Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News go old school with new sweepstakes

Last week, while I was waiting on hold to speak with a Denver Newspaper Agency representative about delivery issues (little knowing that operators' hours had been changed in an apparent cost-savings move), I got an audio preview of the "Post-News Economic Stimulus Sweepstakes" that was formally introduced with a giant wraparound ad that encased the A&E section of the Sunday, January 25 Denver Post. Even so, I was surprised by the throwback nature of the contest, which was promoted with the equivalent of three precious broadsheet pages. Although there is a web page related to the offer, the rules target people who still receive the physical newspapers -- and are willing to paw through it in the hope of scoring some folding green.

The "Official Economic Stimulus Sweepstakes Entry Form" published in the paper, which is bordered in a dotted line to show readers where to snip, asks participants to jot down (with a pen or pencil! how retro!) their name, address, city, state, zip code, daytime phone number and e-mail address. Next, they're instructed to "look through today's newspaper and find three businesses that have the special 'Today's Super Star Business' icon in their ad and list them below." These forms can then be dropped at assorted businesses that are taking part in the promotion, ranging from A World of Tile to Woodley's Fine Furniture. A $1,000 prize will be awarded to an entrant each weekday, with a $5,000 outlay slated for Sunday; $300 second prizes and $100 third prizes are also promised on a daily basis. In addition, a $75,000 grand prize is to be doled out on May 3, when the marketing blitz is scheduled to end.

The goal of this contest (aside from trying to increase foot traffic for regular advertisers)? Presumably to maintain the loyalty of those individuals who actually pay to have a paper dropped at their home. As we all know, print ads bring in far more revenue than do their online equivalents, and for either the Post or the Rocky to survive the current transition to online delivery, they need every subscriber they can get.

Still, the concept of the sweepstakes, which requires people to handwrite an entry, scissor it from the paper, and then travel to a business and place an entry in a box, seems mighty quaint given the day and age in which we live. This attempt to save newspapering in the 21st century is firmly rooted in the 20th -- and the 19th and 18th, too.

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