Johnson's World: Dear Newspaper Publisher

Does your print firm still get a newspaper delivered? We did. What happened?

November 1, 2015

Dear Publisher-in-Chief:

I’m writing you for two reasons, which unhappily have intersected on your doorstep -- or more literally, on my doorstep. 

Actually, there is nothing on my doorstep, and there hasn’t been for three weeks. By nothing, I specifically mean your newspaper.

Our company has been a fan of your newspaper for many years. Originally, an employee brought in her copy every morning and began leaving it out in the lunchroom for all. Soon everyone was reading your paper. When she took a vacation day everyone missed having the newspaper.

I noticed that everyone had their own favorite section to read, with no competition for the paper as people drifted in and out of the lunchroom. One glossed the sports section while another perused the neighborhood section and yet another enjoyed the funnies. Our erudite bookkeeper did the crossword each day while I read your business ledger section (which has always diligently covered our company’s happenings). Last spring you featured an interview with me, and I thank you for it.

After a time I observed that the newspaper was dissected as the day wore on. One person clipped recipes to bring home, another the Sudoku puzzle to do after work. I also noticed that everyone seemed to know what everyone else read. If someone missed a day of work, their particular item of interest would be clipped and placed in their intra-company mailbox by the newspaper elves.

This was some interesting phenomena since, as wannabe futurists would accurately note, everything that was read was available online. Most everyone in our company carries a smartphone (which they all check at lunch) and about half work at desks with Internet-connected workstations. Almost all have computers or tablets at home, so there is technically no need to clip articles.

Despite this, everyone enjoyed having your newspaper in hand each day. I think people actually liked getting away from their screens for awhile. More than that, the daily paper seemed to be a communal experience, just as it once was for families, with mom, dad, sis, and junior each taking a section. Your humble paper became an institution at Copresco.

A few years ago Gail decided to end her subscription due to a drastic price increase. I have heard stories from several people about draconian subscription price increases and also steep price discounts that made me wonder about your pricing strategy. But I digress.

When Gail stopped bringing in her paper, we decided to replace it with a corporate subscription, which was only fair since so many were enjoying it each day. 

This worked well. Each weekday before our office opened, your newspaper was delivered to the front door of our corporate headquarters. Each day, that is, until three weeks ago.

On Monday we received a paper. On Tuesday, nothing. We phoned, but could not get through your switchboard to a live human being. On Wednesday we called again. The lady apologized profusely and promised a paper later in the day. Nothing came. 

On Thursday we called again. This was the only time we received a palpable reaction. Three papers were delivered: yesterday’s, today’s but the wrong edition, and a competing paper. On Friday, nothing again, so out of desperation I contacted you on Twitter. Again, an apology. Again, no results.

We heard that as a cost-cutting measure you subcontracted your delivery routes to a rival newspaper. I’m all for innovative solutions and for industry cooperation. But this idea didn’t work.

It has been three weeks. We’ve stopped telephoning as we have better things to do.

I said I was writing for two reasons. First, I want my paper. 

Second, because I’m your best advocate. I work tirelessly to promote print of all stripes. I print for a living, and write about print. Just last week I judged a photo competition for your trade association. 

No one believes more in print than me, but some believe less. Print media is under siege. Print must experiment and innovate to thrive, but in today’s chaotic media maelstrom one misstep can be mortal for those of us in traditional ink-on-paper.

We still want our paper, but others of your readers are gone, never to return. And that loss is tragic for all of us.