Here's the scenario: You're running a business, the local monopolistic newspaper, that by all accounts is struggling mightily against the tide of alternative media. Lucky for you the first black American has just been elected President of the United States which leads to an incredible demand for your issue that documents the historic occasion. So here's the question: What do you do to celebrate? Do you:
- Create a commemorative re-print of the historic front page and bundle it in with every copy?
- Create a commemorative re-print of the historic front page and give it to your dwindling supply of loyal subscribers?
- Create a commemorative re-print of the historic front page and insert it only in the copies that are sold in news racks or at retail outlets, thus snubbing your bread and butter subscribers in exchange for a few extra dollars in extra single copy sales?
Thanks to Esbee we know that our friends at the Journal opted for the third choice. With management decisions like that is it any wonder they're struggling?
I'm waiting to hear the justification, probably something to do with logistics making it near impossible to get the insert into all subscribers' hands. Of course that would be BS, and I think we can all discern the real logic behind the decision: keep the print costs down, and juice the single copy sales. But why? Why risk alienating subscribers?
Here's another question for the Journal's management: why not sell a special sponsorship for the piece? Surely you'd make more money by producing the piece for 100,000 readers and selling a sponsorship based on that volume than by producing a few thousand pieces for a couple of percentage points bump in single copy sales.
So how many subscribers will the Journal lose over this? Probably not many in the near term, but these are exactly the kind of things that customers remember and as the newspaper continues to diminish in size, and as subscribers continue to struggle to find reasons to continue their subscriptions, I can guarantee you that many will be saying to themselves, "They've completely eliminated half the things I care about, they barely cover any local news, and there was that time they screwed us subscribers on the Obama cover. Why would I write a check for that?"
If the paper had an ombudsman it would be interesting to hear what he has to say about this, but alas they don't have one. Maybe Ken Otterbourg will address it on his blog.
Update 11:10: I could swear that when I first visited the Journal page with the announcement that there was at least one negative comment there. I went back to check the language of the announcement and it said that the page had been updated five minutes earlier and there wasn't a comment anywhere to be found. Actually there isn't any way to leave a comment now. Hmmm. Can someone else visit the page and let me know if it's just my browser or has the comments function (been) disappeared for everyone?
After double checking it looks like I'm not crazy. The screen shots below show:
- The Journal home page that clearly shows the article about the reprint and says "1 comment".
- The announcement page without the comment or any way to comment.
- The page of another article with a comment as it's supposed to appear.
In other words from my browser it looks like that's the only page you can't comment on. I'm guessing it's coincidental, but I feel like being a conspiracy theorist today. So here goes: The Journal's scared of us! They don't want us to spread poisonous verbiage about their lame customer service!
Okay, I feel better.
I have been a loyal WSJ subscriber for many years. It’s sad to watch a newspaper dying, but unfortunately that’s what appears to be happening. I enjoy reading the paper every morning, but lately the paper has been getting smaller and smaller. When I moved from Miami, FL 30+ years ago I used to laugh at how small the paper was compared to the Miami Herald. Now I just think it’s sad. Surely there’s something that could be done to help out this paper. I’ll really miss reading it in the morning when I am forced to cancel due to the lack of news and content.
I’m close going paperless M-Th and subscribing to the NY Times Fr-Sun (they have a decent three day rate). The Monday and Tuesday Journals are beyond pathetic.
Coupons in the Sunday Journal pay for our subscription, however.
Mike, I actually kind of liked it when I moved here from DC and I could get through the paper in one sitting. To be honest I don’t think the diminishing size is as big a deal as the diminishing local content. They’ve cut the newsroom, which means fewer feet on the street, which means less original content, which means more reliance on wire stories. I think they’re doing the best they can with limited staff, but it was a strategic error on the part of their parent company to deal with their financial problems by cutting staff. Essentially they got rid of their biggest strategic advantage and they are now susceptible to being taken out by someone with a little money and a lot of media savvy.
AMR, That sounds like a good plan. I didn’t realize that NYT had a three day subscription. I get the other WSJ every day but Sunday and I depend on it for the big stories. I’ve been thinking about going to Sunday only for the local, but decided to keep it mainly due to habit and I do get one or two stories a week that I enjoy. Of course I could get them online too, but I still like having the paper to thumb through while I’m drinking my morning cup of joe. I think that makes me a dying breed.
I thought I changed my WSJ mullet wrapper subscription to Saturday & Sunday only to find out that the only available option was Saturday-Monday. WEIRD to me especially since the Monday edition is really weak. I will soon change it to no days and will get it online only. Simply a cost cutting move for me. Also I can browse and sip easier than turning pages. It’s also green. Save the trees.
My running joke about the WSJ is it should only be read just before bedtime so you can won’t have anything on your mind when you go to sleep.
Removal of negative comments … actually that is not crazy talk … on another site we were commenting on the WSJ’s endorsement of John McCain for president and remarked that several of the negative comments on WSJ’s choice had now disappeared. It appears that the paper takes a pro-active approach in monitoring its comments.
As for the paper itself, if it was not for the local coverage and the advert flyers with the coupons, I would probably use the on-line version only.