! “Who are those guys?”
The first issue I picked up was a 24 page tabloid, and much of the content was truly local. The front page included a photo of Meka Okochi, the fifth candidate to join the race to succeed Pat Fiacco as our mayor.
The picture was taken by Alex Boutilier. He also turned out a very well written readable story in 13 paragraphs.
The Metro also has an impressive website which covers breaking local news.
I was left to wonder how long they might keep up this level of service to readers, both in print and online? The cost must be quite substantial.
The Metro is owned by a company based in Denmark it appears. Worldwide, they claim a readership of 17 million people a day. The Saskatchewan papers have lots of advertising, and they’re not at all shy about spelling out how they’re undercutting the Leader Post and the Star Phoenix when it comes to lineage rates.
Initially when these publications appeared in Montreal and Toronto, they were seen as transit reads , something to pass the time quickly on the subway or streetcar. It was thought that we might never see them in smaller cities on the prairies because the number of riders is a fraction of what it is in the ‘big smoke’.
The Verb does not appear to be a daily. It can sometimes be found in orange boxes on Regina streets, many of them right beside the green Metro boxes. I say ‘sometimes’ because the Verb boxes are most often empty when I come upon them.
They cover local news in a way that is somewhat similar to the Metro, with most of their stories being written by Alex J. McPherson. Can he really only be one person? They devote a lot of attention to the pub and club scene, clearly hoping to attract the Gen Y audience.
They have a very snazzy website. It almost seems to simulate the experience of reading a newspaper on a tablet.
I wasn’t able to determine who owns the Verb, or where they’re based, but I wouldn’t be surprized if it’s somewhere in Europe or Asia. Both papers are a great example of how smart players in the global economy can re-invent the time-honoured lesson that ‘all news is local’, if you know how to give it the right packaging.
Again I ask, will they still be providing this level of service a year from now? It’s hard to picture it, but however long it lasts, I’m thinking the folks must be scrambing a bit more at the Leader Post and the Star Phoenix.
When he took over the leadership of Post Media a couple of years ago, Paul Godfrey came to Regina and preached the gospel of Digital First as their new mantra. In April 2012 the new kids on the block are making the old broadsheets look very much like yesterday’s news.
Roger Currie is a Regina writer and broadcaster. He currently hosts Talk of the Town every weekday at Noon, 4pm and 10pm on Access channel 7.