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Some pain and gain for free media in N.Y. strike

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David F. Gallagher contributed reporting.

Three weeks before a mass transit strike hobbled New York City, circulation managers at amNewYork were already trying to ensure that their newspaper would reach readers. AmNewYork and the other free newspaper here, Metro, are chiefly distributed by hawkers who pass them out to commuters at subway entrances.

"We laid out a matrix, decided where we would put people, where we would move them," said Floyd Weintraub, amNewYork's senior vice president. "Could we get them there? Where do we pick them up? What time do we have to pick them up?"

Faced with the prospect of fewer commuters, amNewYork reduced its average daily circulation of 320,116 by about 8 percent during the strike. It also repositioned its hawkers the newspaper typically employs about 175 of them, who distribute 65 percent of the day's copies to entry points at bridges where commuters walked into Manhattan. "I live on the West Side, and there's no need to have two or three promoters at 72nd Street," said Weintraub.

Metro, which has an average daily circulation of 326,959, according to BPA Worldwide, a media auditing group, took similar steps, using vans to relocate distributors to crowded spots like Pennsylvania Station and Grand Central Terminal.

"Our readers looked for us," said Megan Considine, Metro's marketing manager. Considine said she would not comment on whether the newspaper had reduced its circulation during the strike. "We've been business as usual for the most part internally," she said. Another free source of news during the strike had the opposite problem: The Web site of NY1 News, the local news channel for the cable customers of Time Warner saw its popularity surge.

Visitors to seeking news about the transit strike found a stark black-and-white page with basic blue headline links. Ed Pachetti, a spokesman for NY1, said the stripped-down design was intended to help visitors get information quickly and was not a result of technical limitations.

"When we have a lot of visitors to the site, we actually switch over to a text version," Pachetti said. "People are mostly interested in the text information, and we're giving them that first and foremost."

The number of visitors to last week jumped to about 100,000 a day from the normal 30,000, Pachetti said. And with the strike over, the site has returned to its customary presentation.

(C) 2005 International Herald Tribune. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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