Making It Hard to Love Newspapers

Those who cover the industry are finally starting to notice that newspapers are doing themselves in: 

44 percent of U.S. dailies now charge $1 for a weekday paper, according to a 2014 AAM 2014 study, while 39 percent charge 75 cents. It wasn’t that many years ago that 50 cents replaced a quarter as the standard. And five years ago, half (48 percent) of newspaper publishers charged 50 cents; now only 15 percent are at that price.

For Sunday editions, $2.00 is the prevailing charge, with 40 percent of dailies using it. Another 28 percent charge $1.50. 12 percent of Sunday editions are sold for more than two dollars.

We have to ask how long an industry can offer less and less and charge more and more.

What’s happened in newspaper pricing is that too many publishers have doubled their prices while halving the size, and quality, of their products. I can’t think — nominations invited — of other industries that have done that with longer-term success.

It’s like selling a 20-ounce bottle of Coke for a buck — and then three years later hawking a 10-ounce bottle for two dollars.

I would suggest the music industry, in the early part of the 2000s, as an example of when faced with declining album sales made the product worse, but certainly the newspaper industry is alone in its achievements of insulting its customers while asking them to pay more for less.

Add to that the embarrassing habit of pretending Google doesn’t exist — putting syndicated columnists behind a paywall when I can find them online for free — and jerking off “brands” like Michael Sneed who peddle months-old tidbits of gossip as major stories, and you wind up giving people absolutely no reason for loyalty.

There are many, many scenarios where print can still be vital and profitable, but those who run print operations are slowly taking those away.


One thought on “Making It Hard to Love Newspapers

  1. My local fishwrap – the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – did a “redesign” last year so that it more resembles Supermarket Shopper more than a newspaper. Then when it came time to extend my sub they want (this is from memory but it’s pretty close) $450/yr, around $200/yr over the previous year. I said no. About a month later one their subscription contractors called an offered to give me a year for around $200 if I allowed them to extend it another year after that at the same price. I agreed, more out of pity than anything else: my take-away is that their really hurting.

    And the thing is, the paper is privately-owned rather than some cog in a corporation.

    (Put this in the wrong post by accident…feel free to delete the other one.)


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