New York's Free Daily Papers

I'd like those advertisers who place ads within New York's free daily papers to devote a minute or two to thinking about how their message is perceived in those vehicles.  One of the things I'm struggling with is that in a world where The New York Times and other non-free papers are struggling to stay in business, these free daily papers continue to book business and distribute their product.  An ad in the Times enhances a brand - I'm not so sure about how people perceive brands that advertise in the free dailies. Consider for a moment that the best a free paper can do is tell you how many copies are printed and distributed.  "Distributed" in this context, though, takes on a different meaning than the one many media buyers might be used to.  Many of the papers are dropped off at kiosks.  A great many are literally shoved into the faces of subway, bus and rail commuters as they make their way to work.  Often, it's done in a rude or pushy fashion.  That the garbage cans on any corner where the paper pushers are handing them out tend to quickly fill up with copies of the paper is testament to the notion that many commuters really don't want them.

There's the environmental impact of wasting so many trees.  Then there's the drain on public resources - we pay sanitation people to empty public garbage cans, and we pay people who have to pick up copies that are simply discarded in the street.  Piles of the papers end up abandoned in phone kiosks and in the middle of the sidewalk.  Someone has to get paid to collect the trash and get rid of it.

Not to mention that we all pay a cost when we stand in line, waiting to enter and exit the subway.  When we get to the top of the subway stairs, or to the main exits from Penn Station, we find that the reason we've been held up is that there is a bunch of paper pushers crowding the tops of the stairs, pushing newspapers in people's faces.  The MTA spends money reminding people to quickly exit the landings of escalators once they get to the end.  And yet, the free dailies are paying people to stand there and push their product, holding up the lines for everyone in order to distribute a product that a lot of people don't want.

Some of these papers pushers are downright rude.  Today I stopped under the awning of a place I visit frequently for a coffee or egg sandwich, just to get out of the rain.  I was told rudely by a paper pusher (and in colorful language) that I needed to get out of the way so he could give out his papers.  On a public sidewalk.

And that's the straw that broke the camel's back, and what prompted me to write this post that's been ruminating in my head for a few years.  From time to time, I know marketers stop by here to read some of my blog posts.  And I just wanted to remind those people who care about their brand that they ought to consider steering clear of the free dailies.  You might not be getting what you're paying for, and it might not be presenting your brand in the most favorable light.  Consider underwriting other vehicles.