Thursday, March 26, 2009

Where's the paper?!

Is it coincidence that this week we have learned of a whole host of Michigan newspapers (Saginaw, Bay City, Detroit, Ann Arbor) that announced they are closing shop or reducing home delivery and going online? I don't believe in coincidences and neither do a lot of our listeners. One very articulate email crossed my desk that I want to share with you because of all the questions it raises about the changes. Our listener agreed to let me post it anonymously.

As you also know, home delivery customers typically pre-pay 6 months of subscriptions. This provides the Freep with free cash flow they don't have to get somewhere else. The time value of money is worth something, as well.

I'm a 25+ year home delivery subscriber to the Free Press. It seems that I, and other long-time customers, are being singled out as a profit problem and I just don't get it. I haven't read anything about renegotiation of the Teamsters contract nor any of the press production unions, so I'll assume that didn't happen. And, as I mentioned before, they can somehow "afford" to deliver newspaper to 18,000 retail locations, but not to home delivery carriers? I'll also assume they didn't renegotiate the debt load to cover their new presses.

So, I am left to conclude that their contracts with the home delivery carriers are the crux of the problem. But they can still "afford" home delivery a magnanimous three days a week. The old monthly subscription rate was $14 and change for 7 days a week delivery. Now it's $12 a month for 3/7 of the product. That looks like close to a 100% increase in price to me.

And no, I don't plan to read the digital free press, which presents me with an exact duplicate of the printed product. Who cares? The electronic version should be better than the printed product. is still free and is also free.

One last comment - the next time someone from the Freep appears on your show, please ask what the cost is for a full page ad in the printed newspaper. Then, have him explain how he would hope to generate that much revenue on-line. Also ask if their jump in web traffic might have had something to do with the Kwami mess.

Oh yeah, I recently retired after 28 years with Hewlett-Packard. So I am well acquainted with technology. But I just don't envison firing up my PC in the morning and staring at a screen to read the paper. I could do that now if I choose to. Don't need the Free Press to do that, which at best is no more than a barely adequate regional product but it's the only morning game in town.

What is your reaction to the changes?