Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gasp! Newspaper subscribers seem to like their papers

Today must be my day for finding really interesting stories that I find fascinating but disagree with the conclusions. This one comes from Ad Age (one of my favorite magazines). It reports that newspaper "subscribers are sticking with their papers for longer -- and frequently paying more." It goes on to report that cancellations are way down, and draws the conclusion that the reason is that publishers have gotten better at managing their subscriptions.

For example, the story goes: "publishers got much smarter about the way they sell subscriptions, for one thing, de-emphasizing or even abandoning home delivery to areas that cost more to service but didn't mean much to advertisers." I realize I'm kind of slow sometimes, but how does limiting home delivery help keep subscriptions up? It does report publishers are more open to discounts and continuing low rates for subscribers who were attracted by promotions.

But, how's this for an alternative explanation: We consumers really like printed newspapers? We are willing to pay for them? We find it much more fulfilling to read print? We like the puzzles, games, agate, agony columns and the like that "clutter up print," according to some of the new media types. I'd even go a step farther based on my experience last week of finding myself cut off by my local newspaper because I changed credit cards. Oh, yes. They did send me a postcard telling me that my subscription was running out. I got it five days after the first day without a paper being delivered. The point is that the consumers may be reacting and supporting a product they like -- despite publishers' stupid cutbacks, poor service and shrinking news content. It's still better than online-only.

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