Maybe it's just me, but I missed this highly interesting story in the Billings Gazette this week. It's more bad news to add to the "morgue"-like atmosphere reported at the chain's most prestigious acquisition.
Maybe it also helps explain why the Mini Nickel, owned by Lee, has just signed a deal with Town Pump to control distribution of free publications in its 75 Montana stores. We just got a letter this week telling us that we will have to pay $40 a month if we want to stay in our two Billings Town Pump locations.
Maybe. According to the account in The Press Pass, the publication of the Montana Newspaper Association (new edition not yet on line), the contract apparently does not affect newspaper racks, just TMC (total market coverage) and shopper-style publications. Not sure why the Mini Nickel wrote to us.
But it's more than a bit annoying. Efforts by large chains to gobble up news rack space in major retailers and block out competitors have been documented here and elsewhere.
What's annoying about Town Pump's behavior is not so much that it's trying to make an extra buck or two but that it gave the contract to our biggest competitor and the state's dominant newspaper company. Don't the rest of us get to bid?
The other thing is that Town Pump occasionally sends us news releases about its various activities and asks that we print them at no charge. We have always been happy to do this, when the items are relevant and space is available.
Now Town Pump wants us to print its news releases for its benefit at our own expense. Then it wants us to pay Town Pump so that Town Pump customers can read about its good works. I wonder whether anyone there has considered why this might not sound like a good business model to us.
On the other hand, bad news is always good for somebody. The Gazette dropped its weekly TV guide on Oct. 1, which leaves the Outpost as the best source of weekly TV listings. Not only is our pickup on the streets noticeably better, but our subscriptions went up 215 percent in October.