Leaflet distribution has been with us as a means of informing the public at large since, at least, 1658 and the Restoration when "subversives" (that's the general term for people who actively disagree with other people and have the bad manners to loose in the fight for power) communicated to the Man in the Street by printing up leaflets and distributing them of the alternative view.
Leaflet printing back in the 17th Century wasn't cheap - you had to be well financed to participate and printed material was rare enough to mean that each leaflet was likely to be read by at least ten people - and they were read. As Reading and Writing were still skills possessed by a minority of educated people they carried weight as well - you can see why the biggest gang in the country - the government of the day - were very concerned about leaflet distribution and printing. What was said had a very definite effect on the general public opinion and there was plenty to hide and be worried about. Whilst compared to many other nations of the day graft and corruption may have been relatively low but there was still plenty to make the ruling elite uncomfortable with having the more unpleasant facts printed up and distributed to the intelligensia.
I'm not an anti-establishment person - there is no reason not to think the "anti" party of the day, or any other day for that matter, didn't have as much or more to hide or their own agenda to push. The point of this article is to highlight the incredible power of the leaflets distributed at the time. Of course these leaflets got bigger and grew into the newspapers of the 19th Century and today - carrying adverts to cover their costs and as they developed useful data and good writers they started to charge money just to have the "leaflet".
In today's video-pixelated world of instant world wide text and film is the leaflet completely dead? I don't think so - here's why.
Firstly - thanks to bulk spam Email or even very chatty friends - there is such a glut of things to read on a PC that frankly much of it is lost. You can put so much data on a communication line that you effectively close it down.
Secondly - leaflet distribution just still works, the same way it did in 1658. If you take an A5 leaflet in the street, big writing, nice graphic and so easily digested as a message "Get you broken laptop fixed at Tim's on the High Street" then even if it is just glanced at binned there is a good chance it has done the job. A month later, should the recipient be unlucky enough to have their laptop break, they may well be found on the High Street talking to Tim. If the laptop was your only window onto the world wide web you are not likely to surfing the net to find a repair store - that leaflet will be of use and interest.
Thirdly - it's Real World there - all the time. You don't have to plug in and turn on (and wait). If the leaflet went through your door it could be sat on a table in the hall and get seen as you and other go in and out - it doesn't have to rely on something else - well, the hall light would need to be on perhaps.
Fourthly - a leaflet with a white background - or lot's of white on it, often makes a handy notepad for a key number or address. This increases its lifespan and exposure - some sit in car glove boxes or coat pockets for years and one day it might spark up and have the effect you wanted it to have after all that time.
Fifthly - leaflet distribution fits for some products better than other media. A local Pizza or fast food store, window cleaning, gutter cleaning or new patio company would all benefit just as well from a leaflet as a TV campaign costing much more. Somehow the person receiving the leaflet expects this form when it comes to buying it now - the TV is more for awareness and respect - the actual pick up the phone and call for a pizza is better done with a leaflet through the door. Good conversation is also still in vogue - and likely to stay so.