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.