Newspaper Price Gouging Exposed!

BY JOSEPH KOLLIN

Although we blame the Internet for the problems of newspapers, it is papers themselves that deserve much of the blame. 

Consider that $9 for a single paper. Why that much if you’re trying to encourage readership?

With such an anti-customer attitude, local papers have no right to even survive. 

One problem is the issue Browardbeat raised, of course: the lack of local news. Even what they call local new is maybe 90 percent based on press releases and PIO tips, not reporters pounding the beat.  

What may be hurting print papers just as much, or more, is just plain good customer service. Here are some ways they shabbily treat those who buy or want to buy their product: What may be hurting print papers just as much, or more, is the lack of just plain good customer service.

Here are some ways they shabbily treat those who buy or want to buy their product: 

  • Finding a paper. Even if you want to buy a paper, where can you get one?  Okay, maybe not a rack on every corner like in the old days, but at least provide some points of purchase.  
  • The regular cost of a single copy of the paper is ridiculous.  It’s a fine way to get people not to buy it. Especially when there’s nothing in it. 
  •  Special editions at $9 a paper.  Yup, that’s what subscribers willingly pay 10, 20 or 24 times a year. Nothing like screwing your customers. (See below.) The higher cost is for “special editions” several times a year.  Instead of charging subscribers up front for them when they renew or start delivery, publishers shorten the length of the subscription.  That way they get the extra money without customers even realizing it.  One result is that your subscription expires a lot earlier than you think.   
The Palm Beach Post reveals in very small print that they will charge “up to $9.00” for premium editions “to provide additional information and value.”
  • If you don’t want the paper to pile up at your front door while you’re on vacation you used to request a vacation hold.  The publisher then extended your subscription by the number of days you didn’t get the paper.  No more.  Now, you pay for the paper even when you don’t get the paper.
  •  If your subscription includes automatic renewal the newspaper might not tell you about a rate increase before they charge your credit card (despite a promise to let you know). So you don’t find out how much more you’re paying until you see your credit card statement. If you decide you don’t like the higher cost of delivery you call to cancel. Then they bill you for the papers delivered between the time they claim your subscription ran out and the time you saw your credit card statement and stopped delivery. The bill, of course, is at the new higher rate

These are the kind of business practices that newspapers used to expose when others did them.   Now newspapers need to be exposed. Publishers may defend themselves by saying they warn customers of these practices, but the warnings are in small print on bills (if you use auto-pay you might not even get a bill); on the newspaper web site, if you think to look for them; or in the newspaper (look at the bottom of the Sun-Sentinel’s editorial page for an example of the smallest print you’ve ever seen). 

But why do they bother?  Why not just do right by customers?  Television personalities such as John Oliver, Rachel Maddow and Brian Stelter tell viewers they should subscribe to a local newspaper as a way to save journalism.  But local newspapers aren’t charities. If you don’t get what you pay for, and if getting it is a pain in the ass, people aren’t going to bother, even to save journalism. What if Publix treated you like this?  Bet you wouldn’t go back.

For the first time since I delivered the Miami Beach Sun when I was 12 years old I’m not reading a daily newspaper, and the lack of local news is only one reason.  

Joe Kollin retired from the Sun Sentinel in 2008 after 42 years in Florida journalism.

Note the Sun-Sentinel subscription can charge you up to $50 for “premium issues” a year, plus they pocket the money for undelivered papers when a subscriber is on vacation.


6 Responses to “Newspaper Price Gouging Exposed!”

  1. Buddy says:

    FROM BUDDY:

    Kollin is absolutely right. He could add to that the abominable customer service when you don’t get your paper delivered.

    The online edition is still hard to navigate, stories disappear quickly or are hard to find. It is filled with what Kollin termed press release journalism and click bait. It is overpriced.

    Still, the Sun-Sentinel (and The Herald) continues to do some great work by the handful of reporters still left. They are doing great journalism despite the stress of working for a failing enterprise where you might be out of a job by this afternoon. Dana Banker still leads the newsroom and I have been a fan of hers since I worked there years ago.

    But Kollin is on target. Newspaper circulation practices seem designed to drive away the few remaining readers they have

  2. City activist Robert Walsh says:

    I don’t know what paper u r buying for 9 bucks.Even when I buy the New York times on Sunday I’m paying 6 bucks.My Wall Street Journal weekend edition is 5 bucks .So where u buying a paper for nine dollars is puzzling.The Sun- Sentinel everyday except weekends I’m paying 2.34.U do bring out a good point subscription is the best way to go.Although I like physically getting the papers it gives me like a reward feeling cause when I see the date on the paper I tell myself u made it another day there Robert.Meaning when I tell u it’s a rat race out there- trust me I’m not kidding.My advice hang in there people…

  3. carolina says:

    The start of a perfect day to me – an old lady I am – is to see the Sun Sentinel right outside my front day by 5:30 am every day. I grab my paper & a cup of hot coffee & head to my patio to read & drink! Keep my paper coming, please!

  4. T. B King says:

    I own a business and they used to gouge on advertising. The advertising department was arrogant. About 10 years ago I found for much less and more results I could advertise on the web. They have no advertising so they are gouging on the subscription.

    Can’t see I am sorry for the Sun-Sentinel. Karma is a bitch.

  5. William Randolph Hearst says:

    RIP the boring and no news Sun Sentinel.

  6. Sober as a Judge says:

    Journalism killed itself years ago. That’s why so many Americans think Obama was born in Kenya, Trump is not a liar, and global warming is a farce.

    Lies and truth, fabrication and fact, spin and reality, news and editorial. These are no longer different things. Journalism did that.

    We don’t get news we can rely on anymore and that’s why our democracy also sucks. Democracy can’t function without truthful news. If we’re not well, evenly and truthfully informed our society falls apart. At that point, we’re not disagreeing on views but on facts and that’s unforgivably the fault of journalism.

    So it’s bad enough that journalism dug their own grave, but in so doing they dug ours with it.

    Make no mistake this was a self-inflicted wound, journalism killed their own credibility one slanted story at a time. The habit of yellow journalism piled up, one story on another, like a mountain of shit until nobody could stand the stench anymore.

    And then, disgusted we just walked away.

    This is why we the consuming public of news have never held journalism in greater contempt than we do today.

    Arrogant to the very end, journalists are still in denial about it all. They’re so arrogant they refuse to admit to their crime. They must for nothing can change until they do. If they start doing their jobs right again we will forgive them.

    All they have to do is write relevant and truthful stories again. Revert back fully to the standards of their profession. Separate any and all editorial and political slant from news. Tell us the truth. Give us all the news we need to do our job in society. It’s really all so simple.

    If journalism does that will they rise in relevance and credibility again. Our democracy will be given a second chance to thrive also.

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