Updated on 01.12.08

My Favorite Bargain: The Free Newspaper

Trent Hamm

Perhaps my favorite bargain in any city of significant size is the free community newspaper. These are newspapers that are distributed for free and pay for themselves through ad support – they’re usually loaded with advertisements for local events and businesses. If I see one of these, even in an area that I don’t live in, I’ll pick them up for some free entertainment.

Why do I like them so much?

They’re free. That’s a big help, right there. No financial cost at all. I do recognize there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and I realize that the advertisers support this newspaper in the hopes of getting access to your eyeballs.

They usually cover community news quite well. These papers usually focus on covering the local community, and they often do it well. In the Des Moines area, for example, Cityview covers the local community quite well in the context of a free local newspaper. In fact, it’s done so well that the Des Moines Register is trying to compete with it with the free Juice (though I don’t think it quite stacks up). I’m quite happy – two free local papers to read.

They usually include a community calendar. Most free local papers usually include some sort of community calendar. The better ones identify a lot of free community events, which are great ways to spend your time without emptying your wallet.

They’re usually written by passionate people. The people behind these newspapers are usually very passionate and involved in the idea of putting out a good local newspaper that’s accessible to everyone – that’s why they adopted this model. It allows passionate people without a huge amount of capital the opportunity to compete – and those are the people that usually want to produce some quality content. For me, the reader, that means a pretty decent newspaper – for free.

They’ve usually got a number of coupons for local businesses and local franchises. A lot of the advertisements in such papers will have coupons attached in order to help get you in the door. I often watch out for coupons of interest to me (coupons can be great if they’re for things you would do anyway) and I’ve found quite a few in free newspapers.

They can be very quirky. One free newspaper in northern Iowa, Toons, consists of nothing but political cartoons (both local and national) and comic strips (on rare occasion, there’s a movie review). This is absolutely great entertainment if you have fifteen minutes to burn waiting for a doctor’s office, and the editorial choices give the paper a very distinctive and quirky flavor.

All of this, for free!? That’s a good deal, in my eyes.

Where can I find them? I tend to consistently have luck finding them in the entrance of libraries and also right inside the front door at grocery stores. These places tend to consistently collect free local papers – they’re usually stacked up or in a simple vending machine.

It’s well worth your time to pick up a free local paper and see what it has to offer.

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  1. Anne K says:

    Yeah! The local free papers are great! It’s how I found out about a couple of community choruses (I like to sing), and several other things. Thanks for the post, Trent.

  2. Matt says:

    In Chicago, we have the RedEye and the Reader. I like the Reader because it has just enough important news, events, sports, movie and tv reviews that I can read it on the train on the way to work. The Reader I believe is weekly but it has much more in the way of Dining and other reviews, I’m not sure I don’t read it that much.

  3. Frugal Dad says:

    These are an excellent source of local newsworthy items. My stepdad advertises his services in one of our local circulars and found the return on investment extremely profitable. It was cheap advertising, and lead to more sales than he initially expected.

  4. Stephen says:

    I love my local paper also. I find it to be an excellent source of just about all things local. The calendar is what I really like a lot. Being able to see a bunch of the things that are going on locally is really the best part.

  5. Jim Jones says:

    I was reading through my blogroll this morning and your post was the first I read. It caught my attention because there’s a special place in my heart for my local newspaper (not saying that I like it)… Anywho, a few blogs later I saw this post at gizmodo about something for free – it cracked me up so I thought I’d come back here and share it:


    What a riot!

  6. Not only local papers, but many times there are free local magazines featuring charitable and cultural events, new restaurants, and featured businesses. Many times these magazines will offer coupons or specials.

  7. Cat-Daddy says:

    The Chicago Reader is a great one, too– some of the best writing out there, all online at http://www.chicagoreader.com

    The specialize in long essays, the kind that it’s hard to find in print any more.

  8. Thanks for the vote of confidence! I write frequently for our local community paper — both columns and features — and am a huge advocate of them. In a world of fewer and fewer media outlets because of big-media consolidation and corporate ownership of local media markets, the community newspapers need all the support they can get.


  9. > They’re usually written by passionate people

    I think this is a key statement. I remember looking at these community papers and smirking, but after reading them I realized the people putting them together believed in and were passionate in what they were doing. Eventually I realized there was some very useful information in them.

    Best Wishes,

  10. Dee says:

    As a writer for a local paper, I love this post. Support is key and the more people that read, the better it is for us so thank you!

  11. Michael says:

    I usually agree but our town newspaper is horrible. It is called the AEGIS and it is so bad many people call it the Sleagis.

  12. !wanda says:

    Uh. Be careful sometimes. The “local paper” near where I went to college had roughly two articles per issue, with the other 10 pages or so being ads for escorts. This fine publication was distributed next to other, real papers, and you couldn’t tell from the cover what its real contents were. I was more amused than offended, but many people wouldn’t be.

  13. feefifoto says:

    I thought of your blog today when I received a flyer from a local bank that offered $25 for free 30 days after you opened a minor savings account with a balance of at least $25. I felt quite holy as I opened savings accounts for both my kids. Thanks for helping keep me alert.

