Please, Please Stop Leaving that Free Paper Here

It’s a glorious Sunday at the cafe, many people coming and going. I had a chance to read the Republican and found a story close to my heart. It was about free newspapers, and quoted readers in Baltimore MD as having to fight to stop a free daily from landing on the edge of their driveway every day, whether they ask for it or not.

I had a similar battle at my post office when I asked if they wouldn’t mind NOT putting the Recorder’s junk mail into my box. “We have to put it there,” said the clerk. “You can’t refuse to get it.” In New Zealand, one thing I noticed that nearly every mailbox has a little hand lettered sign saying ‘no advertising mail,’ or ‘no circulars.’ They can opt out, and that’s good.

In Sweden, it’s hard to avoid having men and women wearing special vests that say SE hand you copies of their free daily. I remember a dinner in Copenhagen with a woman who edits an old line newspaper’s free daily. They publish the thing at a $300K per day loss, just because there are two other free dailies that keep coming out and competing for ad dollars. In Europe, free dailies have sprouted up in every major city, and now at least three are published nearly everywhere. Many are published by an Icelandic billionaire named Thor Bjorgolfsson.

In Baltimore, lawmakers are trying to pass a law to make newspapers bend to the wishes of customers who don’t want their free papers. The law also would force publishers to include a toll-free number to call and stop the deluge. But its prospects aren’t good, as lawmakers are being lobbied by publishers, and wave their famous free speech flag. The publisher in Baltimore claims that “keeping that annoyance to a minimum is among my highest priorities.” Yet he’s fighting the law that gives these unwilling readers a chance to stop receiving them.