Get Out of Town Rackjob Monopolizers!

I’m sitting here tonight completely in a state of rage…and have been since late last week. Not that this is something new with me, as rage fuels my weekly rants. And I have also been suffering from a horrible cold that I picked up from my son, so I’ve certainly been even more pissy than normal.
But I’m even more enraged than normal. For months, I’ve been sitting on a scoop. I teased it once a few weeks ago, and a cartoonist buddy of mine referenced it in a piece of artwork that I published on this blog.
Never in a million years did I think that another media organization would pick up on the story. And I certainly never thought that my site would be the inspiration for a media company to start asking questions. From what I’ve been told, though, that’s exactly what happened.
The story begins a few months ago. A friend had mentioned a rumor that a bunch of local independent publications had merged. Since I am friends with some of the people involved, and their opinions of the other magazines supposedly involved, I knew this wasn’t true.
A few days later I met my friends for a drink, and raised the issue of these rumors. After ten minutes of laughter, they filled me in. It seems that sometime last fall they received a letter from the Argus Leader stating they had signed exclusive deals to supply local businesses with racks for newspapers and magazines, and unless they agreed to pay a relatively substantial fee to the Argus for the use of these racks they would no longer be allowed to distribute at these locations.
Accompanying the letter was a list of businesses that had supposedly signed up for this program. Scanning through the list, these publishers noticed a number of their best advertisers. They quickly contacted a number of these clients, and were surprised to hear that they knew nothing of this “contract”.
Obviously upset by these turn of events, my publisher friends contacted a number of other local indie publishers and a loose coalition was formed. They have had at least one meeting with the Argus, but so far little has been accomplished. Many retailers now feature those giant, ugly racks, filled with their newspapers and all of those silly inserts such as City Style and Link.
As I stated earlier, I sat on this story for months, but last week KSFY turned it into a two part story that a producer told my artist buddy was inspired by my site. Besides this ridiculous attempt at monopolizing the local print media business (and let’s face it, what is now called Link was originally a publication designed to drive Tempest out of business), what is pathetic is that nobody would speak on camera to KSFY. This is a company that’s always ranting and raving about transparency in not only government but the general public but when the tables are turned they jump into the shadows. They can criticize, but god knows nobody can ask them tough questions.
I’ll be honest – I’m not a fan of the majority of publications in question. Too many rags in this town are ad-driven instead of content-driven. Any “article” is nothing but an accompaniment to an ad that’s conveniently placed right next to it. Few are willing to take a chance and print anything that’s not “safe”. Yet I’ll rant and rave to the end of time for these people to have a fair ability to compete in, to quote a local talk show, “the marketplace of ideas”. Our culture is bettered by every new issue of every publication, and we needn’t have to pay the big boys for the right to sit next to them.

Comments

~dawnne~ said…
good spot on KRRO this morning, Scott. i agree wholeheartedly, especially since i serve one of the Indy mags. it seems really odd--not unpredictable, but odd--that the Argus group is so hot-snot on the racks, while actually misleading potential advertisers on placement of their ads and thus practicing a bizarre concept i call "self-devaluation".

i've repeatedly seen ads buried on article pages where article graphics grossly outweighed and overbalanced the ads, is their biggest fault. charging West/East-Coast prices for less 1/12th of the comparable distributorship of mags i advertised out there in, is another thing.

they also have a penchant for random ad distribution. on one hand, some articles tie directly to the ads involved, on the other, many ads are placed completely inappropriately. my one-time Live! Mag ad for wedding photography was placed in an article about brain problems or something like that--right next to a huge picture of a brain that actually decontrasted my ad colors.

now lieing about exclusivity on rackspace? eesh. talk about foot-shooting. i'd already decided "never again", but now it's more like "never, ever again".

of course, the rackspace issue denotes that their other failings are actually catching up with themselves. they wouldn't need to monopolize the rackspace if they were really offering their advertisers and readers what they claim.

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