Scene from an editor's office — September 2019:
Desk phone rings. The editor looks up from his computer and stares at the number on the phone. He doesn't recognize it, but picks it up.
"Hello, it's Bruce."
"Oh, hi! I thought I might get a voicemail."
"Nope. You got me. What's up?"
"Well, my name is Heidi Snickerdoodle, and my partner, Amber, and I are opening a new massage parlor, gift shop, and body spa just off of Germantown Parkway. Kind of near Ridge Dawn Deer Crossing Terrace. It's called CBDB ..."
"It's really an exciting concept. We use nothing but CBD products in our oils and lotions. And our oils and lotions are guaranteed pure. 'CBDB' stands for 'CBD Beauty,' get it?"
"Yeah, got it. Sounds interesting."
"Anyway, we were hoping the Memphis Flyer could come out tomorrow and do a story on us before our grand opening this weekend."
"Actually, we really don't do too many stories like that in the Flyer. I've got a small staff these days, and we tend to focus on news and entertainment rather than small business openings."
"But I really think your readers would really enjoy learning about us. They're a perfect fit for what we do. We're a hip, on-the-edge kind of place, and we know your readers are hip, right? I really think your readers would love to hear our story. You might not be aware of this, but CBD products are huge right now. "
"Oh yeah, I'm aware of that [sighs, rolls eyes at ceiling]. We recently did a cover story on CBD. I'll tell you what, Heidi: Email me some promotional materials and any other pertinent information, and maybe your place will get a mention in our 'Healthy Living' section in January. But I can't promise anything. Honestly, if you really want to reach Flyer readers, your best bet is just buying an ad in the paper or on our website. We even have a column called CannaBeat, and some CBD businesses advertise adjacent to it. I'd be happy to transfer you to our ad manager."
"Oh no, thanks. We're doing all our advertising on social media."
Scene from Flyer editor's office — September 2000:
"Hello, it's Bruce."
"Oh, hi! My name is Reggie Boondoggle, and I've just opened a car-detailing shop on Summer Avenue."
"And, well, I was hoping you could send out a reporter to interview me for a story on my shop."
"Have you ever read the Flyer?"
"Of course, sure, I read it, uh, every month."
"Every month, huh? Okay. Have you ever seen a story in the Flyer about somebody opening a new car-detailing shop?"
"That's because we don't write stories about new car-detailing businesses. We aren't a business publication. If you really want to reach our readers, your best bet is to buy an ad. Call 521-9000 and ask for Jerry Swift. Have a great day, Reggie."
I've been editing the Flyer for 20 years, and I've had countless conversations like those above. As you can tell from the first example, I'm gentler with these kinds of calls than I used to be — less brusque, more understanding. That's partly a symptom of age, I suppose. No reason to get angry with naive people trying to work an angle for free publicity. I get the hustle. No harm, no foul.
But the disconnect between a caller seeing the obvious value in having Flyer readers know about their product and not seeing the value of buying an ad to reach those readers remains frustrating. Facebook isn't going to write a story about you. And that's why issues like the one on the newsstands this week are so gratifying. It's 72 pages, and it's filled to the brim with ads from the good folks who see the value in reaching the Flyer's readers, and who see the value in having this paper remain part of the intrinsic fabric of Memphis. They are all truly the Best of Memphis, and without them, we wouldn't be here to celebrate year after year. We're grateful to all of them — and to all of you, for reading us.