Newsday, Long Island’s only local daily newspaper raised its weekday price today by fifty percent, the same day its former owner, the Tribune Company, which still owns the LA Times and the Chicago Cubs declared bankruptcy.
I understand price increases. I don’t like them, but I understand them. Newspapers are supposed to understand advertising, which is how they make their money, but lately, I don’t think they understand how to price their product and it mystifies me.
I am happy to tell you that Newsday raised the price of its Sunday paper from $1.59 to $2.00. Who thought up $1.59? Was that price selected because it’s hard to make change? A lot of places would only give you the penny in change if you asked for it. Maybe $1.59 was selected because newspaper vending machines aren’t nearly as popular on Long Island as they are in much of the rest of the country. You need exact change for newspaper vending machines. Imagine if you had to buy Sunday Newsday from a vending machine for six quarters, a nickel and four pennies. So, I approve of $2.00.
What I don’t approve of is raising the price and lowering the quality or quantity of the product at the same time. Newsday announced it was laying off 100 employees last week, shortly before announcing what most companies now call a “price adjustment.” There are precious few merchants honest enough to call a price increase what it is.
Then there is the NY Daily News which has raised the price of its Saturday and Sunday papers last month. The Sunday NY Daily News now costs $1.25, up from a dollar, and the Saturday paper 75¢. The weekday paper remains at 50¢. In addition to not liking lower quality for higher prices, I don’t like paying more for the smallest newspaper of the week than I do for the paper on five other days.
Saturday papers generally have less news, fewer ads, and far lower circulation than weekday papers do. I’m fortunate not to have to count my pennies, or my quarters either, but I stopped buying the Saturday Daily News. If they had raised the weekday paper too, the way Newsday did, I would probably keep buying Saturday’s Daily News. I bet a lot of people feel the way I do about that.
The newspaper business is plagued right now by three things, two of them related to the economy. If the economy isn’t doing so well, a newspaper is something the average consumer can do without. Advertising is also something the average business will cut back on in a bad economy. Maybe businesses should advertise more rather than less in hard times, but they don’t: they cut back.
The third problem facing newspapers is that the Internet is making newspapers as currently structured obsolete.Newspapers have websites too, but a lot of them don’t use them to full advantage. One thing that drives me crazy about Newsday’s website is they’ll write a story that includes a reference to a website without including the hyperlink to the website.
Newspapers in general have to get with the times and adapt to the Internet age much more quickly than they are. Otherwise newspapers will become both irrelevant and obsolete. Then, referring to newspapers will become the 21st-century equivalent of a 20th-century reference to buggy whips.