Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Newspapers' problems: One of the problems newspapers sometimes encounter is a disconnect with the communities they cover. It's not an uncommon occurrence for any large company, but it can be especially damaging to newspapers who need to tell the stories of a diverse audience.
At least once a year at The San Diego Union-Tribune the paper's editor and senior editors make phone calls to people who've canceled the paper -- a job usually left to much lower-paid workers -- in an effort to find out what they think of the paper and get them to resubscribe. (When the lower-paid workers do it, their primary goal is to get them to resubscribe.)
The reasons people cancel the newspaper are many -- from personal financial reasons to outrage over how an issue has been covered.
But when upper management makes these "retention" calls, the goal is to open lines of communication with readers.
Unfortunately, the Philadelphia Inquirer doesn't quite get it. At the Inquirer, members of the editorial board got to make the retention calls, but they don't really want to hear what their readers think.
Thank you for doing this.
Pat will give your list of names and numbers shortly.
Here's a rough idea of a script.
Introduce yourself as a member of the editorial board. You've heard that the person stopped the paper over concerns with election coverage (do not pin it on 21 Reasons; in fact, many people who cancelled did so over Polman or other issues), and you wanted to give them a call after the heat of the campaign died down.
If they blow you off, thank them for their time and let them know that if they ever want to resubscribe they can do so by calling our customer service line at 800-222-2765. They can get a 50 percent discount on the rate by mentioning that they had stopped the paper due to election coverage.
If they want to talk, that's a bummer.
The "21 Reasons" mentioned in the memo are a series of 21 editorials that the Inquirer's editorial page ran on why voters should choose John Kerry for president. One editorial a day for 21 days. Three weeks worth of an endorsement.
And if you cancelled your subscription over it, well, they want to appear as though they care about your views, but not really.
Newspapers don't need to blame television, radio or the Internet for declining circulation -- they're doing it to themselves.