Jen and I took a dry run of the newspaper route on Monday afternoon, in a thin but persistent rain viewed through a foggy windshield.
It’s the same route my father, Bob, has been running since we started the paper four years ago, and his first newspaper job since he used to deliver the Albany, NY Times-Union in the 1950s, when he was like 12 years old. Bob’s out for a few weeks after rotator-cuff surgery, and we’ve got to get things in order for his stand-in.
The route cobbles together like an old farmhouse, a semi-loop around Greensboro with spurs and offshoots into commercial districts from Phillips Avenue to Quaker Village. We’re trying to rein it in, along with all the other weekly routes which includes mine, through downtown Greensboro, and Jordan Green’s, which covers all of High Point, Jamestown, the airport area and a southwestern pie slice of Greensboro.
I may not be the only publisher in North Carolina who delivers his own papers, but I would highly recommend it to all who don’t. My few hours on the route each week give me invaluable information on our readers at the point of sale, useful intelligence about the competition and put me in contact with business owners, fellow service people and people on the street, from hipster to homeless, sources all.
It allows me to personally fulfill our contract with our advertisers, who pay not so much for the real estate in our paper as the eyeballs that will eventually see it, and our readers, who deserve our best, in their hands, at the same time every week.
A lot has changed in this business since I came on more than 20 years ago, but there are still just three legs to the stool: content, revenue and distribution. The only one that can be successfully removed is content — that’s what advertisers and pay-to-play newspapers are all about, though we will never stop making quality content.
Distribution may be the most important piece. Because what’s the point of putting something out if nobody can pick it up?
Jen and I got the route under control in a couple hours, adding a couple shortcuts, trimming underperforming stops and adding a few new prospects, an ongoing process that never truly ends. We’ll meet again Thursday morning, just after the sun has come up, to put the word on the street.