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The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

April 24, 2006 / Toby Dayton

Daily Newspapers Continue To Struggle

Yet another story has surfaced recently that epitomizes the struggles of the daily newspaper industry. In an effort to cut costs to deal with sagging readership stats and the corresponding decline in advertising revenue, the Minneapolis Star Tribune announced that it will no longer provide free copies of its paper in the newsroom. Employees could view their finished product online at no charge or buy a paper for 25 cents.

Employees responded by paying for a single copy of the newspaper and then placing the remaining stack of papers on top of the rack, free for everyone else to take. An internal memo followed, citing the fact that during the first few weeks of the new program, more than 40% of the papers removed from the rack were not paid for. The memo went on to say that employees who stole papers were placing their jobs at risk and that the company had a zero-tolerance policy against theft.

So in the face of declining readership, an increasingly competitive landscape, sagging financial performance, and the growing specter of obsolescence, the Star Tribune responds with the bold step of charging employees for its newspaper. By itself, this probably wouldn’t be a noteworthy event as companies always try to reduce costs where they feel it’s prudent and, sometimes, overzealous managers cut in strange places that foster unintended consequences.

But the Star Tribune has done little to improve its products or services or make the newspaper more relevant or appealing to its readers and advertisers. In fact, the paper recently went through a major redesign effort that resulted in a far less reader-friendly format. In addition, among the new features was a weekly ‘How To’ article that included such invaluable topics as how to iron a shirt, how to use a towel, and how to stock a pantry. These changes in the paper came amidst a lawsuit by a group of advertisers that accused the paper of fraudulently inflating its circulation numbers.

I read three papers a day, every day of the week, and will most likely do so for the rest of my life. Newspapers are an important component of living and participating in a variety of communities. But the daily newspapers might want to think about improving their business by simply focusing on delivering more value to their customers.

[tags]Minneapolis Star Tribune, Star Tribune, Minneapolis Papers, Free Newspapers, Newspaper Cost-Cutting, Newspapers Cutting Costs, Death of Newspapers, Decline of Newspapers, Newspapers Struggling[/tags]

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