How to alienate your own newspaper subscribers


I am a supporter of newspapers and have always subscribed to the local paper, although I am aware that I am part of an ever-dwindling population. But even I have had my patience and loyalty to papers sorely tested by the recent efforts of the Plain Dealer, the local Cleveland paper.

The first time was when they cut back home delivery to just four days a week, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with the other days being only available online. In addition, they cut back on every section except for sports, which seems to have actually expanded. I suppose that they have some evidence that sports is what people really care about.

But the last straw was when I got a letter in the mail yesterday saying that they would be providing up to four “premium editions” per year that cost $2.99 for each, plus a special Thanksgiving premium edition costing $4.00. What will these premium editions contain? The first will be a 100-page retirement guide.

What really annoyed me, in addition to foisting things on me that I did not want, was the deceptiveness of the letter. It claims that there will be no extra charge for these extras but then says that because of them, my next online payment “comes about sooner”. Of course this is the same as an extra charge.

It looks like the paper is trying to sneak these extra charges past people who either do not read the letter or who cannot see through the ambiguous wording that suggests that these so-called premium editions are free.

The letter gave a phone number 1-877-486-0726 to call if I had any questions and so I called up to express my annoyance and say that I was going to cancel my subscription but the operator said that I could simply opt out of the premium editions, which I did, although the letter did not say that was an option, adding to the deceptiveness.

All in all, it was a disgraceful episode.

Comments

  1. says

    The operator was probably some poor jobber in a call center. You should write a letter to the editor and/or the city desk.

    Not that the editor reads any letters anyway, but someone in the staff who thought it was a bad idea might print it to be passive-aggressive.

    The sad bit is if they just said “we need more money to survive” they’d probably have gotten it, and people would feel good instead of cheated.

  2. Chiroptera says

    …with the other days being only available online.

    Me, I prefer e-versions of newspapers and magazines. As a member of the Mathematical Association of America, I get compimentary digital versions of their journals; subscribe to the digital versions of The New York Times and The Nation. I’ve found that since I quit getting the paper versions, I am much more likely to read these things.

    Part of it, I think, is that by carrying my one tablet, I am carrying all of my magazines, so I can read them at any time I’m sitting waiting for something.

    (As for books, on the other hand, I have no preference for paper or digital. I am just as happy reading either type.)

  3. says

    @Chiroptera et al–

    I am an e-subscriber to the Plain Dealer. It is the identical charge as the home delivery. As M.S. said, the home delivery isn’t even every day anymore. You can get both, but I don’t bother.

    What irritates me is that we have to call to opt out, rather than to opt in if we want it. Clearly, this is a deceptive moneymaking scam. When I did so, I found out that the PD had hired a third-party company just to take the opt out calls. It seems to prove that the profit margin on this is pretty big.

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