Newspapers Add Card Readers To Vending Machines In Vain Attempt To Sell More Ink

As newsstand prices continue to go up, and circulation numbers take the elevator in the opposite direction, newspaper publishers are looking for new ways to make it a little less daunting for customers to part with the money needed to buy their daily dead tree. One idea: credit card readers on vending machines. “Have you got eight quarters in your pocket right now?” asks Ian Jackson, VP for circulation at The Wall Street Journal, which sells for, yes, $2.00 at street level.

AdAge checked out the latest trend for purchasers of pulp:

Newspaper vending machines represent “considerably less” than 5% of the paper’s single-copy sales, according to Mr. Jackson. But at a time when the Journal wanted to encourage sampling by people who don’t normally read it, refusing service to anyone without $2 in change didn’t seem smart.

The machines are being used more now than they had been before, according to Mr. Jackson, although there are many factors that influence single-copy sales.

Next the New York Post will try card readers at about 10 machines, but that paper’s 50 cent cover price is less of a barrier than the Journal’s two bucks. “There may well be areas where it works, but my best guess right now is it’s not going to tear up trees,” Mr. Jackson said.

Other major papers that are already using card readers aren’t exactly singing their praises. Tribune Co. told AdAge that its five machines in Chicago resulted in “flat to slightly up” sales, The New York Times found that its 10 machines didn’t provide “any significant lift to sales,” and USA Today “hasn’t seen a lift” from the machines.

Newspapers Trying Credit Card Readers on Vending Machines [Advertising Age]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sure I could agree with you, but then we'd BOTH be wrong. says:

    Now, as long as they don’t institute a $10 minimum….

  2. Underpants Gnome says:

    Most of the ones I see in chicago are either smashed or emptied by the homeless guy who sells the papers on the corner for spare change… I don’t see this fixing either of those cases.

  3. ZeGoggles says:

    The WSJ machine outside the metro station by me has had this setup for a while.

    My first thought was “Uhh… do I want to swipe my credit card at this thing?” What protections are in place? I picture someone ripping the box off or something and stealing my card number. No way that box is transmitting ‘live’? It’s gotta be storing the number on the machine until someone stops by.

  4. zandar says:

    well, that looks safe.

  5. AngryK9 says:

    Oh cool, card skimming paper boxes! *Runs to get laptop and skimmer making materials*

  6. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    Oh please, with all the card scammers out these days would you *really* trust one on a Newspaper box?

    Bad move.

  7. ktetch says:

    I always found it weird when i first visited the US (also confused me when watching star trek 4). I wondered why no-one paid for one, took the lot and resold them. Then I saw Clerks, when someone did that.

    The only time i read the newspaper is when I’m at chick-fil-a, while the kids are playing.

    • Supes says:

      Basically the penalty (if you get caught) is serious enough that it’s not worth the risk for the marginal amount of profit you can make reselling the papers… plus you need to put in the effort to actually sell them.

      From the newspaper’s side, the cost of the paper in the box is maybe 50 cents total. It’s simply not worth the money to invest in a greater security system.

      There are actually ways to break into most of these boxes, except the newest ones, without use of any tools beyond what you might have in your pocket/purse. But again, the risk of damaging the box and getting caught isn’t worth the marginal benefit of a free newpaper(s).

    • Hoss says:

      why bother with the box though? there are stacks of papers by every storefront after midnight

    • kataisa says:

      “I always found it weird when i first visited the US. I wondered why no-one paid for one, took the lot and resold them.”
      – – –

      I find it weird that you find it weird. Contrary to media myth, most Americans are decent, honest people who don’t take what they don’t pay for.

      Where are you from? South America?

  8. Im Just Saying says:

    Wouldn’t a bill feeder make more sense?

    • rav3 says:

      ahh yes, but then you are demanding common sense out of an industry that has forgotten what sense even means

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      No: bill feeders are much more complex mechanically, require a lot more maintenance, aren’t as weatherproof, etc etc.

      • Im Just Saying says:

        If every vending machine I’ve ever seen can have a bill feeder, regardless of location, I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten the tech to the point that weather isn’t a huge issue.

        And are you really saying that a bill feeder is more technologically complex than a system to read, store, (hopefully) secure, and transmit credit card info?

  9. gemini8200 says:

    Instead of all the expense and risks involved with card readers, why couldn’t they just do what vending machines do? Install bill readers that give change. While a lot of people don’t have quarters on hand, there’s going to be quite a few that have bills. This seems like a better solution to me…

  10. Hoss says:

    I assume a card reader needs a phone line and electricity, or at least a phone line a reliable battery? How does this work?

