Anatomy of a subscription fail

Our bill for our 7-day newspaper subscription came: $281.52. Let’s take a look!

Last year, the cost was $122.14. That’s an increase of $159.38 — about 130 percent.

What didn’t accompany it was an explanation of the need for an increase.

The subscription includes what the paper calls 12 “premium editions” for an additional charge. That includes the Thanksgiving Day paper — which a reasonable person might think is included in a 7-day subscription — and the 1808 monthly magazine, which no longer exists.

Here is what getting 12 “premium editions” means: “The additional charges for premium editions will result in a slightly shortened subscription length in proportion to the additional charges.” Actually, “slightly shortened” translates to five weeks. So, what the bill calls a 52-week subscription is really 47 weeks.

And finally, the paper has tacked on $3.95 “subscription renewal charge” because we pay by mail.

(By the way, if you’re a new subscriber, you can get a year’s subscription for $86. Not available for a 35-year subscriber.)

I am not cancelling the paper because I believe in the importance of a local newspaper, I still have friends who work at the paper, and I can afford it. I worked at the newspaper a long time and I know the idea behind this: They know older subscribers won’t cancel because we’re addicted to print. But with a billing like that, I want to. I’m surprised that anyone renews.

I love my paper but I am not feeling appreciated. In fact, I’m feeling disrespected and taken advantage of in this relationship. What needs to happen?

*Explain in the renewal letter why the price has gone through the roof; don’t force me to pick up the phone to complain to someone in a call center who doesn’t know the answer.

*Stop hiding the additional fees for “premium editions”; no one knows which ones they are. They feel like you’re gouging me for something I am already paying for. And don’t make me opt out if I don’t want them.

*”Subscription Renewal Charge”? I don’t want you to have my credit card number and I don’t want you to automatically renew my subscription each year. Get rid of that.

*Make the business end of BH Media read this from Northwestern’s Spiegel Research Center. “Being able to move a reader to a subscriber, while important, has much less leverage and value than growing the long-term value of that subscriber,” said Tom Collinger, Spiegel’s Executive Director.

“Understanding and then working to grow lifetime value is a well-known goal and measure in the retail and e-commerce space,” said Collinger. (Customer Lifetime Value) is a “far newer and less familiar goal” in American news organizations, but it’s one they should embrace as customer revenue becomes more of a priority and advertising dollars become less of one, he said.



7 thoughts on “Anatomy of a subscription fail

  1. Several months ago I asked about paying for my N&R subscription annually and was quoted a price of over $300. I was shocked! Initiating home delivery has a surcharge of $15 (or did when I reactivated my home delivery 2 years ago). I thought moving the printing of the paper to Winston-Salem was to save money but this dramatic increase tells me something else is going on. I think the N&R is hoping to eliminate printing a paper all together. The cost of a weekday paper in a newspaper rack was $3.00 per copy the last time I checked in October. If home delivery is eliminated then the N&R doesn’t have any carriers to have to hire or pay or customer service to have to hire. If the paper goes to vending machines and newsstands then they are still printing but it is less of a hassle. If they go to online only they can eliminate just about every expense and headache that they have. Pricing the loyal reader out of buy a physical printed newspaper is one way to accomplish this. I dropped my home delivery subscription and resorted to online which is far less satisfactory but works with my budget. Sad sign of the times for sure.

  2. It would be one thing if the increase in our subscriptions made it into the paychecks of the N&R employees, but it does not.

    We have home delivery with internet access. The internet access does not work. The support number leads nowhere, much like the calls I have made to cancel my subscription.

  3. One of my goals when I retired was to read the newspaper every morning while I had my coffee. I have enjoyed doing that, but, as with everything these days, the price keeps going up as the size of the paper decreases.

    Reading the paper online is not satisfying for us older folks, even though that option is available.

    I hope the paper will continue, but, if the large increases keep occurring, many of us will be unable to continue our support.

  4. Omg. You have perfectly expressed my frustration as well. I just renewed despite all of this disrespect for the same reasons. I must support local journalism. But, damn, they don’t make it easy. Irony alert: Last Sunday’s edition included an utterly canned and useless “special section” on being wise with your money. It was proudly labeled $6.99. Which means I lose a few days off my sub for canned filler I didn’t want or need. Thx. I feel better now!

  5. I went to online only, primarily because of delivery problems. That said, I suspect that BH Media has no interest whatever in growing long-term subscribers. They will be phasing out print, probably quite rapidly, once they’ve sold the valuable downtown real estate. And then they’ll likely get out of the business entirely, either by selling the remnants of the business to a private-equity group or possibly by closing the operation entirely.

  6. At 77, and with sweet memories of making daily newspapers for 35 years, I’m content to read the Times and the Post and Frank Tursi’s splendid Coastal Review Online (among other publications) electronically and try not to think about the slow, torturous death of local newspapers. Life’s too short.

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