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TNT Response Re #ZeeckBag Issue
Things seem to be getting almost farcically out of hand between The News Tribune and some Tacoma residents.
The TNT started distributing ad packets in orange bags. The bags went to to non-subscribers in neighborhoods that advertisers want to reach.
Citizens complained that the bags were showing up in the streets, parking strips, and sidewalks, and piling up in yards. Some protested by returning the plethora of bags to the TNT.
The TNT responded, promising to change the color of the bags, but saying that most citizens want them. They also offered an "opt out" option, but many residents have found that problematic.
Citizens complained to the City. The City Manager was sent to work with the TNT, and came back with the below response.
TO: Mayor and Council Members
FROM: T.C. Broadnax, City Manager
SUBJECT: The News Tribune Non-Subscriber Advertising Bags
DATE: February 20, 2014
As you are aware, the City has received numerous complaints about The News Tribune's (TNT) extra delivery placed in orange bags for non-subscribers. Citizens have requested that the City take action against the TNT for what they considered littering. Citizens have also requested that the City take action on our current Codes, or change our Codes so that the deliveries would be code violations.
Earlier today I met with TNT Publisher David Zeeck, and we had a very productive conversation about this issue and how the City and the TNT could work together to address the issue for both the residents and the TNT's advertising customers. Here are a few of the highlights of the TNT's strategy to address many of the concerns raised by residents:
- Continue the direct deliveries where it is working well and work with the Post Office to move a portion of these products back into direct mail.
- Stopping direct delivery to some neighborhoods with wide grassy strips between the street and public sidewalk, and neighborhoods that have hilly terrains with homes a few feet above street grade.
- Converting the TNT's non-subscriber product (both direct delivery and direct mail) to a weekly newspaper model, which would include news content in addition to the advertising within the next several weeks.
- Monitor the quality of the direct deliveries to ensure the carriers do not throw additional papers if the previously delivered papers are still visible, and by offering incentives for carriers with "clean" routes (picking up unretrieved papers in gutters and near storm drains).
- Offer an opt-out form on the TNT website so vacant homes can be reported and residents can request the deliveries to stop.
The above-mentioned changes that the TNT has committed to making, clearly demonstrates their willingness to work with the City and residents to address the many concerns that have been expressed. The City will continue to work with the TNT and observe whether or not the proposed changes have the desired impacts. For additional information, please see the attached Implementation strategy which Mr. Zeeck provided during our meeting today.
The specifics of the TNT's strategy for dealing with citizen concerns:
"The News Tribune Extra" Implementation Strategy
We're moving some delivery back to direct mail
- We've decided direct delivery doesn't make sense in some neighborhoods, especially where houses are close together and where property boundaries aren't clearly divided by driveways, for example. We're moving those neighborhoods back into direct mail.
- We are working to stop direct delivery to neighborhoods with especially wide grassy strips between the street and sidewalk. Delivery will go back to direct mail.
- We are working to stop direct delivery to neighborhoods with hilly terrain where homes are more than a few feet above street grade. That delivery will go back to direct mail.
We're converting the product to a weekly paper
- Both direct delivery or direct mail products are being converted into a weekly newspaper. That weekly paper will include news content and more retail and classified advertising, in addition to inserts. That's more attractive for readers and provides another way to promote community events and share community news.
- We asked our delivery vendor to increase the random checks supervisors make on every route each week. They also continuously train their carriers on the GPS technology that helps carriers deliver -- and skip -- the right houses.
- Delivery will be to driveways where possible. That makes it more obvious who is intended to receive the product. That also makes it easier the next week for a carrier to spot an unretrieved paper and not deliver a second one.
- We're asking our distribution partner to constantly remind carriers not to throw a new paper if the last week's paper is still there.
- Our distribution partner instituted a carrier incentive system that puts a greater emphasis on "clean" routes. The system also puts special emphasis on keeping unretrieved papers away from storm drains.
Making opt-out easier to find
- We set up a an opt-out form on the TNT website. It can be found at www.thenewstribune.com/extraoptout Residents can also use that form to report papers delivered to vacant homes, so we can check it out and stop them if needed.
- For some people who called and emailed us, it truly WAS about the bags being orange.
- But we also hope the clear bags allow people to find the opt-out message at a glance.
- More true opt-outs save us time, money, newsprint and plastic.
We've been here more than 125 years. The 300+ people who work at the TNT live in and love this community. Some of us grew up here. The rest of us choose to stay here out of affection for the place. Our mission is producing newspapers (and websites) that are an essential element of a strong civic culture. We fund the mission through the home delivery and/or digital delivery of news, and by building and distributing advertising that helps locals businesses grow. We also strive to be good neighbors, listen to both our friends and critics, and try to operate in a responsible and ethical way.
All of which leaves us wondering, how hard it is to deliver to front steps in a reasonable and respectful manner? Can't we all just get along?
(Also, people had an issue with the orange bags in particular?)
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