  11. mac-phisto says:

    dear media moguls:

    you don’t need gimmicks to sell your papers. you need copy that’s worth reading. you obviously don’t know what this is, so instead of spending a few hundred dollars installing CC readers in your vending machines, why don’t you hire back some of the talent you’ve laid off over the last 2 decades.

    people will pay for your paper if they find value in it. sorry, but filling a paper with rehashed AP puff pieces.doesn’t qualify for value.

    technology isn’t killing the newspaper. you are.

    • tbax929 says:

      I disagree. I don’t pay for the paper anymore because I can read all of the content online. I get my local paper delivered to my Nook, and I read it during my lunch break.

      • mac-phisto says:

        see & that’s something they should be charging for. is it free? would you pay a subscription fee for that? yes? no?

        if no, why not?

  12. tedyc03 says:

    Somebody needs to remind the internet media that the Wall Street Journal obeys a different set of economic laws than the rest of the printing industry. This is for one crucial reason: the WSJ is a niche paper.

    It’s the reason their pay wall online has been successful. And it’s the reason they will continue to be successful. Adding a card reader might increase distribution at news stands but I don’t think they were hurting all that much in the first place. They were, in fact, circulating ~1.8M before they instituted the pay wall; after that, circulation jumped 200,000 (source:

    Remember: what applies to the WSJ and what they do doesn’t necessarily work for the rest of the media.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      While it’s a niche to a degree, it’s also the #1 newspaper in the US by circulation. It is unusual in that it’s national, though.

    • COBBCITY says:

      You are correct. Totally local and niche newspapers are NOT having major circulation as they are the only source of information for those readers. It’s large national focused newspapers that are having major problems due to cable, web, etc.

      Sadly, this has been blown up into “all newspapers are dead” which is false. It’s similar to say because Circuit City closed, all consumer electronics stores are on the verge of collapse.

  13. wcnghj says:

    $2… and some stores complain about $5.

  14. The Marionette says:

    This doesn’t seem like a perfect way for someone to implement a card skimmer

  15. strawberryjam says:

    WHY they have waited until 2010 to do this, I’ll never know.

    I can’t count the amount of times I would have bought a newspaper and didn’t have any coins on me.

    But I was a journalism major, too.

  16. Whuffo says:

    Idiots. The additional sales they may be able to capture because there’s a card reader on the box will not be sufficient to pay for the card readers.

    Newspapers aren’t dying solely because of the Internet; they’re also dying because they’ve completely lost touch with their customers. This is a fatal mistake and one that companies like this one don’t recognize until well after it’s too late.

  17. COBBCITY says:

    “Newspapers Add Card Readers To Vending Machines In Vain Attempt To Sell More Ink”

    Who is it in the Consumerist staff that has a hate for print media?? You do realize Consumer Reports is a print magazine and if it goes under, Consumer Union has a big problem on it’s hands???

    Geez. Vending machines have added card readers because fewer and fewer people carry cash. Newspapers do it to sell some extra copies to the same people and get slammed as a “vain attempt”. Do you know how many journalists are employed by print products? How will residents learn about whats going on locally when their local newspaper goes under due to lack or support and the fact advertisers won’t pay more than a fraction for online ads that they paid in print?

    Ugh! Every time newspapers are mentioned here it’s a slam to them. Enough!

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      “You do realize Consumer Reports is a print magazine and if it goes under, Consumer Union has a big problem on it’s hands???”

      Why? They’ll just move all their content to an online format. With the myriad ways people have of reading online information – iPads and Pods, Netbooks, smart phones, E-Readers – there’s no logical reason to buy a physical magazine or newspaper anymore. Print is in its last death throes.

  18. RStormgull says:

    Well remember, Ink is worth more than unicorn blood according to HP. Can’t say I blame them for trying to sell an obviously valuable commodity.

  19. pantheonoutcast says:

    Coincidentally enough, I literally just got a phone call (to my unlisted home number, by the way) from the New York Post attempting to get me sign up for delivery. The promotional deal was one month, a dollar a week. The saleswoman’s line was, “We’re attempting to get everyone in your area interested in the Post.”

    I politely told her that I can read everything the Post has to offer online for free, (not that I would read it, as my education has progressed past the 8th grade) and I don’t have to recycle it at the end of the day. Silence from her end.

    Sorry newspapers. Nice knowing you.

  20. Murph1908 says:

    When I read the headline, my first thought was SD card readers, not credit card readers. I thought the box would instantly download the day’s paper onto your card to allow you to read on your computer. Convenient if you don’t have internet access on the train.

    But I suppose it’s easier just to download such a pod a home before you left, if it was made available.

  21. trixare4kids says:

    My first thought was: No freaking way and am I EVER going swipe my card on newspaper box. That’s just begging to for card skimmers to get in the act.