September 13, 2004

Circulation Circus

Amid all the big circulation scandals at Newsday, the Chicago Sun Times and the Dallas Morning News, here's a personal illustration of why newspapers are still clueless about basic marketing practices and customer service.

At the end of August my wife and I moved from one part of Mill Valley, Calif., to another.
We subscribe to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the San Francisco Chronicle. When I called the latter with our change of address, the helpful young man who answered the phone informed me that because I live in an area where the Chronicle is trying to increase circulation he could offer me a special subscription rate.

Great, I said, how much?

$24.99 for 52 weeks, he said, if I was willing to take the paper just five days a week, Wednesday through Sunday.

Wait, I told him. I already subscribe to the Chronicle seven days a week and pay more than $225 a year and you're offering me a deal that not only brings the company less money but encourages me to read the paper less often?

Yep, he said. It's a good deal.

It was and I took it. So, in one phone call from a current subscriber the Chronicle succeeded in reducing revenue by $200 a year, cutting my readership of the paper by 28 percent and increasing the amount of time I spend on Mondays and Tuesdays with its competitors (the Times sells more than 55,000 Sunday papers in San Francisco).

With this kind of sales pitch, it's no wonder circulation managers are cooking the books.

Posted by Tim Porter at September 13, 2004 08:18 AM

Hi Tim:

There's a group of us in Dallas trying to launch a form of "local media 2.0" and we address a lot of the folly in circulation and ad pricing.

If you get a chance, email me-- I'd like to run some of our core concepts by you for feedback. Would really appreciate it.

Posted by: Peg on September 13, 2004 09:25 AM
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