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The real reason nobody’s reading hard copy newspapers


Last week, I made a big decision for our family: We were going to subscribe to the daily Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The hard copy edition.


Yeah, I know. That seems odd for someone like me, right? But I still have a few traditions I like to hang on to–one of them is reading a hard copy of the paper. I love to do it when I visit my parents or mother-in-law–both of which still receive the paper every day.

So, I thought this would be a good idea. Great way to get the kids reading (eventually), too. For now, it’s good for them to see their parents reading the paper.

So, last Thursday I eagerly subscribed to the Star Tribune and I was promised a first delivery on Saturday, April 20 (this is important later on). I’m guessing they’re not getting that many people like me calling them up ASKING to subscribe to the HARD COPY paper these days (side note: Would be interesting to see what new hard copy sub numbers look like). Many are more interested in the digital edition–they want to read it on their iPad or Android tablet.

I was excited. I was planning when and how I would read the paper each day. I was already looking forward to Sunday when I could spend a decent chunk of the morning reading the paper and sipping coffee as my kids watched shows on Netflix.

But here’s the thing: The paper never came.

Saturday delivery was promised for my first paper. But Saturday morning came and went. No paper.

I called the Strib twice on Saturday, asking where my paper was. “It’ll be there within the hour,” was the response I got from the Strib. But alas, no paper.

Sunday morning came and went. No paper. Two more calls to the Star Tribune. Still no paper. Meanwhile, I saw Sunday papers lying in the doorsteps of my neighbors up and down the street.

OK, Monday I will surely get a paper, right? Nope. Two more calls to the Strib. No paper.

Tuesday? No paper.

Wednesday? Still no paper. But after a few calls, I finally got someone locally to admit they had the wrong address (after I confirmed this EVERY time I called). So, at least we have an answer. And, finally, on Thursday, I had the paper on my doorstep.

But this whole experience (and my venting about it publicly–sorry, all) has outlined for me what might be the real reason hard copy newspapers are failing: An utter lack–or unwillingness–of these newspapers to pay attention to the “customer experience.”

OK, so I’m sure it’s not the *real* reason–but it has to be a contributing factor.

Let’s look at a handful of comments from a post I made on Facebook earlier this week:

Why Newspapers are Failing1

And I wasn’t the only one who’s had issues with home delivery (Jason Keath’s comment about the Boston Globe).

Why Newspapers are Failing2

Just look at my experience. Much of the excitement I had last week about getting the paper again is now gone.

I’m still eager to get the paper each day–but the Star Tribune forgot about a key part of situation where a person pays money for a product or service: The experience that goes along with that.

My experience, apparently, has become the experience of more than a few receiving a daily newspaper. And it’s sad.

Why? Because clearly the Star Tribune is not thinking through the customer experience of its subscribers (or worse yet, doesn’t care).

It’s not my problem your circulation department isn’t open on Sundays (that’s a claim I heard from my newspaper friends when my paper didn’t come on Saturday or Sunday).

It isn’t my problem you can’t get your network of carriers to get me a paper on time.

And it’s definitely not my problem that you got my zip code wrong even though I confirmed it about 5 times via phone.

On top of all this, I really only got one true apology through this whole deal. And really no “make good” to speak of (giving me two weeks “free” isn’t a huge step, considering you’re trying to rope in a subscriber for life). Instead, why not give me a $50 gift card to Caribou (people drink coffee while reading the paper, right?). Or, how about a phone call from someone local here in Minneapolis just to say “sorry” and that this won’t happen again. And, if it does, what will happen in that case (the people I talked to on the phone were always out of state).

So you tell me, what grade should the Star Tribune get in this situation for customer experience?



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