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The first coin-operated newspaper vending machine in the United States appeared in 1947 in Berkeley, California courtesy of the inventor George Thiemeyer Hemmeter of the Seven Vendor Company. Hemmeter’s newspaper vending machines could be adjusted to accept coins of different denominations depending on the titles and newspapers available. Since then, newspaper vending machines have evolved significantly in both design and function, with some modern ones being able to accept alternative currencies such as Bitcoin.

What Is a Newspaper Vending Machine?

Newspaper vending machines are unmanned, enclosed newspaper racks that dispense newspapers to customers when a coin or bill is inserted. Some modern newspaper vending machines accept cashless payment methods, like credit cards and mobile wallets.

How Do Newspaper Vending Machines Work?

Newspaper vending machines are usually designed as enclosed boxes and customers can only get their hands on the issues after paying for them. The newspapers are arranged by title and may be offered at one or different prices.

Newspaper vending machines are easy to operate and how they work is pretty straightforward:

  • A customer approaches and chooses an available title
  • The customer inserts a coin/bill into the coin/bill acceptor
  • The machine validates the coin/bill (and offers change where applicable)
  • The machine opens to allow the customer to retrieve the selected newspaper
  • The machine closes the dispensing mechanism after the customer has retrieved the newspaper

Many old newspaper vending machines offer only one title at one price. The newspapers are often arranged in a pile, and the vending machine’s door opens to reveal the entire pile after a customer pays for one newspaper. Such a newspaper vending machine operates as an ‘honor box’ as the customer should be honest and only pick one newspaper out of the pile, leaving the others for the benefit of other customers and the proprietor. 

Are Newspaper Vending Machines Profitable?

At the right location, newspaper vending machines can be profitable. There is still money to be made from selling newspapers, even though print media is a declining industry. 

Newspaper vending machines are still profitable because

  • The number of players in the sector has reduced. There are fewer newspaper vending machines, making it possible for active machines to still earn decent revenue even as demand for print media falls.
  • The machines have evolved to meet consumer needs. Modern newspaper vending machines can carry other print publications, such as magazines and periodicals, giving operators more revenue sources.
  • They provide convenient access to news. The machines are in high-traffic easy-to-access locations. People going about their business can easily stop to grab copies of their favorite publications.
  • Additional revenue as advertising platforms. The body of a newspaper vending machine can be used as a billboard to advertise local businesses. 
  • Operational costs are low. The running costs of a newspaper vending machine are low. This helps an operator keep most of the money they make.

Unlike snack and drink machines that pay commissions to location owners, newspaper vending machine owners typically don’t pay such commissions. With the city’s permission, you can put your newspaper rack or machine on public sidewalks for free. Further, when it comes to private property, some property owners are okay with vendors putting machines in front of their stores/shops for free.

Before you start a newspaper vending machine, it is important to understand that the demand for newspapers is falling as people increasingly get their news online. Newspaper vending machines, for instance, accounted for 46% of newspaper sales. By 2014, the machines accounted for only 20% of newspaper sales.

The untold story of this decline is that fewer and fewer newspaper vending machines are available. Further, the machines available are old and do not accept modern payment solutions. Therefore, an opportunity exists for enterprising entrepreneurs who can put modern newspaper vending machines in strategic locations.

The location of your newspaper vending machines will greatly determine how successful the operation becomes. Below are some facts about newspaper sales that can help you craft a winning business plan for your newspaper vending machine venture

  • 70% of households with incomes of $100,000 or more are regular newspaper readers (digital and print)
  • 6 out of 10 adults aged 35+ read newspapers (digital and print)
  • The most popular newspapers, by national circulation, are The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times
  • People who buy print newspapers are also likely to buy magazines and periodicals - consider carrying other popular print media where possible
  • Locations with a lot of traffic in the morning make the best places to station a newspaper vending machine - such locations include: bus and train stations, walk-able main streets, airports, and street corners
  • Newspaper vending machines with more payment options are more likely to benefit from impulse purchases - therefore, consider accepting coins, bills, credit cards, and mobile wallets

Are Newspaper Vending Machines Still in Use?

Yes, newspaper vending machines are still in use. While the demand for physical newspapers is declining, unattended newspaper racks like vending machines will remain in use as they offer the best way to keep operational costs low and profit from newspaper sales.

Most big vending machine manufacturers in the United States no longer build newspaper vending machines. Vending machines for sale in the United States are mostly on reseller sites and peer-to-peer sites such as eBay and Craigslist. As such, if you want an affordable modern newspaper vending machine with the latest features, your best bet is to import from Asia through sites like Alibaba.

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