Metro and RushHour launch free dailies in Alberta

Free dailies are popping up everywhere. Metro is set to push 120,000 free daily newspapers into the Calgary and Edmonton markets within weeks. And CanWest launched Calgary RushHour yesterday morning, morphing a publication that started in Ottawa as a downloadable afternoon paper.

Competition for free daily newspapers in Calgary is about to heat up that market. News broke yesterday that CanWest MediaWorks launched a free daily, Calgary RushHour in territory untouched by Sun Media’s 24 Hours brand (which has presence in Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver). In an interview with MiC, Metro publisher Bill McDonald says the free daily is launching in Calgary on Monday, March 5 and in Edmonton on Monday, April 2 with 60,000 copies in each of the two markets (a total of 120,000 in Alberta).

In addition to the Alberta launches, Metro will boost the Toronto edition distribution from its current 270,000 copies to 300,000 copies on March 5. Today, Metro‘s Vancouver edition is at 120,000 copies (up from 100,000 in January). The Ottawa edition will jump from its current 60,000 copies to 70,000 in the fourth quarter of 2007. The Montreal edition currently sits at 147,500 copies and will soon see growth, although McDonald would not speak to that at press time. Also on March 5, Metro will launch a national rate card for advertisers looking to get in on all six editions. Previously, they were only available market-by-market (although multiple markets were sold to national advertisers, McDonald says they were not priced accordingly).

Metro is doing extremely well in Canada today, especially in our more established markets like Toronto and Montreal. Toronto’s realized unprecedented growth, and we’re quickly catching the paid competitors in terms of advertising and market share,’ says McDonald, although he could not quote a number for the market share. ‘In circulation and readership, in certain cases, we’re actually surpassing our paid competitors. In Toronto today, we are number two in circulation of daily newspapers in the city, and we’re number anywhere between number two or number three in most key demographic categories. We’re number two in adults 18-49.’

CanWest MediaWorks (which owns a one-third interest in Metro Ottawa and Vancouver free dailies) launched the afternoon downloadable newspaper Ottawa RushHour in November (click here for MiC‘s coverage of the free daily scene at the time of that launch). Plans are in the works to make Calgary RushHour available online in an easy-to-print PDF format. Calgary RushHour will offer up local and international news, sports stories and scores from the previous day, and features on health and well-being, TV, movies and local events.