A victim of the times

Published 10:51 am Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Free News, a weekly newspaper for area residents who don’t subscribe to The Farmville Herald, went away last week — a relic of a bygone era of newspaper publishing when grocery stores and other large retailers insisted on so-called “total market coverage” for their weekly advertising circulars, and were willing to pay for it.

In the old days, weekly revenue from five or six grocery and discount stores more than covered the cost of mailing a newspaper to non-subscribers. Slowly, that revenue has dwindled because of  Walmart’s increased retail market share in communities like Farmville and retailers’ focus on higher-end consumers and more targeted marketing strategies.

By this summer, only Food Lion and Sears still paid us to deliver their circulars in The Free News every week. Then Farmville’s Sears store closed abruptly, cutting that revenue in half. Meantime, the cost of mailing the publication has steadily increased as the U.S. Postal Service has raised rates to deal with its own fiscal crisis.

Email newsletter signup

The Free News’ drain on our profitability was simply unsustainable.

The good news for local advertisers is The Farmville Herald’s continued strong reach in Prince Edward, Buckingham and Cumberland counties.

As noted in this space a few months back, 72 percent of adults in the three counties still regularly read the printed edition of The Herald, according to a third-party market survey by reputable polling firm Pulse Research of America. Our newspaper’s readers are also among the community’s best educated and most affluent.

Simply put, no other print, broadcast or digital medium can reach that large an audience of consumers with the wherewithal to purchase goods and services from local businesses. It’s an audience that made The Free News less and less relevant for both our newspaper and our advertisers.

STEVE STEWART is publisher of The Farmville Herald. His email address is steve.stewart@farmvilleherald.com.