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August 7, 2006 / Toby Dayton

Gannett Tries To Strong-Arm Competition In Des Moines

COVER-cover.jpgMichael Swanger has written an excellent story in City View, an independently owned, alternative weekly in Des Moines, about the questionable distribution practices of Gannett, owner of Des Moines’ daily newspaper, the Des Moines Register. The article highlights Gannett’s efforts to limit competition by establishing its own distribution network and then extorting ‘pocket’ fees from freely distributed publications for access to the ‘exclusive’ racks in locations around town. While the this practice by itself, while harmful to communities interested in a healthy alternative publishing environment, isn’t illegal or even egregious, Gannett crosses the line by removing competing publications’ distribution racks, threatening store owners who carry competing publications, and misleading store owners about the service they provide.

At JobDig, we have run into plenty of issues competing against a number of daily newspapers on a daily, even hourly basis. We truly enjoy competition and embrace the challenges we face, celebrate the victories we earn, and bemoan the accounts we lose. Without question, we are a better company, in part, because of the huge number of companies we compete against for recruitment advertising dollars.

What is upsetting about the actions of some of the daily newspapers, however, is that they are attempting to stifle competition with unfair, predatory practices. Stealing your competition’s distribution racks, or even removing them with or without permission from the store-owner, and misleading or threatening local businesses, are behaviors not too dissimilar from fraudulently inflating circulation numbers. If the daily newspapers are going to survive, they need to learn how to compete effectively through the quality of their services and the strength of their value proposition to advertisers and readers rather than trying to out-muscle their competition through ‘strong-arm’ distribution tactics.

Congatulations to City View for telling a story that needs to be told so local communities can benefit from a vibrant, healthy alternative press.