Commentary

How Hard Is A Dry Newspaper?

Most of my adult life I have been pretty indifferent to News Corp. Until they acquired Metromedia -- which became Fox Broadcast Company -- and bought the Wall Street Journal, they were only known to me as owners of The National Star and the New York Post, one sold at supermarkets and the other on the streets of New York, but otherwise often indistinguishable. I have a vague recollection of media arguments over which of the Murdochs would succeed Rupert -- who clearly intends to be carried out feet-first -- but otherwise never paid much attention to the overseas press comings and goings of himself and his clan.

Now they are pissing me off nearly every day -- not that pissing me off is of any concern to a company with $50 billion in assets and $33 billion in annual revenue. Hell, I'm not even a shareholder, just a lowly customer -- and apparently regarded as such by News Corp.

When Fox and your local cable company go to war, you are reminded of the quip attributed to Henry Kissinger regarding the Iran-Iraq war: "It will just be a shame if one of them wins." When Cablevision set up shop to provide broadband service in addition to cable TV in my town, they were perhaps the most inept, ineffective and customer-neglecting company I had ever dealt with. Morons answered the phones (when they bothered to answer them) and the service techs spent most of the time on the job bashing their own direct management and corporate and looking for "tips" to fix what the last crew screwed up. It was worse than AT&T, worse than the post office. Worse than Dell. But in fairness, over the years they have turned that ship around and now are reasonably responsive, although their rates keep climbing no matter what the state of the rest of the economy.

Now Cablevision and Fox are at war. You have seen the ads. You know the competing claims -- and, based on that long history of poor Cablevision service, I find it extraordinarily difficult to take sides on this one. So I am letting them both piss me off (not that I watch a lot of Fox programming, but I would like to see the World Series if the Yankees get that far). While I am sure Cablevision is not faultless in this little imbroglio, I can't help but wonder why Fox thinks their programming is worth more than all of the other networks combined? It's not. Not by a long shot. In fact, most of it is terrible. So other than sports (OK, and maybe "Glee"), they can keep it off the air forever.

There are a considerable number of people and many miles that separate me from the publisher of the Wall Street Journal, but I am nevertheless one of its more loyal subscribers, having renewed annually for 30 or more years. And the publisher should know that the weakest link in the chain, the delivery guy, is about to erase that loyalty.

Every day the delivery guy (who seems to change three or four times a year, but NEVER forgets that Christmas card) puts the dead-tree edition in a plastic bag -- one so thin it makes a condom seem like, well, a raincoat. Satisfied that he has protected the paper from the elements, he tosses it from his car onto the asphalt, where the plastic rips and the paper starts to collect moisture, like one of those paper towel commercials. Within a few minutes, the paper weighs about six pounds and its pages begin to disintegrate. All this could be avoided if he gently tossed the paper on the grass, as I have requested about 257 times.

And those are the days he actually delivers the paper. As often as twice a month, it is not delivered at all, or arrives jammed together with the next day's paper. Getting a "credit" for a missed paper does not make up for the fact that I didn't get the paper on time as our implied contract says I will. And reading it 24 hours later is pretty pointless, since I count on it for "news."

I know that it isn't possible for Rupert to individually deliver a million or so papers a day in order to exert some sort of quality control, but he should at least be aware what a blow this kind of shoddy service gives to the WSJ brand. It says to me "You are not important -- and we don't think our product is important enough to get it safely into your hands."

So between pulling their programming on my cable system and screwing up the delivery of their precious WSJ, I'd say News Corp. is fighting its way down the ranks of consumer confidence, where it will soon rest among the airlines, egg hatcheries -- and, oh yes, the cable companies.

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6 comments about "How Hard Is A Dry Newspaper?".
  1. Bruce Annan from Bruce Annan Consulting , October 22, 2010 at 8:28 a.m.

    "jammed together with the next day's paper"? That would be worth a premium. Prolly the previous day's paper. (Otherwise, great stuff.)

  2. Hugo Ottolenghi , October 22, 2010 at 9:02 a.m.

    Ask me about my carrier. Almost every Sunday, the paper is delivered with the comics. I call, explain the problem, and ask for a re-delivery. Sometimes I receive the competitor's paper, sometimes the same paper without the comics, again. I am surprised that an industry would do so little for a shrinking customer base. If not for my wife's reading habits, I would cancel now.

  3. Jon Bouman from Tipping Point Media , October 22, 2010 at 9:05 a.m.

    Maybe Rupe should go on TV's "Undercover Boss"...I'd watch it...and you could too, it's on CBS.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , October 22, 2010 at 9:39 a.m.

    You are less than a pawn in Murdoch's game. Example: You lose half your income and you've got problems. He loses half his income and his life style does not change one iota. The game would squeeze out more people.

  5. Jerry Foster from Energraphics , October 25, 2010 at 2:49 a.m.

    This was fun to read but its 40 years late to write a funny article on newspapers getting wet in the driveway isn't it?

    Better late than never as it was quite entertaining to read this and remember my childhood when I had to go to the end of the driveway on rainy days (quite far) to retrieve the Sunday paper before it got too soggy.

  6. Juliette Cowall from Godwin Plumbing & Hardware , October 25, 2010 at 9 a.m.

    What a coincidence. I had to use a blow-dryer on my WSJ this morning.