Sydney newsagents
have been cut out of a deal to distribute thousands of Fairfax
newspapers through the Fitness First gym network – and believe the gyms
are receiving the newspapers for free.

Mark Fletcher, a Victorian newsagency owner who runs the Australian Newsagency Blog,
told Crikey that two Sydney newsagents confirmed to him that they had
“seen no evidence suggesting that Fitness First were purchasing the
papers” from Fairfax, said Fletcher. “Newsagents are upset. Free
newspapers are going to outlets in their territories, and they’re being
cut out of the process,” Fletcher told Crikey.

Another
suggestion circulating among newsagents is that the Greater Union
cinema chain was being given free papers by Fairfax, but the supply
dried up for five weeks during the Fairfax audit process – and was then
reinstated.

The newsagents are also worried about “getting locked out of” a deal to give away newspapers at McDonald’s outlets.

“Fairfax
have promised them the territory and now they’re coming in with their
own truck and their own people to deliver within that territory,” says
Fletcher.

And in a recent email to Sydney newsagents re the Fairfax/Fitness First deal, the Australian Newsagents Federation wrote:

Fairfax and Fitness First are in a ‘partnership’ which
forms part of sponsorship arrangement for the annual Sydney to Surf.
The newspapers provided to Fitness First are bought copies and
distributed free of charge to Fitness First members.

Len
Jordan (General Manager, Circulation Operations, Fairfax) did
acknowledge that the failure to communicate this roll out was an
oversight that occurred through the restructure of the circulation
department within Fairfax and changes in roles over recent months.

Len
has stated that Fairfax encourages newsagents to participate in the
paid distribution of newspapers to Fitness First and welcomes
newsagents engaging in this exercise. Fairfax is not of the view that
the free availability of the newspapers through Fitness First will
cannibalise sales for affected newsagents within the vicinity of these
Fitness First gyms. Rather Fairfax believes that increased consumer
awareness has a long term positive impact on sales.

Fairfax has
stated that it has seen an improvement in circulation numbers within
the vicinity of these gyms, but that it is carefully monitoring results
and if there are any negative indications, that the program would
obviously not be worth continuing.

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Peter Fray
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