Daily and digital landscape morphs as 24 Hours hits Ottawa, and other dailies dish up new fare

The war of the free dailies is heating up in the nation's capital - in both official languages. 24 Hours and 24 Heures will go head to head with Metro and the recently-launched Ottawa RushHour, which also offers a downloadable edition. Meanwhile, the Toronto Star is adding some new gameplay to its downloadable offering, Star PM, and Metro is also revving up its content.

Quebecor-owned Sun Media, publisher of the Toronto daily 24 Hours, is hitting commuters in the nation’s capital with two free dailies – an Ottawa edition of 24 Hours in English and 24 Heures in French. Mimicking its Toronto distribution strategy, the 40,000-copy first run of each of the new Ottawa pubs hit street boxes, coffee shops and other easily accessible locations yesterday.

Sun Media VP new business development Bob Harris says the new papers increase the 24 Hours brand’s cross-Canada readership – in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver markets – to a total of over 800,000 readers. NADbank’s spring 2006 research showed 24 Hours in Vancouver reached 76% more adults (18 and older) than the competitor with weekday readership of 187,900, compared to 106,600 for Metro. In Montreal, readership of 24 heures has increased by 16%. In Toronto, readership jumped 14% from 2004 to 2005.

Ottawa Sun publisher Rick Gibbons, who also acts as publisher and CEO of 24 Hours in Ottawa, says GM, Chrysler and The Source signed on as advertisers in the inaugural editions this week. ‘Local advertisers have a little less experience with the free commuter paper concept, but seem to like the bundling options that give them a chance to extend their reach beyond the Ottawa Sun and into a broader demographic,’ says Gibbons. ‘Francophone advertisers, especially, are interested in this fresh alternative from a print advertising perspective.’

Also on Nov. 15, Metro announced the launch of a new weekly auto section in collaboration with Formula Publications’ monthly Carguide. Metro Carguide, including reviews, safety, maintenance and lifestyle columns, will appear every Wednesday in Metro’s English Canadian markets: Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. Metro International also made news on Nov. 15 when Guinness World Records officially declared it the world’s largest global newspaper. Metro publishes 70 editions in 93 major cities in 21 countries and in 19 languages, having first hit the Stockholm market in 1995, followed by Prague in 1997. This year alone, new Metro editions debuted in Bohemia, Moravia, Castellon, Canary Islands, Basque country, Mexico City and Croatia. Over the last few months, blue chip advertisers such as Nokia, Samsung and British Airways used Metro‘s global network to target young, busy urbanites around the world.

Both announcements come on the heels of CanWest MediaWorks’ Nov. 13 launch of Ottawa RushHour, a 12-page downloadable PDF available from OttawaCitizen.com at noon on weekdays and distributed in print to 120 locations in time for the end-of-day commuter traffic. It targets a projected audience base of about 60,000 readers. Bell World has signed on as an advertiser, along with Ottawa’s St. Joseph MRI and Fred Astaire Franchised Dance Studios. Ottawa RushHour, although hosted at OttawaCitizen.com, has a separate rate card than the Citizen, but advertisers can arrange ‘bundled’ buys on a case-by-case basis.

Meanwhile, Toronto Star is augmenting its Star PM offering, billed North America’s first downloadable newspaper when it launched in September. Backed by advertising from the CBC, Remax, Sears, Goodwrench, and Global (all Star PM advertisers run ads in the Toronto Star), Star PM readers were offered the chance to win tickets to a Toronto Raptors game for participating in an online survey seeking likes and dislikes about the 3:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. editions of the print-and-go paper. The survey also asked participants if they would be interested in reading an 11:30 a.m. version of a product similar to Star PM, although several sources at the Star denied that any such a product is in the works.

The Star however has marked Nov. 15 with the launch of the first newspaper special section in North America to appear exclusively online – the Console and Computer Games section. That newbie should perk the ears of gamers with up-to-the-minute reports on Sony’s PlayStation3, Nintendo Wii, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and the PC platform – in short, the hot video game console wars. The Retro Café area of the Computer Games special section will provide visitors with free access to old-school arcade-style gamesand regular opportunities to enter contests for great gaming prizes.