Friday, March 27, 2009

Newspaper Delivery An Update

March 27, 2009, 2:00 p.m.

Pounding Again on "Of Newspapers and Nails"

Like many Americans who believe an informed citizenry would be kind of nice to have in a self-governing democracy, I've also been concerned about the future of the newspaper industry as compared with, say, what it was during the first 60 years of my life. See Nicholas Johnson, "Whither Newspapers?" (offering some alternative futures and possible solutions to the industry's economic woes).

The last six months news from the New York Times has been especially troubling given the reliance of many media, as well as the nation's citizens, upon its morning paper. (See, e.g., from Richard Perez-Pena, "New York Times Co. Reports an Earnings Decline of 51%," New York Times, October 23, 2008, to Richard Perez-Pena, "Times Co. Announces Temporary Salary Cuts," New York Times, March 27, 2009.)

Many of the factors the industry is dealing with are not easily within its control.

Others are.

Newspaper delivery is the one that was discussed in a blog entry here roughly three weeks ago. Nicholas Johnson, "Of Newspapers and Nails," March 8, 2009.

At breakfast this morning with an Iowa City businesswoman she reminded me of that blog entry.

When asked, she replied that she didn't have a copy of the morning paper (containing an item of relevance to our conversation). "Why?" I asked, incredulous that anyone doing local business could function without that particular paper.

"Oh, I tried to get it," she said, "I just never could get them to deliver it regularly."

It had been my problem as well -- a kind of multiple-variable analysis, given that (a) sometimes the paper was not delivered at all, and when it was (b) it was impossible to predict when that might be, or (c) where it would be located.

So it seemed to me timely to do a follow-up blog entry to the earlier "Of Newspapers and Nails." Here it is.

There's good news and bad news.

The good news is that for a full six days straight both papers were at the kitchen door by 5:00 a.m.

The not so good news was that the record-setting series of timely, well-placed deliveries then changed.

The other not so good news involved our effort to suspend delivery for a few days over spring break. In "Of Newspapers and Nails" I noted that the paper that is a little erratic in delivery also has no humans to handle customers' calls on days when they receive no paper at all.

It turns out that one needs to "talk" to that same machine to suspend delivery. And, like the machine's failure to make a second attempt at delivery, in this instance it was also unsuccessful in suspending delivery.

And then this morning, before going off to breakfast, it turned into another of those scavenger-hunt-for-your-newspaper kind of days. Ultimately I found it, on the driveway, under a vehicle.

This blog entry is not about the delivery services accorded customers in one neighborhood. When the paper is delivered at all we can usually find it and, if not, just read it online.

This blog entry is about the future of the newspaper industry generally.

To borrow a bit of advice, the industry needs to control what it can, accept what it cannot, and be wise enough to know the difference.

Newspaper delivery is something it can control.

And it's kind of important.

Neither how much advertising a paper has, nor how many Pulitzer Prizes its reporters have received, will make any difference if it can't get the papers to its subscribers. That's why I used the "for the want of a nail" analogy in "Of Newspapers and Nails."

Even the smallest of details matters in any institutional enterprise. And newspaper delivery is no small detail in the newspaper industry.

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1 comment:

The Telegraph said...

What do you mean newspapers are outdated?