Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Cynical Yet Pragmatic Move by Tribune and Scripps-Howard

Companies Hope Non-Subscriber Turkeys Will Pay to Gobble Up Circulars and Coupons

From the why-didn't-someone-think-of-this-sooner file comes this item from Bloomberg, reporting that Scripps and Tribune will jack up the newsstand prices for their papers tomorrow to squeeze a few more coins out of casual readers grabbing the papers for the Black Friday sales ads.
And we're not talking just another quarter or so. In some cases, papers are charging the Sunday price or even more.
“It’s a once-in-a-year sort of event for us,” said Mark Contreras, senior vice president of newspapers for E.W. Scripps, publisher of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, told Bloomberg. “The Thanksgiving paper in every place we offer it is the biggest newspaper of the year.”
Scripps and Tribune aren't alone. The Washington Post and the Kansas City Star are also boosting prices.
Contreras said the largest Commercial-Appeal of the year comes out on Thansgiving, when circulation more than doubles to 195,000. "Frankly, I don't know why you wouldn't charge more," he added.
Neither do I. But let's keep it in context. That big paper Contreras is so pleased about will largely come from preprinted ad inserts. In other words, they cost the paper nothing to print, only to distribute. So, profits from higher newsstand prices can be considerable.
But don't think for a moment that more ads mean more articles. Similar to the Detroit Lions' chances of winning tomorrow, its not going to happen.
One MediaNews executive is quoted as saying the Thanksgiving papers offer "real value" because shoppers can ostensibly see all of the best sales in one place.
Let's be clear: the real value is to the publishers, who need to do anything and everything they can to prop up revenues. It also might be the only way they can say happy Thanksgiving with a straight face.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe people buy and read newspapers for more than just the articles? Just like the Lions' record on Thanksgiving, Readership research has noted that for years.

The Knoxville News Sentinel, an E.W. Scripps newspaper (they haven't been called Scripps-Howard newspapers in quite in some time), has been doing this for a few years now. In the first year, single copy sales were up (in units), not down over the previous year. People saw the value.

If you could save say $200 by spending $2, would you? Would you pay $1.25 extra to save $200?

Buyers made the "what's it worth to me" calculation and found it a bargain.

-- Jack Lail
Director of News Innovation
Knoxville News Sentinel