Frank and I watch distribution closely. We have a 96% read-rate, which means less than 400 of 15,000 copies are left over at the end of every month.Â You don’t get that by tossing out 100 copies at every location and never keeping track of the numbers.
So, we deliver our own papers. It’s actually the best part of the job, hearing the compliments, seeing reactions to the cover image, meeting new people.
Meeting new people is awkward though, because during delivery, your hands get filthy.
Anyone who has worked with newsprint before knows that the paper “sheds” it’s ink. Everything around large quantities of newsprint publication begins to pick up black smudges.
Six days out of the month, my hands are black. Sure, I wash them during the delivery days. I even have little packs of handi-wipes everywhere. But it’s just the nature of the beast – black smudges.
Doesn’t help that my GMC is white. Also not good that I love to wear white clothes, white tennis shoes – everything white and fresh and clean.
Right now, my car doors have a million black firnger prints at the edge where you push them closed. My crisp white delivery sheets are covered with smudges and scratched numbers and scribbled notes.
The front door of the house (white) has a been gathing a dark shadow around the door knobs.
I have even (alas) met important CEOS at the news stand with a black smudge acros the tip of my nose.
The other thing about 15,000 copies is that they are cut with a perforated edge. That means that each cut at the press – on 360,000 sheets of paper -Â creates dust. The little dot-cut along the open end? Creates little dots that fly loos and get in the upholstry on the ceiling of the inside of your vehicle.
Want to wear dark clothes to spare your whites the black ink smudges?Â Prepare to look like you were hit by a talcum power puff at the end of the day.
But you learn to deal with it.
You automatically wipe your hands when you get back in the car, and when you take those wipes out of the car at the end of the day, you wipe the steering wheel, gear shift, door handles, door edges, and around the front door knobs on the way in the house.
You drive with the windows all the way down for the first 10 minutes of each delivery run – even if it’s cold – to flush the new dust brought into the car with that delivery load.
You try not to touch your face, or shake others’ hands, when you’ve been shuffling papers all day.
I guess I’ll have to work in a “hand bump” when people want to shake.
Delivery of Two-Lane Livin’ magazine takes five to six days, depending on weather, vehicles, appointments, unexpected issues, etc.
On at least three of those days, we have two vehicles running in separate directions.
First off, 15,000 copies won’t fit in one vehicle, so we normally take two to pick up the print-run from the printer. (In good weather, we can tow the trailer on the Jimmy, but only if it’s good weather.)
From the printer in Parkersburg, we both head to Elizabeth, where we split off. I deliver Elizabeth, then run down Rt. 5 to Grantsville, then come on home. Frank takes Rt. 14 to Spencer, delivers in Spencer, then comes home along Rt. 33.
Then we unload about 10,000 copies into the house, only leaving enough in each vehicle for the next day’s runs.
If you were to come to our house right now, and step in the front door, you would be surrounded by 6′ high stacks of Two-Lane Livin’.
We don’t deliver by county. When we started this almost a year ago, that was our mistake. Thinking by county. We spent too much time (and gas) tracking back to get back home.
Eventually we mapped out delivery “circles” — For example, South Calhoun, South Roane, Clay and Kanawha are all on one run.
Once we had our circles mapped, then we studied and searched for “circle shortcuts.” On the Lewis / Upshur run, shortcuts eventually saved us nearly 100 miles.
You would think though, that after 10 months, delivery would be come routine.
It has not.
Closed roads, construction, timing, high water, doctor’s appointments, vehicle troubles, deer impacts — all these can set you off by an hour, or a whole day.
Still, delivery is the best part of the whole process. Hearing compliments, seeing people excitedly grab the new issue, jamming on the radio with the windows down, viewing the beauty of West Virginia’s two-lanes along the way…
Even though we’re covered in black newsprint smudges for a week, delivery is always an enjoyable adventure.