Free papers not dead these days


I attended a publishers and owners summit sponsored by Midwest Free Community Papers in Dubuque, Iowa, this weekend and was in awe of the wealth of experience and knowledge in the room.

The consensus is that print is not dead in the free-paper industry. It is still the one medium that delivers the message to all age groups and income levels that advertisers seek. While dailies are suffering, the free weeklies are strong in the communities they serve.

Dubuque is a unique city in that the city dads have made sure the old buildings have been preserved for new uses and not demolished. It has the only gold dome courthouse in the state, and it has been refurbished twice—all paid for by donations, not city funds.

Dubuque is located on the mighty Mississippi, which made it a trade center early in our country’s history. Downtown is protected by a large levee and gates that keep the river out.

I learned something recently. If I want something from the grocery store, I have to go along to get it if it doesn’t come home by itself. In other words, vetoed by the main grocery shopper in the household.

We haven’t had enough rain, for sure. Dubuque had 15 inches in 12 hours the last week in July, which is just as bad the other direction.

Lots of flash flooding and destruction from too much, too fast. It really didn’t affect the Mississippi. It takes massive snow melts from the north to make any difference with its level.

I read a blog on Groupon, the company that offers big discounts on retail items, and the research indicates it may not be all that good for most businesses.

In fact, it appears it is only good for Groupon and possibly the people who use the coupons. The blogger uses her business as an example of why it may hurt and not help businesses in the long run.

Here is a link to the information: aneclecticmind.com/ 2011/03/18/why-groupon-is-bad-for-business-and-consumers/

It seems to me that we, as a culture, have made “profit” for a small business a bad word. It started with the big discount stores offering loss leaders to get people to come in for the unbelievably low-priced item, and then, when the customer found out it wasn’t what they were really wanting, upsold them to a better item that wasn’t discounted.

I still remember a sign that was posted in the Hillsboro Gambles store a long time ago. The sign said: “The taste of poor quality lingers long after the thrill of a bargain is gone.”

The Free Press has reached another milestone with this week’s issue. Last week wrapped up 13 years in business and this week begins the 14th year. I don’t know if this means anything, but I can only remember three people, in all of these years, who have asked us not to send a paper to their home.

August marks the 10th year we have lived in downtown Hillsboro. With our work across the street and around the corner, I can’t think of a handier place to live.

If you wish to share your comments or ideas, my e-mail address is joel@hillsborofreepress.com.


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