Monday, January 4, 2010

Sometimes, delivery is the problem -- Updated

Update: I sent a copy of the following post from this morning to Elizabeth "Betsy" Brenner, publisher of the Journal Sentinel, and received several polite and informative replies both from her personally and from Rick Debroux, the company's distribution director. In short, they apologized for the problems and are investigating what happened with the incorrectly inserted sections. Mr. Debroux reported that two of the boxes mentioned had broken latches and the third had been repaired recently. It was the sort of response that could be expected from a company that, as Ms. Brenner said in her response, takes customer service seriously. It's also the kind of thing that may well keep the newspaper around for a long time.

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Jeff Cohen of Shorewood reads the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. For a variety of reasons, he buys the paper each day (this should bring cheers from JS management), and he generally purchases it from a machine or at a gas station or nearby grocery store. Suddenly he has two problems, and they are indicative of the major problems facing the newspaper industry.

Seems the extreme cuts in staff by the JS have devastated its delivery system. There are only three newspaper boxes left on Jeff’s route from his apartment building to a bagel shop he visits each morning to drink coffee, eat a bagel and read the paper. The box at the corner of Capitol and Oakland this morning still showed the newspaper from December 22 in its window; the box in front of the Post Office has been empty since then, and the box in front of the bagel shop (an Einstein’s) won’t open even after the money is put in. At least, he says, it does return the money when you hit the return, which isn’t true of many newspaper boxes.

Now he has a new issue, and one that I think is very serious (not that the others aren’t either since they are cutting into circulation). He purchased a Sunday paper at a gas station, started reading it only to find that several of its sections were a week old (EntrĂ©e, the Comics and advertising sections within the comics). He checked at the grocery store and found it was the same.

We’ve talked about how the amazing thing about the newspaper industry isn’t that it’s lost customers, but that it’s still got so many of them despite higher prices and much less content. Now the paper is completely mistreating customers by not making current papers available and passing off old sections as new. It not only shows a disregard for customers, but also is indicative of a very poorly managed delivery system. As Jeff says, “Why would I subscribe when the service is so lousy?” Why indeed?

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