Home' Local Media Today : August 2005 Contents THE PRICE OF FREE
As will happen with the delivery of a free newspaper, we had
a customer that, believe it or not, did not want to receive our
weekly newspaper. Mrs. Jenkins on Monroe Street called
and politely asked that her house be removed from the delivery list.
District Manager Alice contacted George the Route Driver and Mrs.
Jenkins was put on the do-not-deliver list. The next week Mrs.
Jenkins called again and again told us that she did not want to get
the paper, but got it anyway. Alice called George who insisted that
he did not deliver a paper to her. The third and fourth week resulted
in similar phone calls from Mrs. Jenkins, who said she was still get-
ting the paper, still did not want it and at this point was not so
Now, District Manager Alice knows that George the Route Driver
does a top-notch job with delivery, and if George says he is not
delivering a paper to Mrs. Jenkins, Alice believes him. So, Alice
drives out to Monroe Street to assess the situation herself. Mrs.
Jenkins is appreciative of our company’s efforts to correct the situa-
tion, and she shows Alice the last five weeks of papers that were
delivered to her house. Alice then knocks on the door to the left of
Mrs. Jenkins and asks the gentleman who answered the door if he
receives the paper.
“Yes, and I read it every week – I like it very much!”
Alice thanked him and proceeded to the neighbor to the right of
Mrs. Jenkins. An elderly woman answered the door.
“Yes, I receive the paper every week”.
“That’s great” replied, Alice, “do you like it?”
“Oh, I never read it - I can’t read the small print. I am legally
blind, so I toss it next door to Mrs. Jenkins because they don’t
deliver a paper to her”.
Although Mrs. Jenkins does not desire a free paper, many people
across North America do. The growing trend of free newspapers is
sending a wake-up call to the many paid daily and weekly newspa-
pers in America and Canada. Following the successful trends of the
European Metro free newspapers, we have seen a rapid succession
of start-ups of free newspapers, including 17 free dailies started this
year by Black Press in Vancouver and British Columbia. Reader
acceptance has been strong of these new papers which provide
tightly edited news clips and strong photos that can be digested in a
very short time.
There will be a lively debate on this hot topic at the upcoming SNA
Fall Conference in Denver. Rick O’Connor of Black Press will be
joined by Russel Pergament of amNewYork and Bob Brown of
Swift Newspapers to discuss the growth, future, market position
and value of free daily publications. You won’t want to miss this
session moderated by the always entertaining Harrison Cochran of
The Aurora Sentinel and Daily Sun. If you can’t be in Denver, the
entire story about the launch of the Black Press free dailies can be
read on the SNA website, along with a story in the July issue of
SubPub on the launch of another free paper in Washington state.
SubPub, the monthly newspaper of SNA is free to members. Also
free are the many conference calls on circulation and advertising
initiatives and great ideas, the major advertiser directory, access to
timely and relevant research and the membership directory. These
and many more benefits are free to members – all for just the price
of membership to Suburban Newspapers of America. A small price
to pay, don’t you agree?
SNA Board President
be surprised and humored with the package, they
want good service and of course they want ad
usefulness. If you’re going to try to achieve just
one of these key experiences, Duke says pick
“something to talk about”.
The R.I. has learned many lessons along the way
and wants newspapers to benefit from them.
Don’t be afraid to talk directly to readers. Bring
young people into task forces to share in decision
making about the product – the fact is that many
40-50 year olds can be dead wrong about what
interests 20 something’s. Humor is a huge selling
point. Different story styles are a big hit – show
the pro and con of issues. Make your papers
more interactive. Demand candor in your news
Finally, adopt this mantra. Informative is not suf-
ficient. Interesting isn’t enough. Compelling is
There is open access to much of the Readership
Institute findings and current projects at
Duke’s full presentation at the SNA Editors’ con-
ference is at www.suburban-news.org/down-
Steven Duke can be reached at
Cup Of Joe?
Both of these options get you a cup of coffee but
the Starbucks experience is so engaging that people
are willing to pay almost 4x more. The R.I. findings
say newspapers need to both satisfy and engage
readers and that editors need to revolutionize and
innovate their approaches to selecting and delivering
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