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More than 3,000 people a week pick up this newspaper at the six Kroger stores in the Greater Lansing market.
That will come to an end in three weeks unless the country’s largest supermarket chain can be persuaded to reconsider a new policy that bans all free publications. Kroger’s decision will damage efforts by City Pulse and other papers around the country to keep local readers informed of what is happening in their communities as mainstream dailies pull back such coverage.
Kroger has announced that almost all of its more than 2,600 stores (many elsewhere branded as something other than Kroger) will no longer provide this free service to its customers. Its argument is, essentially, that print is on the way out, so free pubs are just taking up valuable space. In corporate speak, it does not enhance “customer engagement.”
Kroger is failing to make an important distinction: Paid newspapers are certainly declining. But free publications such as City Pulse are not. In fact, to the contrary: At Kroger stores alone, our pickup rate has gone from fewer than 1,100 copies a week to over 3,000 since 2012. And that makes sense. The price of daily and Sunday papers has steeply increased in that period while content has declined just as sharply. Many readers have stopped buying their print versions for both those reasons. City Pulse and other weeklies have filled a big hole in local news in market after market. That’s why our circulation numbers — which matter greatly to advertisers, our main source of revenue — have held steady or increased.
City Pulse has nearly 500 pickup locations — but only a handful are in places with the high traffic Kroger stores have. Hence, we have gladly paid Kroger to let us in. As happy as we are to deliver to all our locations, we know that a typical Kroger store will deliver more than 10 times the average of most of our locations. It is efficient and cost-effective to be in supermarkets.
We are asking our readers to join with the Lansing City Council, which Monday night passed a resolution calling on Kroger to reconsider in the public interest. We encourage Kroger, which is generally a good community partner, to listen carefully. Local journalism is at stake.
Reader, if you value the independent local news coverage that City Pulse provides week after week, not to mention our comprehensive entertainment listings, food and culture reviews, special editions for major local events like Bluesfest, and so much more, we need your support and action now. Because our viability as a local free newspaper is directly tied to having a robust distribution network, your engagement as our customer can make the difference between City Pulse thriving or folding.
Toward that end, please take a few minutes to show your support for City Pulse. Walk to the customer service counter at Kroger to let them know you disapprove of their decision. Call Kroger at one of the numbers on this page. Send an email to Kroger corporate executive Kristal.Howard@Kroger.com to protest this decision. And please sign our petition at http://chng.it/99MvgsbJ. You can share the petition with others by using the URL lansingcitypulse.com/kroger
Other steps you can take are to express support for City Pulse on your Facebook page, visit Kroger’s Facebook page (facebook.com/Kroger) and send Kroger a direct message there, and lastly express your support for City Pulse on Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #kroger.
Your participation in this “unboycott” will help keep local journalism strong.
Here are the locations and phone numbers of Kroger stores. Please find yours and call to protest the decision by Kroger to ban City Pulse. Call the main number and press 0 to be connected to the customer service desk:
Kroger Frandor: (517) 332-2090
Kroger on W. Saginaw Highway: (517) 886-1060
Kroger on W. Holmes Road: (517) 393-6622
Kroger on W. Lake Lansing Road: (517) 351-9361
Kroger Holt: (517) 694-4119
Kroger Okemos: (517) 347-0100