Letter to Romenesko
From DAN MITCHELL, media and public policy writer: Subject: Newspapers are managed by incompetents. First, I was forced to cancel nearly all of my newspaper subscriptions because newspapers can’t seem to get their products reliably and competently delivered. I’m down to the Sunday New York Times, and I’m on the verge of canceling that one, too. And I’m somebody who *wants* daily newspapers delivered to my door. I’d still be getting four or five daily papers if circulation departments weren’t managed as if by chimps.
But it’s not like newspapers are any better when it comes to online distribution. Horribly designed, unnavigable Web sites are common. Most sites have dysfunctional search functions. Etc.
Many sites are enjoying success with email newsletters, and lately I’ve subscribed to a whole bunch of them. I searched his morning for email newsletters from both the Oakland Tribune and the San Francisco Chronicle. The Oakland Tribune (actually, Inside Bay Area, the site for the local chain owned, ironically enough, by Digital First) returns a “forbidden” error message. The Chron’s page is blank.
I am reminded of that great series of commercials for Dollar Shave Club about how retailers lock their razors in a case, and the guy says “It almost seems like they don’t *want* you to buy their razors.”
I honestly get the feeling sometimes that newspapers are actually trying to chase their readers away. Except that with local newspapers, we generally don’t have an alternative like shavers do with the Dollar Shave Club.
It’s true that free online news, Craigslist, etc., have done much to hurt newspapers. But not nearly enough blame is assigned to the woefully incompetent management of basic operations and the customer-service function.
Update from Mike Murphy:
I’m a web producer at the Bay Area News Group, and just wanted to note, for what it’s worth, that we have functioning links for email newsletter signups on all of our sites (Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, etc.). Not sure where Dan Mitchell got that bad link, we’ve been trying to replicate a Google search but are coming up empty. Hopefully we’ll be able to find and correct that link (or at least install a redirect), so thanks for pointing it out.
[Follow-up email:] I just responded to Dan via Twitter, and he sent me the page he found it on — which was a couple of years old, before our redesign. Must’ve fallen between the cracks, but we’re fixing it now.
The working link is here.
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