Ramblings of Silver Blue

08 Mar

When following a “business model” doesn’t make sense

As humans, we naturally resist change. I do, I know you do as well.

So when the local newspaper changes, emotions run hot.

Only is it uncalled for? Not really. Newspapers are like websites. They are in the eyeball market. If you don’t read, revenue drops.

The problem is “cost savings”. I have seen a good number of business performing “cost savings” and it ended up costing them their business.

The Peninsula is serviced by one newspaper, the South side by another. Let’s do a comparison:

Peninsula: Daily Press. South side: Virginian-Pilot. Both papers used to have an evening edition (Times-Herald and Times-Dispatch, both discontinued during the 1980s due to lower subscription levels).

Here’s where the similarities end, however. Both papers have different parent companies, and this is where the VP gets it right, while the DP tries to take the cheap route.

In the past year, the Daily Press has gone to including “half-sheets” in some of their sections (their explanation is that it is cheaper and prevents them having to ‘leave out’ items that may be of interest) — which causes the paper to almost be impossible to hold and read. They’ve gone to thinner newsprint, a cheaper ink which smudges, and two of the latest insults to their subscribers: television listings (the “local” tv guide) is now an OPT-IN feature, and they’ve revamped the business section, basically removing all financial/stock listings.

They’ve attempted to “pretty up” by adding more colour, and have taken on an almost tabloid appearance by putting synopses on their front page of what they’ve chosen to include inside.

Feedback (published) has been furious. Women are upset that sports and business is geared toward men, completely ignoring at least half of their reader base. Readers are upset that major news events in the area have not been covered. On and on.

The “glib” response from the Editor of the Daily Press is ALWAYS the same. “We’re trying to keep costs down”; “We’re trying to save costs”; “We are using research which shows that this is what the readers want” (I never was contacted, nor was Tink, and she pays the bill); “More people are getting their news from the Internet and we have to keep costs down”.

Let’s consider the Daily Press website and the Virginian-Pilot website. The Daily Press (www.dailypress.com) site is cluttered (again, they claim to have used “market research” — bully!), and relatively content-free, while the VP site (www.pilotonline.com) is well designed, and even allows you to read the entire paper online (if you’re a VP subscriber) at no extra cost. Yes, you get the ENTIRE paper, in its published form, online should you so desire to read it.

The best thing that could happen for the Peninsula would be for the Daily Press to just fold. Since they are so concerned with “cost savings” and really don’t give a flip about how the readers feel, maybe the readers would be better served if the DP just went out of production and the VP were to take over the region (don’t give me your monopoly bull crap — the VP has higher quality reporting, better newsprint paper, their ink doesn’t smudge, etc.).

This is one of those instances (as radio is beginning to finally figure out… maybe) when following a “business model” or “market research” isn’t a viable option. Montgomery Ward attempted this in the 90s when they segmented their stores into Music Avenue, Electric Avenue, etc. and ended up alienating their customer base because they felt they were navigating a rat’s maze just to purchase the items they wanted. I’m not saying that’s what drove them to insolvency, but I’m certain it didn’t help matters any.

The Daily Press simply is trying to take the cheap way out by claiming almost everyone gets their news on television and the Internet. If that is really the case, quit attempting to justify your existence evolving into a cheap supermarket rag, and either cease publication, becoming an Internet based entity only (knowing that you will alienate even more people who choose not to get their news on line, preferring to read the paper over a cup of coffee, and that you will lose the segment of the population who do not have computers and/or the Internet), or give the consumer what they want.

Even if it means raising your price a dime.

One Response to “When following a “business model” doesn’t make sense”

  1. 1
    Celtic Momma Says:

    The ATlanta Journal Constitution is doing the same thing. They are saying EVERYONE gets their news online. Well, I was brought up to not be EVERYONE and I definitely don’t get my news online.

    The only reason I access the AJC online is to give a link to an article to someone who I think might be intersted in the article.

    They are doing away with the weekly community sections for outlying counties, ours wil lnow be just one part of the county in with another County.

    they are stopping the delivery of papers to areas in FL and Southern GA, and AL which is pretty close to the Atlanta area.

    I will not be renewing the paper when this 13 weeks session is up. Then I might access it online if I find a news article I might want more information on. If they make me pay for it then I won’t even do that.

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