With fewer people using newspaper vending boxes, the staff at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson found themselves answering an important question: How could they bring these boxes back to life?
While the days of carrying spare quarters in your pocket may be long gone, the paper realized there were a number of ways to revive the steel machines.
In addition to partnering with the city of Tucson to retool old boxes as free mini-libraries, the Star also began to utilize existing vending machines as “brand communication vehicles,” said Mark Lolwing, director of circulation and consumer innovation.
“We’re focusing on viewing them as messaging vehicles as opposed to revenue drivers,” he said. “I thought we needed to shift our paradigm a bit and realize that we’ve got these great communication opportunities all over the city so why not use them?”
Messages such as “Quality journalism never goes out of style” and “Stay smart. Get real news. Get the paper.” have appeared on more than 200 newspapers boxes in and around Tucson in the standard lower rack card positions. By the end of May, about 20 boxes had also been equipped with top rack attachments as well.
“We’re trying to change the conversation in the community and make these boxes more visible,” Lolwing said. “I always say newspapers are great at telling everyone else’s story but we’ve never been good at telling our own.”
So far, the positive feedback from local residents indicates the Star is on the right track. Lolwing noted that he has received phone calls from people asking for rack cards of their own to use as yard signs in support of quality journalism.
Meanwhile, the paper’s partnership with the city’s park division has begun to come to fruition, with some mini-libraries already up and running. The Star will provide about 50 new books a month which the city will then distribute to the various lending library locations. As the year progresses, the project will expand into more neighborhoods.
The paper also donated a box to a local high school to use for its student paper and is continuing to look for creative ways to take advantage of the boxes.
“There is no timeline to the initiative and I think that’s okay. We need to be dynamic with this stuff,” Lolwing said. “We can’t sit and do what we’ve always done. Who knows what ideas we may come up with in the future?”