When looking at the printed newspaper business in 2015, it is nice to see a ray of light.

Right now, this ray of light is the flyer distribution business. Printed flyers “are king,” according to those retailers who depend on them. As other forms of printed media face contracting demand – declining newspaper readership, reduced ROP ad spends, shrinking distribution of business directories – it is the humble door-to-door flyer business that has upward momentum.

What is it about flyers that retailers and customers like so much?

Here are six reasons:

  1. Everyone likes a good deal.

    Flyers appeal to people’s desire for a bargain. Robert Cialdini, the author of the classic book Influence, lists “scarcity” as one of the six universal principles of persuasion. By definition, retail sales are limited-time offers. They are scarce, and that’s why we like them.

  2. Flyers require no deep thought.

    Newspapers are chock full of reporting, analysis, and opinion. And the majority of this content tips towards the grim, violent, and unsavory. “If it bleeds, it leads,” goes the mantra.

    Well, there’s none of that in flyers. Flyers simply ask you to look at pictures and prices, and decide what you might buy. You don’t need to evaluate humanity while reading about a Christmas sale.

  3. They’re free, and they’re home delivered.

    Flyers come to your home whether you ask for them or not. Typically they arrive late during the week, in time to plan your weekend shopping.

    No one asks you to pay for these flyers. Like broadcast television or radio, it is an advertiser-paid medium. All you really need is a home with a front door, and flyers arrive like magic. People like free.

  4. The layout is appealing.

    Flyer design is relatively consistent across retailers, and their price-and-item layout is easy to digest. You can scan the picture, see the price, and either read the details or move on.

    Flyers are so easy to understand that you can read a flyer in a foreign language and get the gist without Google Translate. “This product is on sale for this amount … you better act now …”

  5. They go where you go.

    The flyer’s paper format is convenient. You can circle items or tear out pages. You can throw the flyer in your car and take it with you to the store. Flyers travel well, and that makes them convenient.

  6. They work.

    Retailers like flyers because they work. Consumers like flyers for the same reason.

    Flyers are highly targeted so customers will not receive a flyer for an out-of-market retailer. Flyers allow you to plan your shopping realistically. And, likewise, retailers see a lift in store visits when flyers are delivered to neighbourhood homes.

    It is a cooperative, mutually dependent relationship, which explains why flyers continue to do so well, even while other facets of the print business experience declines.

The digital environment has not yet disrupted flyers in the same way it has disrupted newspapers or magazines. To wit, on the same day the Globe and Mail published this story titled “La Presse to eliminate 158 jobs,” another story, on the front page of the business section, declares “Paper flyers remain a consumer staple as stores explore digital options.”

We read them because we like them. We deliver them because they work.