mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Monday, April 10, 2006

It’s a newsie’s life, carrying the banner….

Baltimore apparently has a new newspaper out called the Examiner. Being a person who lives in Baltimore, and being a blogger, I should probably read a copy of it. But I have not yet. I’ve read about it- in Baltimore magazine and a couple other places, and I’ve seen the shiny red Examiner boxes around the city and the county, but I have yet to hold a copy in my hands.

The Examiner has an unusual distribution strategy – instead of charging for it and selling through retail channels, like the Baltimore Sun (which until now was Baltimore’s only paper), the Examiner is distributed free – delivered to wealthy areas that they feel are within their demographic, and given away in those red boxes.

But the problem with the red boxes is that if you are like me and drive everywhere, it’s not easy to stop at those boxes. I’ve seen them in lots of places – along Eutaw Street driving up from the inner harbor, chained to bus-stop signs along York Road, next to a bunch of other free paper boxes at the corner of Charles and Cold Spring. But I’ve always been in my car, and I’m not going to stop my car in traffic and get out to grab a paper. The free Examiner boxes seem to appeal only to those who ride the bus – and in Baltimore, that’s pretty mostly the very poor. Baltimore is a city where unless you live in one or two neighborhoods, you pretty much need to own a car. The Examiner is trying to appeal to a wealthier demographic, so I don’t think the free boxes are going to appeal much.

Sure, if I ever happen to be walking near a box, I’ll grab one. But I’m not going to go out of my way to, and I doubt I’ll ever live in one of the demographic areas they have targeted for free delivery. So even though I think I’m good candidate to read their paper – I have some disposable income, I’m a blogger and a bit of a news junky, I like the promise that the Examiner will have a little less of the left-wing bias of the Sun, and I like free stuff – I won’t be a regular reader. Granted, some people may get out more than I do and occasionally grab a copy- but the Examiner needs regular readers, not just occasional ones, to succeed.

Then again, I’m not a Baltimore Sun reader either. I buy the Sun once a week – on Saturday afternoon, I get the early Sunday edition. I then take it home, pull out all the good sales circulars (Best Buy, Circuit City, Office Depot, ect) and the coupons, the real estate section (because it has the auction listings at the end) and occasionally the business section, if I have time. I used to actually read the articles in the real estate section, but I stopped once they switched it from having actual articles to puff copy written by the advertising department – I have no desire to read ads for new homes in areas I don’t want to live. I used to find an intersting article occasionally – profiles of people who lived near me or in an area I was interested in, or articles about the home-buying process – but those days are gone.

The Sun has an interesting strategy to increase readership. I was in Superfresh a couple weeks back picking up my usual Saturday purchases to get ready for Sunday morning– a package of low-fat muffins and a copy of the Sunday Sun. I noticed they now have two-packs of the Sunday Sun – two copies, wrapped togther in plastic. I think it was slightly more than the cost of one Sunday Sun - $2.25 or $2.50 versus $1.66 for one. It acually had a tagline on the bag – 2x the coupons, 2 TV sections! – which seemed kind of funny. I guess I’m not the only person who buys the Sunday paper for the ads and throws the rest away. Of course, when you are selling your product to people with the intention that they will throw most of it out, it doesn’t seem like a great strategy. It also seems like a devious way to boost circulation numbers – sure, you are selling more papers, but it’s not like advertisers WANT to sell their ads to the same person or household twice – and I’m guessing most of those second papers will go directly to trash/recycling without being read, after people take out the coupon section.

So that’s the state of newspapers in Baltimore. It’s interesting times….


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