March 12, 2010

Portland getting new daily paper

DENNIS HOEY

— By

Staff Writer

A free daily newspaper is scheduled to begin circulating in Portland, possibly as soon as the end of January.

The Portland Daily Sun will focus on reporting hard news, according to its ownership team. It will start out as a 16-page tabloid, with 5,000 copies in circulation.

Editor Curtis Robinson, one of three partners in the venture, initially will work with two full-time reporters in what he described as a ''virtual newsroom.''

During the startup period, the Sun's editorial staff will meet at Robinson's apartment on Munjoy Hill and will file stories from coffee shops or their own homes.

Matthew Killmeier, a professor of communications and media studies at the University of Southern Maine, said a free daily has the potential to do well in Portland, especially if it can lure local advertisers with low rates and can focus on reporting local news.

The Daily Sun will face competition from the likes of such publications as The Bollard, a monthly print and online news magazine, he said.

Free daily papers have performed well in other cities around the United States, Killmeier said.

''Some of the fastest-growing newspapers in the last decade have been free dailies,'' he said. ''If they can get the advertisers, they can be successful.''

The Portland Daily Sun will be published by the Conway Daily Sun of New Hampshire.

Robinson's business partners, Mark Guerringue and Adam Hirshan, both have ties to the Conway daily. Guerringue currently serves as its publisher.

Guerringue said he has no intention of competing directly with the Portland Press Herald, Maine's largest daily newspaper.

''We're the ant. The Press Herald is the elephant,'' he said.

Guerringue said the Portland Daily Sun, much like his own newspaper, will feature a mix of wire stories, comics and local news.

He established the Conway paper 20 years ago.

''It might seem counterintuitive, but a free daily newspaper can do better in hard (economic) times because you are offering something new to the readers,'' Robinson said.

If things go well, the Daily Sun could hire up to 12 staffers, he said.

Robinson is a former public affairs professional. Prior to working in Washington, he was involved with starting free dailies, including one in Colorado, he said.

Robinson, a single father, said he chose Portland not only because of its news and advertising potential, but also because he has family living here.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

dhoey@pressherald.com

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