Dear Readers, Screw You

Via Dancomes this masterpiece of corporate-speak and bullshit, this very special episode of Why We Suck: The News Industry Manifesto:

As you may have heard, we recently announced changes in the way The Plain Dealer will publish and distribute the newspaper later this summer. These changes will enable us to meet the evolving needs of our print and digital audiences while continuing to provide Northeast Ohio with the most comprehensive and up-to-date news and information 24/7.

Um, if you’re doing that already, why the need for changes? But hey, overall, sounds AWESOME. My needs are evolving. Tell me about the new stuff I’mma get!

Effective Aug. 5, The Plain Dealer will begin home delivery of its premium print experience three times a week, with larger news sections and expanded local coverage: a Wednesday edition enriched with more food and dining coverage, a Friday edition with Northeast Ohio’s most comprehensive blueprint for entertainment, and a Sunday edition filled with even more arts, travel, opinion, sports and news.

Is there a word in here that isn’t focus group-tested? And what the tits is a “premium print experience?” This makes it sound like instead of the paper you’ve been getting, somebody is going to bring you something new. Is that the case? If so, say that. If not, say something else.

Each premium edition will also include a free-standing Forum section, reflecting the thoughts and opinions on topics most important to the people in our community.

Syndicated columns, vaguely racist letters to the editor, and the occasional editorial about how local politics is all messed up. And what does “free-standing” mean? Is it a pop-up? A new magazine? If you’re starting a new magazine, why not just do that without screwing up everything that already exists?

I wonder if the paper’s assessment of consumers’ “evolving needs” showed that we were evolving a need for more boardroom-speak. That would explain this.

As an enhancement to the weekend experience, a bonus Saturday edition, including an auto section, will provide the latest high school sports coverage and a complete Ohio State football preview.

How is a Saturday paper a “bonus?” Do you not get a Saturday paper now, Plain Dealer subscribers? If so, how is this new Saturday paper a bonus? And if you don’t get a Saturday paper, and the paper is going to be cut back, why expand at the same time?

With our updated digital edition, you can read The Plain Dealer anytime, anywhere. It is an exact digital replica of the morning’s paper in the page-by-page format you enjoy, delivered daily to your desktop or mobile device. The new digital edition is faster, includes enhanced search capabilities, and allows you to quickly scan headlines and section fronts and enlarge type to read articles at your comfort level. It also now offers you breaking news from our reporters as well as real-time information at your fingertips.

Also known as THE INTERNET. Now, with the Plain Dealer, you can read the exact same paper ON YOUR COMPUTERS. You can search, and change the type size, and LOOK AT STUFF ON A SCREEN. You can look at it QUICKLY. It’s awesome!

1998 called, it says hang in there, the music gets better.

As always, single copy editions of The Plain Dealer will be available at over 2,000 locations every day.

So you’re still printing it, but not delivering it anymore. Ha ha, screw you, home subscribers!

We appreciate your loyalty and are dedicated to delivering the great coverage and service that you deserve. We look forward to presenting you with our new premium editions, access to our digital edition and news about other valuable subscriber benefits that will be coming soon.

Got questions? Too bad, suckers!

And, if you’re currently a subscriber, we’ll be contacting you individually with a personal letter detailing your subscription, benefits and pricing in the coming weeks.

Translation: We have no earthly clue how this is going to work out, but we’re so excited about our expanded premium replica expansion of more stuff but less stuff but different stuff but the same stuff that we had to tell you before we figured it all out, because that never makes anybody look bad. The EIC, answering a question from a 7-day subscriber about how he’s getting hosed financially here:

The 7-day subscriptions will be honored but converted to the new 4-day a week delivery schedule (which includes a Saturday newspaper), plus access to the new, replica electronic version of The Plain Dealer, 7 days a week. As I replied below, the exact pricing structure has not yet been finalized.

You have a newsroom full of professional bullshit detectors who, if they are good at their jobs, are mildly paranoid and always pissed off. Before you foist something like this on the public, HAVE YOUR NEWSROOM READ IT. They will poke holes in it so the customers don’t have to. Christ. And it gets worse:

cleveland.com is free and there are no plans to charge for the site’s content. The big difference between cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer’s electronic edition are lay out and presentation. The electronic edition is an exact replica of the newspaper, which some people prefer. It will also contain headlines and links to breaking news, weather and more.

“The big difference between cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer’s electronic edition are lay out and presentation.” So you’re paying for some code rearranging? Guys? I just …

I said this on Twitter when Dan put this thing in my sightline, but I fail to see what reducing the frequency of home delivery has to do with reaching audiences that like digital awesomeness. I fail to see why newspapers cannot be great newspapers and still have great web sites.Cleveland’s is less bloated and heaving than most, but it’s still … a replica of the paper. As they proudly announce. As if that’s an achievement.

I understand from a NEWSROOM perspective it’s hard to do it all, but this is written by the circ department head. Do we have a multi-tasking problem here? And if so, how does reducing home delivery solve that? Is the money being saved on home delivery (which, I’d like a number here at some point) being funneled into servers, video equipment, I don’t know, teaching people how to create for digital? And if not, I don’t see what one has to do with the other.

I have never in my life seen an industry so determined to insult its customers. Not only by peddling patent bullshit, but by telling customers it’s their “evolving needs” that have caused the bullshit in the first place.

A.

3 thoughts on “Dear Readers, Screw You

  1. DC from KC says:

    The Kansas City Star has done the same thing over the last year or so. You’re paying for a bunch of stuff you don’t want, there’s a third less paper than there used to be, when you go on vacation you still pay for the paper even though you aren’t receiving it (and then they were astounded when we canceled when we were going to be gone a month!). Grrrrrr

  2. Owned by Advance? Perhaps the peeps who run the circulation dept. (and the entire newspaper?) may want to check on the experiment with the New Orleans Times-Picayune to see how it’s worked out. Despite what was said in the notice about the paper version going to 3 days a week, NOLA.com was not an exact replica of the newspaper – at least not during the period before we cancelled our subscription after half the staff was terminated.

  3. MarcD says:

    Cincinnati Enquirer is going down a similar road. I have probably read these from 5 different papers and they have one common thread: no discussion of providing better/more/faster news than before. It’s like going to Morton’s and they tell you the steaks aren’t really available anymore, but wait until you try our summer squash. On next Tuesday. In a virtual format. Oh, and here is your bill for the virtual steak.

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