Thursday, August 02, 2007

Local values

There’s a battle waging on just outside your door. Every week, a new leaflet comes in the mail, hoping to secure the eye of whoever is the “current resident” of the address. But it has nothing to do with the politicians vying for votes or credit card companies seeking a new rube. It’s the local print media’s TMC campaign and it’s coming to a mailbox near you.

No, TMC has nothing to do with The Movie Channel, Showtime’s premium cable channel; in fact, its concept is almost the exact opposite. Subscribers normally order The Movie Channel to avoid watching greedy little advertisements clips inserted into every nook and cranny along the way. In contrast, no one subscribes to the “Total Market Coverage” mailers and what they get is pretty much the Sunday paper minus any journalistic content, but with enough worthless inserts to choke even the most robust garbage can.

Today, the Times Union, the Saratogian and The Daily Gazette print up TMC mailers. Depending on the publication, they get sent either once a week or every other week to any nonsubscriber. So, if you happen to be one of the unlucky souls living in all three coverage zones –as most people are in the city proper –and don’t subscribe to any of these papers, you’re likely to receive a veritable rain forest worth of mailers each week.

See, the failing newspaper industry is becoming increasingly desperate for advertisers; the pie of ad revenue is getting smaller with every corporate merger and circulation dip. Ad departments are now placing an increasing emphasis on gimmicks to snag a contract or hold the line on one that is expiring. TMC mailers allow ad reps to boast that their publication reaches every doorstep in their coverage region, one way or another.

And how do you prevent these mailers from showing up each or every other week? You could try calling the paper’s advertising director and request the mailers not be sent. Persistent callers generally get put on a sort of “do not send” list for a spell. But once the ad director leaves –a frequent occurrence at some papers –chances are pretty good the mailers will again litter your mailbox.

For even the most fickle among the environmentally conscious, it’s sad to contemplate how many tons of these mailers are getting shipped to a landfill each week without ever achieving their intended purpose, which is to boast a product that some person out there might buy. Even sadder is that advertisers buy –literally and figuratively –into this bullshit concept of total market coverage.

But the saddest notion of all is that struggling newspapers actually pay good money to paginate, print and mail this garbage to thousands of households across the region. It’s a safe assumption that none of the households receiving this garbage ever consider subscribing to the paper for that reason. And there is no quantitative way for anyone to gauge the effectiveness of the mailers, as all the businesses featured in them also appear in the regular print edition.

It seems the dollars invested in such a venture would be better spent buying a C-130 to drop old Sunday papers across the region; after all, this is in essence what the mailers are doing. Or better yet, these dollars could be spent in the newsroom, where market coverage these days is anything but total.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it's a little tough to call the newspaper industry "failing." Most are still making astronomical profits that many other industries would kill for. Many also are starting to make money on the Web, but the greedy corporate owners want more.

1:19 PM  
Blogger Lieutenant said...

There's nothing like sitting back and reading a good newspaper for an hour or two. The only problem is that there are no longer any good newspapers out there. Most have there own liberal agenda and report stories the way THEY want you to see the story.

6:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah..the 'liberal media' scare show; again.

Actually, this is the biggest myth in modern day American life--the myth of the mainstream media having a left/liberal bias.

Perpetuated, of course, by the corporate owned mega-chains themselves.

Brilliant, actually.

11:55 AM  

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