Monday, October 14, 2019

Kroger and other chains ditch newspaper and magazine racks, prompting outcry from free-circulation publishers

Several major grocery stores and retailers have stopped selling newspapers or making space for free magazine racks, drawing protests from local publishers, Laura Owen reports for Harvard University's NiemanLab.

Kroger, the nation's largest supermarket chain by revenue and a major presence in rural America, announced recently it will no longer carry free papers and magazines. Tom Lappas, publisher and editor of The Henrico Citizen in Virginia, said he's worried about the future of his paper because he distributes about 18 percent of his papers via Kroger and doesn't have much money to spend on distribution, Brendan King and Katey Mooney report for WTVR of Richmond, which has Henrico County on three sides if it. (Henrico has no incorporated municipalities.) "It's a non-lucrative endeavor, it's a constant grind," Lappas told King and Mooney.

"Free publications rely on a paid advertising business model: Advertisers buy ads with certain assurances that their marketing messages will reach a certain number of customers. This is why having a reliable, wide-ranging distribution point such as Kroger is so important," Susan Ellis reports for the Memphis Business Journal.

Kroger says it's removing the racks because more people are reading digital news, so offering print publications no longer brings in more customers. "This pushback in grocery stores is only the latest case of retailers stepping away from print; what was once seen as a tool to pull in daily customers is increasingly seen as something taking up valuable floor and counter space," Owen reports.

"The Association of Alternative News Media launched a campaign last month to try to get Kroger to keep free pubs like its member alt-weeklies in stores, and individual news outlets are asking their readers to call Kroger and complain," Owen reports. Some free alt-weeklies have broken important stories that local newspapers didn't catch, like the Lansing City Pulse in Michigan that broke the story about a district judge involved in sexual misconduct, Tana Geneva reports for LA Progressive.

Kroger isn't the only chain to stop distributing or selling publications: Aldi and Starbucks also stopped selling newspapers and magazines in September, Owen reports.

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