BALTIMORE — Less than three years after its launch as the city's second daily newspaper, The Baltimore Examiner is shutting down, a victim of slower-than-expected ad sales.
Employees of the free tabloid were informed of the closure Thursday morning. The Examiner will publish its last issue on Sunday, Feb. 15. About 90 people will lose their jobs, said Jim Monaghan, a spokesman for Clarity Media Group, the paper's Denver-based parent company.
"We had good people there. We thought we had a good paper," Monaghan said. "It's a disappointment that it didn't work out."
Clarity, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, also publishes Examiner papers in Washington and San Francisco. Ryan McKibben, Clarity's CEO, told Baltimore staffers that the company expected "strong revenue synergies" between the Baltimore and Washington papers, but those did not materialize.
Clarity had been searching for a buyer for the Baltimore paper for months, McKibben said.
"We didn't get the depth of national advertising that we would have liked. We thought, with the combination of two markets, we would have been able to do that," Monaghan said. "After 30 months of trying, it became clear during the current recession that advertising is not increasing."
The announcement "came as a complete surprise" in the newsroom, Examiner reporter Luke Broadwater said. He said the newsroom staff had been cut in about half through attrition, but he did not know how dire the paper's finances were.
When it launched in April 2006, The Baltimore Examiner was delivered six days a week to homes in affluent urban and suburban neighborhoods. Clarity changed that model last summer, cutting home delivery to two days a week, Thursday and Sunday. The paper was distributed on racks the rest of the week.
Thursday distribution was about 327,000, and Sunday distribution was 325,000, Monaghan said. About 44,000 copies were printed on days without home delivery. The Examiner did not publish on Saturdays.
John Murray, a vice president of circulation and marketing at the Newspaper Association of America, said free tabloids are more vulnerable to a sour economy because they often compete with paid dailies for the same advertisers, and they don't have a base of subscribers to fall back on.
"They don't have that stable revenue stream from their readers," Murray said.
Nonetheless, the Washington and San Francisco Examiners are on solid footing, Monaghan said. The Washington paper will be adding columnists and beefing up coverage of politics and national security, Clarity said in a news release. The papers will also enhance their Internet presence.
Monaghan said it was doubtful that any Baltimore staffers would make the jump to the Washington paper. He said announcements about new hires were imminent and that the paper would be adding "people who are for the most part pretty well known."
Broadwater said he was proud of what the paper was able to produce.
"I think we exceeded everybody's expectations. We were complete overachievers," Broadwater said. "We contributed a lot to the discussion, the debate and the conversation about what's going on in Baltimore and the state of Maryland."
Publisher Michael Beatty and editor Frank Keegan declined to comment, referring calls to Monaghan.
The Examiner's demise leaves The Baltimore Sun as the city's only daily newspaper, a status it held for more than 10 years before the Examiner's launch. The Baltimore News American folded in 1986 after more than 200 years. The Sun, which has published since 1837, merged its morning and evening papers in 1995.
The Sun is owned by Chicago-based Tribune Co., which filed for bankruptcy in December. The paper has gone through several rounds of buyouts and layoffs amid declining readership and ad sales, and the size of its newsroom has been cut in about half since 2000.