USA Today set up 2000 coin boxes in San Diego County

Prompting San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal

The street-level penetration of USA Today into the San Diego market, which began two years ago and now includes 2000 coin boxes countywide, has prompted a number of other out-of-town dailies to try similar tactics here. The latest is the Washington Times, which last August contracted the local Pickett News Distributors to stock one hundred boxes with the Unification Church-financed newspaper's new national edition, printed on satellite presses in Carson, near Los Angeles, and trucked by thirty-two-year-old Tony Pickett to San Diego early every morning. Pickett, whose father began the business twelve years ago, says the coin boxes - the number is now up to 150 - are scattered throughout the county, east to El Cajon, south to Imperial Beach, and north to La Jolla. Each box contains only two or three papers, a standard practice for out-of-town dailies trying to break into a new market. And his average daily sales, he says, are between 150 and 200, a figure high enough to warrant expansion in the coming months as far north as Oceanside through at least fifty more coin boxes.

Also moving into the San Diego area in the coming months will be the San Francisco Chronicle, which a month ago erected twenty-four coin boxes in Los Angeles and has since contracted with Larry Wilhelm of San Diego News Distributors to launch a similar trial effort here. "The ultimate goal [of newspapers setting up coin boxes in other:cities] is local home subscriptions; street sales generally don't account for much and act as sort of a loss leader," says Wilhelm, whose firm also handles such papers as the New York Times.

Other out-of-town dailies already in San Diego are not sitting still, however. The New York Times has in the last two years doubled the number of its coin boxes to 175, distributor Wilhelm says, and now sells an average of 800 copies a day. And the Wall Street Journal, which arrived in San Diego via seventy-five coin boxes in 1972, had 250 on the streets six months ago and has since doubled that total to 500. Its sales now average 2200 a day.

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