Thursday, June 30, 2011


Maybe arrogance is the answer for newspapers.

Recently I was outside a fast food restaurant and saw the USA Today newspaper rack. USA Today usually impresses me with its front page. It did again this day. I wanted to buy a copy for a story on the front page because apparently I was too lazy to use my phone app to find it.

There was one problem: I had no change. I could go inside the restaurant and get change, except for the fact I had no cash.

Maybe this is really why single copy sales are down - who carries cash (let alone change) anymore?

If only we could equip every news rack with a way to swipe a credit or debit card to gain access. I'd like to see the results. It's not totally unheard of. Some college campuses have a readership program for students. They swipe their ID cards to gain access to the local metro daily, USA Today and/or New York Times.

I mentioned this to a business owner in town.

"You'd lose money on every transaction," he said.
"Not if we charge $10 per newspaper," I quipped.

Understanding that I was joking, he said I was right. But it got me thinking. I'm not suggesting we charge $10 per newspaper. However, maybe we should consider upping the price a bit.

In what other business do you charge less than the product is worth.
This week we produced a 10-page A section, 4-page B section, 6 page C section and 8-page D section. That's 28 pages plus inserts. At 75 cents per newspaper, that's less than 3 cents per page. Where else can you get that kind of rate. I don't think 3 cents covers the raw costs of ink and paper, let alone transportation to get those newspapers to those locations on top of the salaries to produce it. And let's not forget overhead costs. Of course, advertising is supposed to supplement that cost. Obviously it doesn't.
Anytime you charge more for something, it ups the value of. Let's face it, if people really want it then they will pay for it. If they don't really want it, then we're wasting our time, right?

I say charge more for a single copy of the newspaper and charge for unlimited online access.

In a small town like this one, there are not many other means for a business to effectively advertise. So charge a little more for advertising, but not to the point it excludes many businesses.
I'm sure we happily pay more than many things cost from raw materials through production and delivery.
Perhaps we shouldn't be going around begging people to advertise and begging people to subscribe and begging people to visit our website. Maybe it's time to say to people if you want legitimate news presented in a fair, professional manner you're going to have to be willing to pay for it. If you want to reach your target audience, you're going to have to consider the investment associated with marketing.

I say this, but a paperwork error last year sent subscribers a renewal notice with the price of two-year subscription in the place of the one-year subscription. Subscribers balked at the notion, many calling to cancel their subscription if that were the renewal price.
Sticker shock will turn many away. For the news stand price, I say up it gradually over a two-year period. The same goes for subscribers, except make it a slight increase for current subscribers to renew and a notable increase for new subscribers (but still getting a far better deal per issue by subscribing).

If we were to implement this program tomorrow, my goal would be to have the current 75-cents per issue news stand price to be at $2 by this time in two years. For the subscribers, I would propose their renewal price to increase for a year subscription from $30 to $32 in that time. For first-time subscribers make it $35.
For the web, give print subscribers full access. Offer a web-only subscription for half the price. Allow one-time fees ($2 a week) for those who just need to peruse the website from afar a few times a year.

This would increase revenue (assuming there was no significant drop in subscriptions and single-copy sales or that it bounced back within six months) around $35,000 based on our circulation after numbers return to normal.
For ads, up the cost 20 percent gradually over the course of two years. I can't give good figures on that, except that I would assume given a drop in advertisers we would still be making at least 5 percent more a year than we did two years prior. That can't hurt.

People pay more for gas, groceries, coffee and alcohol. They do it while grumbling at first, but get used to it and continue anyway. Why not add news to that list?

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