NUVO Satisfied With Newsrack Law

Indianapolis' Plan Meets With Local Approval.

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a city by how its local publishers react to the specter of a newsrack ordinance.

In San Francisco, local publishers have gone to court to prevent the city from enforcing the use of modular newsracks.

In Indianapolis, newspaper execs are applauding the city for making the same move.

On August 2, 1999, the City of Indianapolis passed an ordinance to clean up its street corners by removing freestanding newsracks and replacing them with the modular variety. More than thirty publishers were granted the right to distribute their newspapers in the city-supplied modular newsracks in designated areas of the city. Distribution slots were assigned based on seniority and pre-existing distribution patterns. The program is funded through the sale of ads on the back of the newsracks, and each distribution slot features signage identifying the paper inside.

NUVO Newsweekly Publisher Kevin McKinney was one of the Indianapolis publishers who was privileged to distribute papers in the new modular racks. McKinney says that local publishers began working with City Council and local businesses to develop a plan when it became clear that individual newsracks were seen as an aesthetic and public safety nuisance. “Kerry [Farley, NUVO’s former Ad Director and newly instated Yesse! Communications Director of Development] came up with the idea to get all the publishers together to put together their own ordinance to keep the government out of it,” says McKinney.

McKinney says the local publishers hung together until the end, when USA Today and the local daily pulled out of the coalition. “Ultimately, the Star News and USA Today didn’t want to be treated the same way as the Thrifty Nickel. They would lose their identity and their brand marketing if they went with [the ordinance]. The small papers said, ‘If we’re going to look like the Star News, that’s fine.'”

These days, NUVO is distributed next to papers such as the Star News, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal in the same locations formerly inhabited by its freestanding racks.

Farley crows about the effect of the new ordinance, noting that the papers get “15 years of free distribution” and that the Star News has contracted for maintenance to periodically clean the racks. “With 60-80 boxes, at $100 a pop, that’s a pretty square deal,” he says. “[NUVO] received a benefit from a clean city, a cooperative city and the spirit that we’re all in this together in making Indianapolis a better place.”

McKinney is satisfied with the ordinance, but he wonders what will happen in the future if more papers petition for distribution.

Farley doesn’t think it’s a problem: “They’re modular newsracks; they can expand.”

If your city is starting to make noises about the newsrack issue, Farley thinks Indianapolis may have a solution: “We’ve got a starting model for an ordinance that fits everyone’s needs.”