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Barnes & Noble Gets More Competitive

Newspaper Business Development 101

You see it in just about every hotel. Free copies of USA Today or a local paper are left outside your door or stacked up in the lobby. Each one usually has a nice sticker on the front page, reminding you that “This paper is complements of such-and-such hotel.”

Today I was waiting in the local Honda service lounge and I saw a stack of copies of USA Today in a corrugated display. They aren’t for sale; they’re free for customers who are stuck waiting on their over-priced car repairs.

What’s the significance of this? I don’t know the financials that are involved, but I see a model more newspapers should explore. It’s highly likely that the Honda dealership is paying something for this; I doubt USA Today is leaving stacks of their papers in waiting rooms out of the kindness of their heart. If it makes sense for a service shop at a local Honda dealer to offer a perk like this, why shouldn’t every other car dealer offer it as well? In fact, if it makes sense for USA Today to do it, where the heck were the free copies of the Indianapolis Star? (Obviously the biz dev folks at the Star aren’t as creative and aggressive as the ones at USA Today.)

Let’s not limit ourselves to service waiting rooms though. What about all the other waiting room opportunities? Your doctor’s or dentist’s offices are a couple of great examples. Wouldn’t you love to have a fresh copy of USA Today or your local paper waiting for you there? I would.

Maybe the Honda dealer has more discretionary funding available to pay for a perk like this or at least they have more to spend than your doctor or dentist. Perhaps that’s right, but who cares? How about opening this up further and looking at it more from a business development point of view? If you’re in a sales position with your local paper, why not call one of the large pharmaceutical companies and see if they’d be interested in sponsoring free papers in car dealers and doctor/dentist offices? These companies are spending millions every day on TV/print ads for their newest drugs – maybe they’d be interested in having an adhesive ad placed on the front page of free newspapers in every waiting room in your city.

I still feel the newspaper industry needs to embrace a model where they’re giving away more copies than they do today. Far too many people, especially those under the age of 30, have never bothered reading a paper and won’t unless you give it to them for free. Why not experiment more with this, while also looking for large corporate sponsors to help make it an even more attractive proposition?


Jim Minatel

"(Obviously the biz dev folks at the Star aren’t as creative and aggressive as the ones at USA Today.)"
The IndyStar and USA Today are owned by the same Evil Empire. No sense giving away two of your products free when you have a captive audience who will settle for one.

"Far too many people, especially those under the age of 30, have never bothered reading a paper and won’t unless you give it to them for free. "
The Indy Star has a free 20-30 something tabloid called "InTake." It's available free (like Nuvo) in many restraunts, video stores, etc. - they've been publishing for 4 or 5 years I think.

Joe Wikert

Why give both away? Uh, how about for the purpose of increasing the distribution and visibility of the ads in the local paper?! Just because I got a free USA Today yesterday doesn't mean I also saw the local furniture store's ad in the Indy Star.

As far as InTake is concerned, I consider that more of a novelty than anything else. I also doubt it's having any measurable effect in getting that crowd to pick up and read the Star. I think it's great that they're offering an alternative product like InTake, but if they really want to broaden interest in their core product (the Star), they need to get *it* into the hands of this audience, not some pseudo-replacement product.

Bob M

Joe, here in Australia, newspaper giveaways in hotels and outside sporting events (for example) are used by newspapers to boost their audited circulation figures. Hence allowing the newspaper to increase advertising fee schedules.

Higher ciculation = higher ad space charge.

There is often a complex contra deal involving the hotel paying for the newspapers (hence increasing paid circulation) yet receiving a corresponding or percentually discounted rate for advertising placed by the hotel in the newspaper. Reform has taken place over the past couple of years regarding how such circulaton gains are accounted for to restore some reality to circulation figures.

If this isn't already occurring in the USA newspaper industry, it should be.

Pete Gaughan

Just got back from a Manhattan trip--first time I'd been there in 15 years--and the tabloids "get" this. The Post, Daily News, and Newsday were free just for walking past subway exits at the busier corners (like Herald Square/Macy's). It turned out each day was "sponsored" by an advertiser featured on an extra sheet that day's edition was wrapped in.

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