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StarTribune’s Purple Bags of Spam

@edkohler - Your next mission:

Aaron Dickinson seems to think that I’d have an opinion about the StarTribune’s print spam operation where they’ve littered purple (purple as in Bachman’s not Vikings) bags on properties throughout the metro.

KARE 11 ran a story on this topic that criticized the advertising tactics of one of their sources of news:

Star Tribune spokesperson Steve Yeager said the newspaper is testing a system of having its regular carriers hand-deliver the “Twin Cities Values” sections that had been sent to homeowners in their mail. Yeager said the high cost of mailing and the possibility of an end to Saturday mail deliveries by the United States Postal Service prompted the test.

However, homeowners like Tim Keseluk of Bloomington are unhappy with the purple Saturday visitor in their driveways. Others complained to KARE 11 and on Facebook that the deliveries end up as litter on the streets, lawns and boulevards, rather than in driveways and private walks.

Since the Strib already has people driving up and down every block of the city, littering the city with purple plastic bags is a cost-effective way to piss people off.

But, get this: this hasn’t been a problem for me. I unsubscribed from the StarTribune’s print spam in 2010 and the Strib appears to have honored that request while spamming my neighbors’ properties with unsolicited purple plastic bags. Based on how spammy their deliveries have been, this seems like luck, but they really didn’t spam my property with their plastic purple spam while my neighbors got hit.

I used my print spam unsubscription service,, to let the Strib know that I’m not interested in their spam. You can find instructions here, or sign up to have take care of business.

The risk here is that the StarTribune may take on the tactics we’ve seen used in the Yellow Pages industry. Once you’re not doing direct mail, the cost of delivering an individual piece of spam drops considerably, so there is less incentive to deliver accurately. Why not just send out people working as independent contractors (driving their own cars with questionable insurance whose profits are consumed by the cost of maintaining their cars) to do the spam drop? If that happens, opt-out will be worthless without penalties for not honoring the opt-out list. We don’t have that today, but other cities do, including Seattle. Perhaps it’s time to get something like that on the books to protect us from the StarTribune’s advertising department?

6 thoughts on “StarTribune’s Purple Bags of Spam”

  1. Do you consider standard subscription delivery that you request and pay for “print spam” to you, Ed?

    What are your feelings on the Northeaster and Southwest Journal? They never seem to be in your line of fire.

    People get up in arms about the craziest things. Why doesn’t Ms. #nempls just put in the recycle bin? Good grief!

  2. “KARE 11 ran a story on this topic that criticized the advertising tactics of one of their sources of news”====== and, if not direct, certainly and indirect competitor for advertising $$$.

  3. Like one of the commenters said on the website: This is what is known as a First World Problem.

  4. This is actually an old tactic that the newspaper business. Most of them called it “Total Market Coverage” and it’s essentially a way to deliver the Sunday circulars to as many people as possible.

    Many of the larger retailers avoid TMC drops, because they recognize it annoys customers, but companies that have a hard time reaching potential customers are the ones who clamor for it. Which is why the purple bags of spam are usually filled with less fashionable merchants.

    Because dead tree news is increasingly a dicey business, TMC seems more prominent, especially when delivered in ugly bags, but I remember the Star Tribune using similar methods back in the 1990s, before they started advertising by mail.

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