Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dropping the newspaper

I woke up this morning for the first time in nearly 24 years of living in Rochester without a delivery of the local Democrat and Chronicle -- the paper that brought me to Rochester when it hired me as a copy editor in 1986. Yes, a hardened print guy has cut his ties to the printed product -- though not for any of the reasons that popular opinion has about the death of newspaper as a function of content or format. As I explained it in an e-mail to a good friend who's a high-up news executive there:
In the end, poor customer service won out over my desire to continue receiving the paper in print. Despite literally dozens of complaints over a period of months, I could NEVER get the paper delivered in a timely fashion. Despite the 5:30 a.m. delivery promise, the delivery time kept creeping later. First it was a little after 6 a.m., then more like 6:30 and most recently the carrier had been arriving at close to 7 a.m. Once school starts in the fall, my wife, my daughter and I all will be getting up by 6 a.m. and out the door by around 7 a.m. So a paper that arrives that late does us no good.

And in a final, ironic twist on the poor customer service, I actually wanted to keep getting the paper until my credit-card pre-paid monthly subscription ran out in early September, and told that to the customer service person when I called Friday afternoon to take this action. But she canceled it immediately anyway. So, no paper this morning. Or, probably, ever again.

Being without a paper to read in the morning will take some getting used to. It also means I'll most likely visit the website more often, although I really dislike the site because of the clutter and "visual noise."

I still maintain -- as I wrote about in a post a few months ago -- that the newspaper industry should take a serious look at moving away from advertising-supported print models to reader-supported e-new models that get rid of all the junk related to a typical site in favor of a clean, unvarnished presentation of well-written, well-curated news. Yes, that's a "pay wall" -- but what the customer would be paying for is the convenience of format. This is similar to how people now pay for apps, and consider them to be worth the money, because of the functionality they offer. A better designed news site is likely worth paying for, too.

1 comment:

Mike Saffran said...

Welcome to the ‘no-newspaper’ club, Jack! I had cut back to weekend-only delivery a number of years ago, and then canceled it all together a few years later for reasons similar to yours:

• Shoddy delivery (Often, it didn’t show up at all.)

• Shrinking content (The paper kept saying, “We're eliminating this or that because it’s readily available online” — until one day I said to myself, “You know something? They’re right, it is all available online. So why do I need the paper?”)

• Shoddy content often targeting the paper’s hoped-for audience (rather than the few subscribers left still holding the paper in their hands)

Although it was an adjustment at first, I ultimately found it liberating: Now, I have more time to read good news publications that I truly enjoy, including The Chronicle of Higher Education and, locally, City (where I can read about what’s really happening in Rochester — it’s so much better than the daily) and the Brighton-Pittsford Post (pick your favorite town — I think Messenger Post covers the ’burbs admirably, while not trying to be something they’re not).

Plus, I even got used to not receiving the Wegmans and Tops inserts. In fact, that might have been the hardest part, but both are available online, and Tops now sends theirs weekly via U.S. Mail (a savvy move).