Come for the Paper, Stay for the Gas

By: Mark Fitzgerald

A one-time newspaper giveaway promotion with a convenience chain continues to pay off months later for both the stores and The Knoxville (Tenn.) News Sentinel.

Pilot Convenience Stores came to the paper with a problem: Customers were filling up at the pump, but not stopping in the store. The News Sentinel suggested giving away the Friday paper during high school football season. Pilot buys the copies in bulk at a little more than 25% of the cover price, customers come in for a free paper ? and, inevitably, end up buying coffee, snacks, and other items from the store.

The promotion ended when football did ? but that didn’t last long. Customers kept asking for their free newspapers, and Friday copies became free year-round.

Where once Pilot sold about 1,200 copies of the Friday paper, now 9,000 go out the door ? meaning 7,800 extra customers are going from the gasoline pumps into the store, notes Consumer Sales Manager Marshall Smith. “These are readers that obviously are picking up other things besides a free copy of the News Sentinel,” he says.

What’s more, research shows that “Free Friday” consumers “index pretty high as readers and users of advertisers,” says Jim Boyd, circulation director for the Tennessee daily.

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