By: M.L. STEIN
SAN FRANCISCANS GREATLY favor racks that sell multiple newspaper titles, according to a city-sponsored poll, and apparently they’ll get what they want ? despite opposition from publishers favoring their own vending machines.
The Department of Public Works, which spread 22 pedestal-mounted racks around the city in a pilot program, reported “overwhelming support” for the machines from 93% of the 769 respondents surveyed. They reached their judgments after viewing seven prototype models, some of which were placed near the older, free-standing machines the city is trying to eliminate. In addition, several firms have written to Mayor Willie Brown and DPW Director Mark A. Primeau expressing satisfaction with the new racks.
The models were supplied by JCDecaux, a French company; City Solutions; USA Today; and the San Francisco Newspaper Agency (SFNA). Respondents were not asked to make comparisons between vendors and their models or to choose one type over another.
Primeau reported that 26 newspaper publishers and distribtutors also were solicited for their views on the new machines. Opinions of the 11 who replied were mixed, he said, but all agreed something had to be done about the proliferation of free-standing racks and praised the pilot program.
Most of the concerns, Primeau said, came from weeklies and smaller, free publications because of the reduced capacity of the pedestal-mounted boxes and the lack of brand identification in the displays. This, they noted, may have led to a drop in the pickup rate in the new machines.
Perhaps the most vociferous opponent of the multiple-paper machines is the alternative San Francisco Bay Guardian. In a letter to the DPW, circulation director Aaron Rubin said the weekly’s own study of the pilot program found that the models were less visible than free-standing racks and “resulted in a net decrease of distribution locations.” He also described them as “poorly designed” and said they “make it more difficult to distinguish individual publications, retain our advantage over our direct competitor, and to distribute our newspaper.”
At the same time, he went on, the daily San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner will find it easier “to increase and consolidate their monopoly on outlets.”
In an interview, Steve Hearst, vice president/circulation for the SFNA, the business and production arm for the jointly operated Chronicle and Examiner, said of the pilot project: “This is not something we are welcoming. We would rather have our separate news racks, but we do recognize there is a problem and that other cities have passed similar laws.”
Last March, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors authorized the pilot program, largely at the urging of the mayor, who has complained about the clutter of news racks. The supervisors could eventually enact an ordinance that would make the multiple-title racks the only kind allowed in the city ? a move that seems likely.
Dan Brugmann, manager of the city’s news rack program, said no rack manufacturer and no funding system had been chosen. One idea, he said, would be to find businesses that would pay for the racks in exchange for having their advertising on the back.
Ironically, Brugmann’s father is Bay Guardian publisher Bruce B. Brugmann, who was described by his son as “the most vocal opponent” of the new models. The elder Brugmann, a longtime foe of joint operating agreements (JOAs), declared in an interview that in any action the city takes regarding news racks, “there must be a place for the non-JOA press to help keep the JOA from further consolidating their mono-poly stronghold on the streets of San Francisco.”
The JCDecaux rectangular model led the other models in popularity, the survey found. The French firm also displayed a kiosk-style rack, which is similar to its units already on the streets of San Francisco for live vendors. The Union Square Association, which represents business interests in San Francisco’s most upscale shopping area, said it was pleased with the pilot program and “volunteered” Union Square as a “news rack district.” But it suggested the city adopt guidelines for any rack advertising and asked for more information on how the racks will be managed.
?(Of the six models of racks tested in San Francisco, kiosk style rack from JCDecaux of France (left) and USA Today’s more familiar version (below)) [Photo & Caption]
?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher January 24,1998) [Caption]