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?