The free paper industry: thoughts from the AFCP floor

Good morning dear readers! Last week found yours truly sitting in lovely downtown Atlanta (my hometown) at the Association of Free Community Papers (AFCP) Conference. The AFCP and other dedicated associations (like the Independent Free Papers Association, or IFPA) work diligently to promote the vibrancy and vitality of local media publishers. They have banded with many state and regional associations to form PaperChain, which works to educate media buyers and planners on The Free Paper Industry.

They represent the “hyper local” reach that so many of my clients asked for when I was a media buyer (way back in the day).

But if that’s the case, then why is there still a disconnect between those publications and their potential advertisers? Having the pleasure of knowing buyers and sellers of media, I did a crazy thing: I asked them.

One of the key responses I received from media buyers (in varying degrees of articulation) was that “free publications are not invited into the home,” followed by the question“are they?”

There is a perception (let me underline that a few times)…a perception that “free” does not mean a given publication is invited into the home or included in that household’s reading/consideration. The concern is that an ad in such a publication would not be seen or that the message would not be delivered.

According to third party research provided by the Circulation Verification Council (that surveyed a national combined circulation of over 65 million):

  • Over 97% of potential recipients confirm receipt of a free paper
  • Close to 4 out of 5 homes that receive a free paper read it
  • Close to 75% of the readers of free papers make buying decisions based on information taken from those publications

Looks like 3rd party numbers show that these fine publications are, in fact, being welcomed into the home and used to make ad buying decisions.

And for those of you Preprint buyers, guess who (in many cases) can offer Sub Zip Distribution? You guessed it, the free paper industry.

I spoke to many media owners at the conference who have made inroads with advertisers that would not have returned a phone call six years ago. With rising circulation and close ties to the community, these publications are worth a look to compliment an existing print media buy. You can learn more by checking out, or of course by looking up member publications featured and profiled within SRDS online.

I’d like to know what you think out there, folks. Please share your thoughts on free papers below.

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