  14. Arjun Muralidharan says:

    First off, I’ve got nothing against these free newspapers. They’re all what you’ve described, and they’re a fun read.

    But it ends there, and I wouldn’t bet my money on them as a reliable source of any information, leave alone as a basis for forming a personal opinion.

    While it does save me the money I need to spend on newspapers, it can cost me a lot more if I’m not properly informed about certain things.

    In other words, the benefits of a “real” newspaper outweigh it’s cost in my eyes. So I wouldn’t scrimp and save there…

    CNN.com still is one the best sites for free news in my eyes. Video included.

  15. Rachel says:

    If you are ever in Jacksonville, Fl pick up a free paper called the Folio. Mostly it is for 20 somethings and advertises the nightclubs and such, but they also have some good articles. One recently was about how laborers are still held virtually prisoner in some rural areas of Florida, and how one man who went to one of these camps as a child was able to get out after many years. That sounds like award winning journalism to me. It was very professionally written.

  16. lorax says:

    If you live in a rural area, there may be no good free local paper. Still, it’s not bad to pay for good local news.

  17. sir jorge says:

    there are two in my town but they are more of an alternative newspaper/music magazine that releases weekly on thursdays, definitely well worth the look though

  18. christy says:

    I love freebies, too. They are definitely the best reads — creative, colorful, and lively.

  19. Jim says:

    The one here was recently bought out by the daily big Scripps paper.

  20. KS says:

    We get our community papers delivered to us here in Auckland, New Zealand (And I suspect other cities around the country as well). They put most stories up online but then you don’t get stuff like ads for local businesses and community notices.

  21. mybudget360 says:

    I’ve used the local papers to reconnect with local community groups. These papers have a better sense of the immediate culture and things going on in the area. In larger cities these sometimes tend to get filled with advertisements but what doesn’t have this nowadays right? The community calendar is a great feature because it usually has events that are free and most of the time really entertaining. I recall going to a great orchestra performance that I had no idea about simply by picking up the local paper. Some good things are still free in life!

  22. Esther says:

    I get one or two to my door every Friday, but you have to be careful with these papers – they often have ads for “special sales” or bazaars that, if I’m not careful, will make me spend a whole lot more than I should, just to get a good bargain.

  23. Louise says:

    There are three free weekly newspapers, and four monthlies, servicing my small town of 12,000 people, along with a number of other small towns all in one area (around 45,000 people all up). Unfortunately I have to say they are pretty dull, consisting mainly of sporting club news, paid promotions for cafes/restaurants, and ads. However I do enjoy the roundup of community events and the local real estate section. I also really appreciate the local free music paper and gig guide. To a certain extent the quality of any of these will depend on the demographics of the area it services and pot luck in finding interesting writers. Some papers are lucky and find dedicated, passionate people. Others only get those who are pushing a specific agenda. Out of all seven servicing my area, only one is moderately interesting.

  24. Elmo says:

    The free newspapers are also a good source of coupons for local businesses and restaurants.

  25. Cheryl says:

    I love reading the local free paper. We also have a weekly of “Tidbits” which is just full of interesting facts. Again there are advertisements in these but its still a great deal and entertaining to boot.

  26. Lulugal11 says:

    I get a newspaper free too but it is one of the big ones. I get the Dallas Morning News free because they deliver free copies to teachers. Imagine that.

    My only issue with this is that they say they have to do a minimum delivery of 10 papers…and I only need one. I give the others away to other teachers….but it is a small school and sometimes we end up having 2 or 3 thrown away without being read.

    If you know any teachers you might want to check them out so you can get a ‘big’ newspaper for free too.

  27. Jeanne says:

    In all the 5 boroughs (New York City) we have two free newspapers distributed at all local train stations. Both are great plus both offer sudoku and a crossword for the long train ride. For the advertisers, I’ve found them useful.

  28. Debbie says:

    I live in the Ft. Lauderdale metro area and our local paper is free and the plus is that it carries all the Sunday coupons again. So, I end up getting extra coupons for things I buy. I also enjoy the articles b/c they deal with our community and what’s going on, sorta a mini local section.

  29. Maggie Shaw says:

    When I was in college at Penn State, we had the free daily “The Daily Collegian.” I graduated in 1998 but now the college offers a free newspaper program that includes several national papers, one of which I know is “USA Today.” I believe the program is geared toward increasing readership of papers once again as the Internet is now so widespread and there is a very real threat of printed dailies not existing sometime in the future. I also think this is a great idea since it keeps the students aware of national stories of interest.

  30. Fee local papers are good, and if you’re in a diner, people will often leave behind national newspapers as well. Just ask your server if there are any leftover newspapers available, or check for a newspaper “bin” next to the single-seating counter.

  31. Ashish says:

    Its great, because that was free newspaper and you got lots of news without paying anf charges. so its a good bargaing for you.

  32. hemant says:

    A newspaper are good,because all news are found.example-job,stock market,real estate,and more information.

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