One paper's spoilage is another paper's preprint

How a small North Carolina paper picked up its own inserts


Small newspapers covet preprint ads just as their larger counterparts do, but often they are overlooked by the national retailers that envision their ads inserted into a fattened Sunday metro edition delivered to readers eager to see what's on sale.

But a 7,500-circulation Monday-Friday daily in rural Dunn, N.C., has grabbed its own piece of the preprint pie with a two-part sales pitch. First, people in Dunn like to shop, too, and they're willing to leave town to do so. Second, why not drop off a small percentage of the preprint spoilage destined for larger papers at The Daily Record in Dunn instead?

The strategy was conceived by Advertising Director Maria House, who presented it at the Mission One: Revenue conference co-sponsored by SNPA in Atlanta.

In the last four or five years, the paper has gained preprinted inserts from national advertisers such as Home Depot, Cabela's sporting goods and until its recent closure, Toys R Us. House estimates the additional revenue at $75,000 a year.

"No money was taken from these other newspapers," she said. "The only thing I did was take some of their trash."

Granted, Dunn's geographic location at the junction of Interstates 40 and 95 makes the strategy easier. With a population of just under 10,000, Dunn is located in Harnett County between Raleigh (home of The News & Observer) and Fayetteville (The Fayetteville Observer). Delivery trucks pass through the junction regularly anyway, bolstering House's argument that it's easy to drop off a few more pallets of preprints.

Dunn has a WalMart, a new Lowes Home Improvement store, a Belk department store and a number of fast-food restaurants.  Harnett County residents are accustomed to driving to Garner, Raleigh or Fayetteville for other shopping, House said.

The Daily Record, owned by Record Publishing, also publishes a weekly TMC product with a distribution of 6,500; it also carries some of the preprints.  House said in considering which national retailers to approach she thought about her own personal shopping habits and was aware of where Dunn area residents are likely going when they leave town.

Both the Raleigh and Fayetteville newspapers circulate a few thousand Sunday papers in Harnett County, but House said it costs advertisers more to run the preprints in those zoned editions than to reach Daily Record subscribers directly.

The relatively small number of preprints dropped off in Dunn would otherwise have ended up in a trash or recycling bin. For example, if a larger paper had a spoilage requirement of 5 percent of the preprinted ads, House asked for .5 percent. The advertiser paid the Daily Record's rates, but the inserts were already printed.

"It's better to invest in the cheaper customers than to throw it in the trash," she said.

Using customer ZIP codes, stores were able to track who shopped in their stores, and they discovered that people from Dunn were coming in. "The return on their investment was without question successful," House said.

The Daily Record has also been successful in drawing single sheet preprints from restaurants outside Dunn such as Ruby Tuesday, and from marriage mail advertisers such Dollar General and Family Dollar, she said.

House advises other small newspapers to start with the local store managers and work up the chain of command as necessary. Know readers' shopping patterns and don't approach retailers that your readers don't regularly visit.

"I would advise them to remember, what are your own shopping patterns? As a consumer, what is your shopping pattern?

"You live in a rural community. What do you do? Where do you go to shop? And those are the people I targeted," she said.

 For more information contact Maria House at

Jane Nicholes

Jane Nicholes is a veteran journalist based in coastal Alabama and is a regular contributor to SNPA. Reach her at

Suggestions for future stories and comments on this piece are welcomed.

Dunn, preprints
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