retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning on how "newspaper circulars are hanging on even though they draw fewer and fewer eyeballs as readership shrinks. And they are expensive to produce, costing up to $1 million for a single run. Chain stores would love to be free of the expense and have tried dozens of experiments over the years to find an alternative, with little or no luck."

Part of the reason: "Despite the withering of the newspaper business, the inserts still land in about 50 million households a year, according to Borrell Associates, a market-research firm ... Retailers from Wal-Mart to Walgreens have found that making changes to circulars don’t always deliver the desired results. The problem is digital alternatives have failed to lure as many customers into stores as the weekly deluge of paper coupons."

The story continues: "Publishers have a lot on the line in keeping it that way. Circulars account for about a fifth of newspaper advertising revenue, Borrell Associates says, though the amount varies widely by paper. At the E.W. Scripps Co. , which owns newspapers in 13 U.S. markets including Memphis and Knoxville, circulars accounted for about a quarter of advertising revenues in 2013."
KC's View:
First of all, my personal bias: I hate circulars. Hate 'em.

And that's not just because they just seem to be so much clutter, adding only to the piles of crap that we have to recycle each week.

My biggest peeve is both personal and professional. Circulars are completely non-targeted advertising, which means the odds are enormous that each circular that comes into my house is going to be filled with ads for things I'm not interested in, don't need, don't want, and are completely irrelevant to my life.

Like, anything to do with cats.

Beyond that, it seems to me that circulars are being kept alive by a newspaper industry that knows they are going to go away as more and more people - especially young people - stop reading the newspaper in print form. So they're going to suck as much juice from advertisers as they can, with very little regard for whether this is an intelligent long-term play for their clients.

Now, if these newspapers can to a better job at targeting, then maybe there will be some small amount of life left in this dog. But it escapes me how this is going to be done. If I go down to the local newsstand to pick up the paper, they have no idea who I am, so I'm going to get the same circular as everyone else. And as for the that gets delivered to my house every morning (yes, I get a paper copy...though I read my digital copy a lot more often), well, the guy who delivers it has trouble getting it anywhere near the driveway ... so it is hard to imagine that he's capable of offering any sort of targeting capabilities.

This dog won't hunt. Advertisers need to get themselves a new and better dog.