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Distribution: from hand-to-hand to boxes • Brooklyn Paper

Distribution: from hand-to-hand to boxes

When we began in 1978, as a newspaper for Downtown’s
daytimers, most of our staff — editorial, production, advertising
— would be at their distribution posts by 7:30 or 8 am.

Some of us had just finished a virtual all-nighter, but with little or
no sleep we cheerfully greeted our readers, office workers pouring out
of the subways or off the buses and into the area’s buildings for
the start of a new day.

One distribution hot spot was outside 50 Court St., a Board of Education
building, where a manager sought to banish us from the sidewalk in front
of his entrance. The reason? On Thursdays, when The Paper came out, whole
departments were slow to start work; desk after desk sported an enthusiastic
reader and an open Paper.

We also distributed door-to-door in buildings like Court Street’s
classics — 16, 26, 32, 44 and 50.

In 16 Court, a lawyer handed our staffer a note with the command, “Give
this to Weintrob.” The note was from Rubin Ferziger, a close childhood
friend with whom I had fallen out of touch. We had gone through elementary
school and worked together on some Brooklyn Times projects during high
school.

As I was starting The Brooklyn Paper in 26 Court, Rubin was opening a
legal practice in 16. We renewed a friendship, and The Paper had found
itself a lawyer.

• • •

Over the years, The Paper’s distribution system has undergone changes
— from hand delivery on street corners and in front of office
buildings, to home and office delivery, to bulk drops in stores, to on-street
news boxes. Each method has its benefits and detractions.

In Brownstone Brooklyn, for instance, people appear to dislike the weekly
circular bags that are dumped, sometimes in inexplicably large quantities,
in front of their doors by the Marketeer. While I think this is mostly
because the Marketeer is seen by Brownstoners as a waste of time (the
package contains ads from distant stores and no local editorial content),
even home delivery of The Brooklyn Paper has had its critics.

Over time, Brooklyn Paper home delivery was limited to new areas (as a
means of introducing The Paper to people not yet familiar with it) and
occasional promotions. Some publishers like to tout their home delivery
percentages as proof of “total market coverage;” we’ve
found it’s proof of nothing but “total market waste” which,
ultimately, is passed along in the form of cut-rate quality or higher
ad rates.

Our bulk-drop system, properly monitored, guarantees that virtually every
copy we print ends up in the hands of a willing recipient.

Now, let’s talk news boxes. Use of on-the-street boxes are popular
throughout the world; they, too, have both benefits and detractions.

We limit box deployment to areas where a sufficient number of Papers cannot
be circulated in stores. We’ve never put boxes in unruly clusters,
and we try to maintain our boxes and keep them in compliance with siting
regulations. While fines for non-compliance with the new news box law
can rightly be described as draconian (they can exceed $500 per infraction),
the enforcement agency appears willing, at this stage at least, to give
publishers a fair chance to cure violations without penalty.

Community leaders outraged by problem boxes should target the vandals
who deface not only the boxes but other street property, as well. And
they might take a moment to thank their community newspapers for providing
an important service — for free — each week.