Inserts are what we call the standalone advertising flyers that fall out of the middle of the paper when you first open it up.
Recently, our printer let us know they can’t do inserts for us any more.
Apparently the machine they use to handle the inserting for a newspaper our size is old enough and fragile enough that they can’t afford to invest in the continued maintenance, parts and staffing to keep it going any longer. And because we’re the only paper of our size that they run inserts for, it sounds like it was a pretty easy decision to give up on the machine.
Before my time with the newspaper, there was apparently an era where inserting was done manually. All of a given week’s inserts would be pre-bundled during the week, and then when the papers were printed and ready, the staff would bring them back to the office, unfold them enough to get the bundles in, and repeat that for as long as it took.
Reader, please understand that we will not be returning to manual inserting. NO WAY.
I might feel differently if inserts were a more central part of our community news mission, or if they represented a bigger portion of our revenue.
When I took ownership of the paper, we were definitely losing money on them. But even after I raised our insert rates, by the time you add in the logistics coordinating, billing, transporting and related work we do just to get them in the paper every week, I think they’re still more of a distraction than they are a benefit, and almost certainly not profitable.
Personally, I’ve also felt pretty ambivalent about having them in the paper at all. I’d guess that many people immediately throw them away, and some of the larger national corporate advertisers that have sought us out are not necessarily contributing meaningfully to local economies or quality of life.
I suspect some of our readers will feel differently, especially for the few remaining cases where a grocery or hardware store circular has coupons and deals they’re interested in. But I also suspect those individuals will apply their frugal nature to find other solutions.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of feedback we get on this change. The loss in revenue will be noticeable, but manageable. We’ll explore longer-term options that might allow us to resume offering inserts. In the meantime, I’ll admit that I’m fine with having one less thing that takes time away from the core work of keeping the community informed.