BACK IN AUGUST OF 1990, John Cribb wrote an article for Free Paper Publisher titled “The Free Future”. John stated in the opening paragraph, “Successfully publishing a growing and pro. table free paper between now and the next century is going to be more and more difficult. The reason is changing markets and approaches to doing business. Publishers who recognize change can profit from it tremendously; those who don’t will be left in the dust.”
He went on to say, “…there is a major trend that will change the way publishers think about publishing and distributing their product. This trend has started but will accelerate incredibly in the next ten years. The trend is Target Marketing, which is targeting specific consumer markets with specific (niche, specialty) publications.”
For several years, John had advised starting niche papers for auto ads, senior citizens, real estate, etc., in individual markets before someone else did. He believed that creating these products was something publishers needed to do to keep the market clean, control ad dollars, and continue growth.
Cribb also thought the free papers would be able to target markets based on information derived from the 1990 census. He envisioned being able to reach certain demographics exclusively in the free papers. His example was someone wanting to advertise hearing aids and only wanting to go to households with people 50 and older. Other products and services might want to target a younger or more affluent market. He proposed a computer database of census information as being essential to accomplish this.
He foresaw the growth of special publications to target the increased immigration over the next 15 to 20 years. We can all attest to how fast, and successful, the Spanish language papers have become.
“Target marketing is the future for free paper publishers and the opportunities for growth are spectacular. This is the most significant trend in free paper publishing in the foreseeable future,” said Cribb.
In his book, The Shopper, John made other predictions:
• Every market with 2000 households or more will have at least one TMC product, either produced independently or by the paid newspaper.
• The consolidation of free paper business due to acquisition by larger publishing companies will accelerate.
• Rack-distributed and newsstand sold “niche” publications will become much more common.
• The selling price for free paper businesses will continue to increase.
• The majority of free papers will have laser typesetting by the early 1990’s.
• Many direct mail free papers will convert to carrier distribution due to the big cost of mail.
• Most TMC free papers will add some rack distribution.
What is amazing is how much of what John said has come true. As an industry, we need to do more in thinking about the future. We need to put together an industry “think tank” and invite people like John Cribb to be a part of it. Many publishers did not react to changes that have happened since 1990. We need to be better prepared for the changes that will happen in the next 16 years.
As Cribb said, “Publishers who recognize change can pro. t from it tremendously; those who don’t will be left in the dust.”
John Cribb is the president of Cribb & Associates, 104 E. Main St, Suite 402, Bozeman, MT 59715 – phone (406) 586-6621 or go to cribb.com.
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