For a while, it appeared that intrusive marketing was on the way out. This is the Age of Engagement, right? Americans flocked to sign up for the Do Not Call list, pop-up blockers are standard, and DVRs are in vogue. However, newspaper companies, the old friend of the telemarketing call, don’t agree. Seeing their reader base slowly die off, they have a new tactic: free tabloids with short, wire-service copy. (Fair enough, the Times can be hard to get through, particularly those interminable “Class Matters” stories.) But there’s a catch: it seems impossible to get to work without fending off five or six “newsies,” the armies that push these papers on sleepy commuters on the way to the subway. In New York, it’s bad enough with Metro and amNewYork newsies jostling to shove their wares on you. Now, the venerable New York Times is getting into the act, promising a gauntlet worthy of Candide just to get home from the office on Thursdays. Next week, The venerable Gray Lady rolls out MarketPlace Weekly, a hodgepodge of classifieds and bits of content, and will recruit its own “street teams” to pester 150,000 commuters during the evening rush hour at 250 key transportation hubs. The city is unlikely to do anything, and if the Broken Window Theory holds any sway, New Yorkers should expect loads more Chinese food menus, a bigger pile of untouched phone books and maybe even a return of the squeegee men.
—Posted by Brian Morrissey