My co-workers and I on the social desk at The Monroe Evening News know, based on the conversations with our customers, that some of them are not daily subscribers.
Some people have the paper delivered only on weekends, or pick up single copies only on occasion.
There is no difference in photo pricing, obituary pricing, or how we handle scheduling of those announcements. Each customer is treated the same, whether or not they are daily subscribers.
But the detail that astonishes me is the number of non-subscribers who ask for special treatment that our daily readers rarely ask for, or really, even need:
“I don’t get the paper, so can you tell me in advance what day it will run?”
No, I will not do that on social page copy. It’s problematic enough even for local news copy.
The only guaranteed publication dates the newsroom can provide are wedding anniversaries, which typically are scheduled weeks in advance; and obituaries, because we make room for every obituary that is ready for publication by the posted deadline.
I know other reporters or editors try to give expected dates on other items such as graduation and wedding announcements. It doesn’t always work out because available space is hard to predict, and last-minute switchouts on any page can happen right up until deadline.
The result: angry customers.
Yes, I know what it’s like to buy six extra copies of a newspaper at a carryout because my engagement announcement was shown on an early page proof of my hometown newspaper. But I didn’t look to see whether my announcement really made it in print before I started to clear out a news rack. Oops.
Given the volume of information that is published every day, callbacks with publication dates to customers are not a good use of time. This would easily involve 100 phone calls a week just for the copy I handle.
The faster we can get announcements typed and in the network, the faster they will be published in the first place.
Besides, customers who need original copies, extra copies, replacement copies or pdf copies of a recently published article or photo will be able to get them. We offer the following options at The Monroe Evening News:
- Three months’ worth of racks of newspapers are available for reading in the newsroom lobby during business hours.
- Customers can buy back issues on a first-come, first-served basis, to be purchased in person or mailed out with payment in advance. We usually have the past three months’ worth of newspapers available.
- One day’s e-edition in pdf format can be downloaded for the cost of an actual newspaper (75 cents Mondays through Saturdays or $1.50 on Sundays). The electronic library usually has about three weeks’ worth of newspapers available. And this a perk for 7-day subscribers: those customers have FREE access to this database so they can do their own searching and downloading.
Amazingly enough, the back issue and pdf availability isn’t good enough for some people.
I had such a conversation with a former subscriber last week who kept insisting that she wanted a publication date for a social page announcement so she wouldn’t miss it. She was not happy with the alternatives I gave her if she missed a publication. Finally I said politely but firmly, “one reason people subscribe is so they don’t miss something they are looking for.”
She still didn’t want to re-subscribe to the paper, but she realized I wasn’t going to provide what she wanted.
The reason this rant fits in with budget discussions is that the most common reason I hear why people do not subscribe or have quit subscribing is this: “the paper just piles up.”
In other words, they aren’t reading in a timely manner what they paid for.
I understand the financial logic. During the past several weeks, I have been working through my magazine and newspaper subscription lists to see which ones I wish to keep vs. which ones I will cancel so I have money to spend on something else.
As a result, I dropped five or six magazines, and added in only one. The deciding factor for most of the magazines is whether they fit my demographic and talents. I’m not going to cook like Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart, for example, and the All You magazine focuses heavily on wellness topics that don’t interest me.
I also dropped my home delivery Detroit Free Press last week.
Yes. I stopped one of my two newspapers. The decision was whether the value I got out of a home delivery subscription was worth it. Because I live in Monroe County, I am out of Detroit’s core circulation area. As a result, I pay extra fees for delivery of a paper whose regular reporting does not include my community.
I started my Freep subscription five years ago, when the headlines were more of a statewide nature and therefore very much of interest to me. The ad mix I received at first also included some Downriver ads I don’t see in the Monroe paper.
What if there is an article that I might want to read in the meantime?
I know where the single copy sales racks are in my zip code. It really isn’t that much of an inconvenience or expense to get a paper at the store, even if I need to do so for several days in a row for whatever reason.
And if I decide it’s time to resubscribe, I know I can do that fairly quickly.