Emerging Trends in Newspaper Distribution Technology

Whether you’re delivering products or services, there is a lot of focus today on the last mile. And one of the best examples is newspaper distribution which, like other industries, has to keep pace with changing customer expectations and market trends. What are the biggest trends impacting this industry? How is technology helping newspaper companies address these challenges? What capabilities will separate the leaders from the laggards moving forward? Those are some of the key questions I discussed with Jeff Fasseel, President at CarrierTrack Technologies, during a recent episode of Talking Logistics.

Trends in Newspaper Delivery

Anyone who ever had a paper route as a kid knows that getting newspapers to your customers clean, dry and on time every day isn’t easy, especially in bad weather. Now that most deliveries are done in the early morning hours by adults covering vast areas in their cars, the problems are much more complex. So, I began our discussion by asking Jeff what the current trends are in newspaper distribution given today’s complexities.

Jeff points out that, like most industries, customer service is the biggest focus in newspaper distribution today. But most deliveries are done between 2 AM and 6 AM, “in nothing but darkness, with carriers using paper manifests,” says Jeff. “They are out at ‘o-dark-thirty’ looking for the address, looking for which paper gets delivered to that address, and looking to see if any special customer requests are printed on the manifest. As one of my carrier friends says, ‘Oh great, now I have to find my reading glasses in the dark too to see what’s printed on the paper manifest.’” This is all time-consuming and prone to errors.

“The opportunity is there to get rid of paper manifests and enhance this process with visual and audible technology,” says Jeff. “This improves customer service and helps the carriers to complete their routes more efficiently.

“Consolidation is the other trend, with companies combining daily newspaper delivery with their weekly saturation program,” continues Jeff. “They’re also looking at magazine deliveries and last-mile deliveries, so there is a lot to figure out.”

How Technology Can Help

I asked Jeff how technology can help companies deal with these challenges. Jeff says, “After 20 years of churn in the industry, as you’re losing customers and gaining new products, how do you mesh that into cohesive routes that make sense and improve efficiency? That really comes down to dynamic routing to plan the most efficient routes and balancing them across the carrier team you have available that day.

“But it also requires mobile technology that is easy for the carriers to use, to the point that they don’t even have to touch it. It’s going to navigate them, tell them where the addresses are, the products to deliver to that address, and most importantly, the customer service requests. And it has to work for all products, not just newspapers.”

For dynamic routing, CarrierTrack has partnered with RouteSmart Technologies (a Talking Logistics sponsor). Jeff jokes that the two are like peanut butter and jelly—each is great on its own, but even better together. “RouteSmart is the intelligence behind the dynamic routing,” notes Jeff. “Without them it’s not going to be as efficient. We’re the flashy side, the side that you see. Together we can route carriers to thousands of addresses for any type of delivery.”

The Benefits

As an example of the benefits these technologies can offer, Jeff described how they helped the Atlanta Journal-Constitution deploy their solution at the start of the pandemic. Due to quarantines and other challenges, finding carriers became an issue. The publisher took a chance and hired a carrier who had no experience delivering newspapers. With the CarrierTrack/RouteSmart application loaded on the carrier’s smart device, she delivered over 100 papers the first night with only one delivery complaint. “Not only was this a successful launch, it also opened the possibility for newspapers to use gig-drivers for their deliveries,” says Jeff.

Another example is Todd Erickson at the New Hampshire Union-Leader. He was looking for customer service improvements. His customer service reps now have two screens on their desk. One has their circulation application and one has the CarrierTrack app. The CSRs can take customer calls and tell them exactly where the carrier is or if they have already just delivered. “From a customer service standpoint, that’s huge,” notes Jeff. “And you’re not having to send out another driver to deliver another paper, so you’re saving dollars as well.”

The Future is Bright

What does the future hold for innovation in this space? “We’re buried in what’s next,” says Jeff, including enhanced API integration between CarrierTrack and RouteSmart to streamline and automate exception management. For all the details, plus Jeff’s insights on what will separate the leaders from the laggards in this industry and what new business models might emerge moving forward, I encourage you to watch the full episode. Then post a comment and share your own thoughts and experiences.