I don’t know about you, but I would never buy something from a store whose sign was falling off, that had graffiti scrawled on its walls, a window that can barely be seen through and a door that was dented — not to mention products that weren’t always current or were frequently sold out.
Yet everyday, newspaper companies throughout the country ignore local ordinances and expect readers to purchase papers from coin-operated newspaper racks that look just like the store I described above. Increasingly, they want customers to put more money into racks that may not work properly, may not even contain newspapers, look as if they were in an accident and are surrounded by trash. And management at these companies wonders why single copy sales aren’t growing?
I think that the industry needs to give more thought to how they treat their customers.
I know lots of attention at most newspapers goes into customer service. They fret about how much time callers spend on hold or the number of times they are transfered. They guarantee delivery by a certain time, they even worry about how dirty reader’s hands get while reading the paper. So shouldn’t they have the same degree of concern for where they sell their newspapers? If a bricks and mortar store wanted to sell newspapers and looked like the place I described in my lede, would a newspaper really let them sell their papers?
There was a time when newspapers were the main game in town, when circulation was plentiful and readers, quite frankly, were often taken for granted. But those days are long gone, newspapers are now fighting to grow online numbers, while maintaining their shrinking print circulation. And as a result, they must rethink how they treat readers and potential readers.
In previous posts, I suggested that the “A” section be used for local content to address the reading habits of most readers and that the Saturday newspaper be killed in favor of saving limited funds and resources, these I maintain are the types of efforts newspapers need to make if they are going to save their print editions, let alone their businesses.
When it comes to newspaper racks, appearance and maintenance is key. A clean rack in working order, not surrounded by trash or weeds, will make people feel good about purchasing your product, and make it clear that you appreciate their business as well. I know that racks aren’t cheap or easy to purchase, they can run $500 and it’s not like a company can just run to the corner and buy one. Refurbishing, replacement parts and stickers can be a nuisance, but all are necessary. Newspapers should also remember that these boxes are free advertising, stickers and rack cards should include both the print information AND the web information.
I recognize that these suggestions aren’t as radical as my previous ones and an argument can be made that as people carry less change, these pay boxes are becoming obsolete. One could even say that coin operated newspaper racks should be replaced with free racks (while maintaining paid home delivery and store sales), but I think those ideas — which I think are worth exploring — are to be left for another post.