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Newspapers: You can't give'em away

14 Jul 2014
Posted by Shannon

Four more newspapers bit the dust across Canada over the last two weeks, and while the loss of three of the Metro give-away papers is no loss at all, Toronto's sharply written Grid will be much missed. 

The Grid is the rebranded version of the Toronto Star's Eye Weekly, a long-running alt weekly that changed direction in 2011, trying to catch a younger audience.

It was a much more interesting paper than the tired old Now magazine, but the latter also attracts the aged baby boomers, now in their early 70s. Meanwhile, the under-40 set leans heavily on mobiles, and advertisers know it. 

And the simple fact is that most of us view the give-away newspapers, full of advertorial, as birdcage liner. I haven't picked up one the street box freebies in years. If I'm in a waiting room, or a restaurant, I read on a mobile. I have the New Yorker in my pocket, along with dozens of novels and all the headlines from the last 15 minutes. 

So where I live, stacks of cheesy papers full of fat flyers go directly from the apartment building doorstep to the recycling bin. (We've given up trying to persuade the guy who drops them there to stop it, and now just trash them promptly.) Friends in the tonier neighbourhoods lobby to keep the euphemistically named "controlled circulation" junk off their doorsteps. 

But while the Grid's demise was a surprise, a trio of Metro papers going under wasn't. It was probably a relief to residents in Regina, Saskatoon, and London to lose their green-tops. 

The junk papers are a relentless source of litter and a major nuisance for commuters, as the hawkers like to position themselves in front of transit hubs and force the papers into reluctant hands. They con advertisers into thinking that's a good buy based on the number of copies they can "distribute" this way. 

I often wonder what makes advertisers think the trip from my hand to the nearest garbage can is worth their money?