Rising up against the tyranny of free papers

stupid free newspapers

As large daily newspapers continue to gasp for life like oversized carp thrashing in ever-shrinking pools of muddy water, an interesting phenomenon has occurred:

Free weekly publications appear to be thriving across the US.

These “newspapers” are usually little more than a whole mess of advertising wrapped around a handful of inane drivel – often about the advertisers themselves – which is passed off as news.

Unfortunately, the modus operandi of these publications is to carpet bomb as many homes as possible with papers in order to boost circulation numbers.

The higher the circulation, the more publications can charge for advertising. As a result, the companies behind these papers tend to deliver to anything that looks even remotely like a home: run-down trailers, dog houses, tool sheds, etc.

Of course, what is undisclosed is how many or, more accurately, how few people actually read the publication. Also undisclosed is the anger that tends to build up when those that receive the unsolicited publications are unable to end delivery.

Often, repeated calls to the companies behind such publications have no effect, as papers continue arriving, sometimes two or three a day in major cities.

At least one individual in the Chicago area grew so tired of the free papers that he filed a lawsuit.

Mike Jaskula, a resident of the Humboldt Park suburb and an attorney, filed suit last month against the Tribune Co. on behalf of 24 neighborhood residents alleging the company’s published process for stopping delivery didn’t work.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the suit was settled quickly, according to Chicago’s WBBM-TV.

Unfortunately, most people don’t have the time or resources to go to court to stop the delivery of these nuisance publications.

These papers can be more than just an irritation, too.

A major problem is that they can pile up quickly at abandoned properties or properties where the residents are on vacation, offering criminals or troublemakers an indication of easy pickings.

After years of repeatedly kicking such publications unopened to the garbage can and then tossing them into oblivion, I am now inclined to start identifying advertisers and purposely avoiding them.

I may even let them know that their ad dollars are actually working against them.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott it’s not, but if it reduces the amount of completely unnecessary frustration in someone’s lives by just a bit, it’s worth it.

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14 thoughts on “Rising up against the tyranny of free papers

  1. You said “Unfortunately, the modus operandi of these publications is to carpet bomb as many homes as possible with papers in order to boost circulation numbers.” I’d like to add that it increases the nuisance recycling as well.

    • The whole thing is pointless – except to the company putting out the publication. I feel like collecting a truckful and dumping them at the doorstep of the company that publishes them – preferably when they’re soaking wet.

  2. However…it is possible to let the publication know that you refuse the service. If you do that, do they still throw it? Because they’re not supposed to… things may be different there, though.
    It’s just like me not using any services that I hear about on the radio (I don’t watch TV, so that also goes without saying). If I hear it on the radio, I stay far far away, just because the ads are so obnoxious.

    • Yes, I tend to be dissuaded by most radio advertisements, as well, because they’re so loud and “in your face.” For example, I don’t know what car ads are like on the radio where you’re at, but I find it hard to believe that anyone is enticed by the loud-mouthed hucksterism. However, given that nearly all car dealers use this method, it must work. I can’t stomach television advertising, so I don’t bother watching much on the tube.

  3. That would be massively annoying, unless of course you were using the strips of ripped up paper in the cat tray or had a paper mâché obsession…..
    Have you though about having a neighbourhood collection and delivering the papers back to the biggest advertiser in them? I’m sure they would love to have to throw them out for you. 😉

  4. I was working in journalism in the UK when free newspapers started. Each company providing paid-for papers promptly started their own freebie in competition. Thereby meaning two papers (min) on your doorstep rather than one.

    But I also have to confess I do read them, even now, because I am too tight to buy a newspaper. Having worked in journalism/PR for so many years and had newspapers for free/provided at work, I find it so hard to buy one! Thereby doing journalists out of a job 😀

    When I want to read the local ones, I look online or walk across to our library.

    Your point about the pile-up when there is no-one at home is valid. We’ve always given neighbours a key, so that hasn’t been a problem for us, plus they get pushed through letterboxes in the UK so not obvious. In Spain they don’t deliver free newspapers or junk mail. Junk mail is another one that is a nightmare to try and stop though. Are these things just an English-speaking phenomenon?

    • I was unaware that, for example, Spain didn’t deliver junk mail. In the US, at least, I think junk mail is the only thing keep the postal system afloat. It may be priced at a bulk rate, but it’s still a whole lot of business the post office wouldn’t get otherwise.

      I would imagine that in the US it would be difficult to ban junk mail because of free speech considerations. And, yes, getting it stopped is all but impossible.

  5. whoa!! free speech is one thing, ie the right to say what you think (within a load of constraints) but delivering garbage to someone’s home has nothing, but nothing, to do with that. just to be controversial, how much does the US think to free speech in Afghanistan, and a load of middle eastern countries, oh an Cuba, and Gitmo? No, I do not buy free speech for justification of junk mail. Oh wait, unless your comment was tongue in cheek?

    I have no idea what happens in other countries, only the ones I have lived in. I pick up my mail in Spain and there are two or three items in there every few weeks. One is usually for the previous occupant who used our address after she had sold the property so her bills that she doesn’t pay get sent there. Junk mail of a different type.

    • By free speech I mean that if the government restricted junk mail usage, it could be accused of a number of things, including infringing on an individual’s right to pursue his livelihood, i.e. soliciting goods or services through the mail (which I believe would be considered prior restraint); restricting political speech by preventing candidates or parties from soliciting for funds; or infringing on an individual or group’s ability to disseminate opinion.

      Since, in the US, at least, the Postal Service is a monopoly, the government can’t very well dictate who can use its services and who can’t.

      I understand there are exceptions for things such as child pornography and other outliers. And trust me, few dislike getting junk mail more than I do. However, I can also see how it would be difficult to prohibit legally.

      Of course, I’m no legal expert, so I might have it all wrong – and it wouldn’t be the first time.

  6. “After years of repeatedly kicking such publications unopened to the garbage can and then tossing them into oblivion, I am now inclined to start identifying advertisers and purposely avoiding them.”

    So it’s not just me? There is little delight, on a bright clear day in May, in finding the neighborhood dotted with paper and plastic bags.

    Our assistant Mayor was first troubled but accepting of the complaint that our street, and dozens around our neighborhood, was suddenly carpeted with brightly colored orange bags and wet globs of ad print. He claimed ‘governments had no power over dissemination of print material’. Imagine my amusement.

    It is heartening to find this practice of sanctioned littering has its critics however.

    Sweet revenge when several calls, with respectful criticism to the originators of this solid waste advertising scheme, and a follow up to the Mayor’s office yielded a suddenly cognitive awareness of this dirty practice as the Asst. Mayor had removed similar waste from his own front lawn. Suddenly as it had begun, no more tubes of yelping ads soiled our streets.

    Again Cotton Boll confirms my sanity, although, sadly, this is not admissible evidence in a court of law.

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