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.