This past weekend, I started training for a part-time job as a newspaper carrier. An acquaintance of my wife’s took on a second job delivering newspapers but is finding the job overwhelming and was looking for someone to take over a couple days out of the week.
So far, I have only been there for three days and haven’t actually done any actual delivering of newspapers. His route has 500-700 papers and there isn’t enough room in his Camry for a passenger.
Luckily, the delivery part is actually made pretty straight forward. Each night, you are given a detailed route list that gives addresses, which side of the road the house is on, and even how many houses from the last one or turn you have to travel. It’s kind of like GPS on paper. If I was the distribution center, I would invest in a smartphone app developer to write a navigation program to provide that information electronically. By pushing that, they could save a fortune on paper and ink.
I had never thought of newspaper delivery to be particularly arduous. Kids on bicycles used to do it, after all. But carriers arrive at 1am to start rolling papers in order to have them all delivered by 7. For the Sunday paper, inserts take so long that some carriers arrive as early as 9pm. That means that newspaper delivery isn’t a “couple hours in the morning” gig. It is a full-fledged, full-time job. And not a particularly well paying one at that.
Newspaper Delivery Income & Expenses
Newspaper carriers are 1099 contractors who are paid per paper delivered. While this distribution center doesn’t operate this way, in some areas, the carrier has to actually buy the newspapers and collect payment from customers. I don’t know what the exact rates are for this company, but I’ll be looking at about $40/night after taxes.
On my first night, I learned that the distribution center was shortly going to be responsible for delivery of a small, free weekly in addition to the 4 local papers and 3 national papers the already cover. I mention this because this paper pays “pretty well” at 8 cents per paper. Of course it also means that I (or Will) will have to deliver an extra 500 papers on Sunday mornings. And an extra 2-3 hours of rolling papers.
When I was kid, we had the paper delivered and it was rolled up in a rubber band. Now, all papers are delivered in bags. Of course, rubber band or bag, the carrier pays for it. At least when papers were bound with a rubber band, carriers had options for buying them. You could shop around for the best price. Newspaper bags, however, you buy from your distributor. Ours cost a penny each. So 12% of the pay for that weekly is going back to the company!
Since newspapers are printed 365 days a year, carriers have to work 7 days per week, 52 weeks per year. That means reporting for work before and after every holiday, working while sick, and needing to find someone to cover your route if you ever want to take a vacation again.
Doing the math, if I had this route full time, I would work some 2300 hours a year to make $14000 after taxes.
Other Newspaper Delivery Pitfalls
If you decide to deliver newspapers, be prepared to get your hands dirty. By the time I finish rolling newspapers each night, my hands are absolutely black from ink. Your hands will also cramp up from rolling papers. And of course, 3-4 hours of start & stop driving each night will absolutely destroy your fuel efficiency and wear out your car faster.
Have you ever delivered papers? Would you ever consider it?