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Racking our brains to deliver the paper in Lakewood Ranch area

The East County Observer seeks more outlets, and better online service to make the newspaper available.

  • East County
  • Opinion
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I spend a lot of time at the office talking on the phone to concerned readers, but this was different.

Usually, I am discussing a story that someone didn’t like, or liked very much. It could be a chat about the Manatee County Commission, a conversation about out-of-control growth or an exchange about traffic.

That would be most days.

This, however, took me by surprise. One after another a couple of weeks ago, callers were upset they couldn’t pick up the East County Observer at Publix.


And the calls kept coming.

After the first few calls came into my office, I figured this was just a case of our readers snapping up the papers until they were all gone. Even though we deliver hundreds of our newspapers to different Publix stores, they tend to disappear quickly. I needed to get some more papers out there.

Side of Ranch: Jay Heater
Side of Ranch: Jay Heater

But the calls kept coming about having no papers at different Publix locations.

I started to wonder whether we featured an amazing coupon: three burgers for the price of one? That tends to make newspapers disappear quickly. Was there a controversial story? “SMR buys Sarasota.” That would make ’em disappear.

Then we were given notice. Publix had made a corporate decision not to distribute free newspapers from racks in its stores anymore.


Publix has been a wonderful partner for years in providing space for the Observer in the front of its stores. I would always enjoy watching shoppers walking out the door with their groceries, before doing a double-take as they passed the rack that contained the East County Observer.

Whether it was a photo on the front page or a headline, they would lean over, grab it and toss the paper into their cart. When you are an editor, that kind of stuff makes your day.

I always had hoped the stores and customers saw this space as a customer service. The many callers I spoke with confirmed that they thought it, indeed, was. Those callers have been relaying that fact to their favorite grocery store.

Certainly, Publix has every right to do what it wants with its space. Here at the East County Observer, we appreciate the consideration afforded us in the past. We would love to be back on racks by the front doors, but perhaps that is not possible.

Publix representatives have said they will continue to pass out the Observer to those who ask for it. A store employee will go behind the customer service counter to get a newspaper for those who ask. We will deliver as many newspapers to Publix as the stores are willing to hand out. It’s just going to be an adjustment because shoppers will need to ask for a paper since they aren’t going to see it as they go out the door.

When you ask for an Observer, you might mention to Publix if you liked it the way it used to be offered, in a rack by the door.

Meanwhile, we want our readers to know we are considering many options in terms of making it easy for them to find our newspaper.

This will come in different forms, such as asking businesses if they would be willing to stock our newspapers on a rack that would make it easy for our readers to find.

Some businesses, such as Wawa, already make our newspaper available, but perhaps it will be a matter of delivering more issues to them. Gas, a cup of coffee or a breakfast burrito, and the Observer. Hopefully, you think that is a nice way to start the day.

Many businesses already stock the Observer, and you can find a list and location map on our website.

In the case of the East County Observer, just click on the little yellow balloon, and it will tell you the business name and address.

Of course, we deliver thousands of Observer papers right to your driveway all over East County. In communities that might not allow free deliveries, we often have a common site, such as a clubhouse, where we drop off our newspapers.

If you don’t see our newspaper in your community, check with your HOA and say you want it. We will work with any community in our circulation area. If you want more information, call 366-3468 or email [email protected]

We continue to enhance our online coverage, and that includes a digital version of our complete newspaper, page by page. And stay tuned for our new-and-improved e-Newspaper app, coming out in August.

Making sure you get to read the Observer is our utmost priority, so please continue to let us know how we are doing.

Although I am mostly concentrating on editorial content, I am always willing to discuss the paper with you and how to get it into your hands. My office number is 755-5357, ext. 206.

And if you don’t want to talk delivery, we can go back to chatting about the news.


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