July is Free Community Newspaper Month. Like so many freedoms we celebrate during the month of July, the value of a free delivered community newspaper is one that should not be overlooked as it is a powerful resource that delivers true value each week to thousands of communities around the country.
Some may have you believe that “newspapers” are a dying instrument, and for some “newspapers” that may be true. In a recent trade article written by April Ort she notes: “The newspaper industry is beginning to see a shift in advertiser behavior as more national retailers choose to place their circular inserts with free community newspapers. Preliminary data compiled in 2013 by the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) shows that national advertising in printed daily and Sunday newspapers has declined 8 percent in just one year.”
“Readers value the free community newspaper as much as if they had paid to receive it, perhaps even more so because they didn’t have to pay. In the pages of community papers readers find relevant information on local government, school districts, tax assessors, new businesses and community events. Free community newspaper advertising is a great value. It is inexpensive and it reaches a higher percentage of readers than daily newspapers. They aren’t throw away papers or junk mail. Readers appreciate the hyper-local news they can’t get from other sources.”
Our own local data confirms the research Ort has done. The locally focused content of free community newspapers is reflected in its circulation numbers. While many media are facing audience erosion incited by an eruption of choices, community newspapers like those published here in the North Country by Denton Publications and New Market Press have been able to maintain and increase readership.
Circulation Verification Council (CVC) is an independent auditing company that audits the readership of our community newspapers. According to the latest readership study compiled in September of 2013, 81.3 percent of people who receive this free community newspaper read it regularly and of those readers, 77.1 percent told CVC that they frequently purchase products and services from the ads within the newspaper.
Those are strong numbers and they have remained strong while the readership of daily subscription newspapers have continued to decline. The amount of Americans receiving a daily paid newspaper delivered to their home has dropped from 41 percent in 1999 to 21 percent in 2013, while free community papers have lost less than 1 percent circulation, according to statistics by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, now known as Alliance for Audited Media.
Local subscription daily newspapers in our region mirror the national trend noted above.
More and more businesses, both big and small, are choosing to replace the high-cost daily subscription newspaper advertising for placements in free community newspapers. Businesses are grateful to find an affordable and effective way to reach a larger percentage of the target audience in their immediate market. Simply put, since the advertiser is paying for you to receive their ad, the newspaper doesn’t need to charge the reader to receive the paper.
The Free Community Newspaper Industry, under its national marketing arm, PaperChain, has chosen to celebrate its service to the nation in July each year. The effort will be joined by more than 2,000 free community publications throughout the country.
This Free Community Newspaper is proud to be a part of this valuable, independent movement. Supporting the economic base of our communities is a key priority for our publications as is our support of many non-profit and fund raising organizations in our communities that lack the resources to distribute their information.
While “Free” is a big part of what we do, providing jobs to more than 115 staff members in New York and Vermont takes considerable dollars to make happen. Without the active support of our many advertising partners, this free community newspaper could not exist in our area and these jobs and the services we are able to provide would be lost.
To that end, we hope you’ll join us in this month-long celebration and if nothing else, say thank you to the many businesses throughout our region that make this free community newspaper a reality in your community.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.