One could argue that Mecom's Dato was a rushed, badly planned, ill-informed product: it was the least well-received of all the new Danish freesheets and in direct competition to Mecom's top paid-for Danish title, Berlingske, as well as its traffic distributed freesheet Urban. But could it be that it is the distribution form, rather than quality, brand name or ability to carve out a niche for oneself, that is on trial in the Danish freesheet war?
When Dato folded, or 'merged' with Urban, last week, Lasse Bolander, managing director of Mecom's Danish division, explained the paper's failure thus: "We thought there was a market for door-to-door freesheet distribution. There isn't."
That, of course, is a very convenient explanation for Mecom, as it removes the whole quality dimension, but there is anecdotal evidence that the explanation isn't entirely far-fetched. Distribution has been a problem from the outset of the Danish freesheet war. All the new door-to-door distributed freesheets have been struggling to gain access to Copenhagen's blocks of flats, threatened with legislation for not respecting consumers who don't want freesheets on their doorsteps, and all of them have recently succumbed to distributing papers in transport hotspots as well as door-to-door.
Interestingly, though it was Dagsbrun's pledge to launch its quality door-to-door distributed freesheet-concept internationally, with Denmark as the first stop, that forced the whole freesheet war, the company's latest launch, Boston NOW, is traffic distributed, and it is in the US. When I talked to a company executive last year, Sweden was singled out as the most likely target market after Denmark, to be followed by various European markets – a strategy enthusiastically promoted in many media outlets. A minor change of strategy, or a sign that the company has given up on promoting this particular distribution model outside of Iceland?