myajc.com

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I kind of laugh at my local newspaper, the Atlanta Urinal-Constipation.  Oh, I’m sorry, it’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to liberals, and I should refer to it as such for its more common familiarity. 

I stopped subscribing to their print edition years before it was the cool thing to do.  Too much paper, too little time, too little of interest to read.  Sports.  Maybe comics.

Dropping newpapers subscriptions became cool when DSL and broadband allowed the internet to breathe.  At first, newspapers just splashed their main stories online, but they eventually learned the secrets of virtual eye candy and consumer browsing choices.  It’s an easy read that takes less than 2 minutes to consume.  It’s drive-thru fast news.  And, deservedly,  www.ajc.com has been my homepage for years.

Why, though?

It seems like it ought to be.  I live in Atlanta, and I want at least a little local news.  I guess.  Actually, I live in the burbs, and the news reminds me how glad I am not live where all that news actually happens.  To be honest, in 10 minutes of 750 AM commute in the morning, I’m pretty caught up on what I need to know.  Sure, it doesn’t have depth, but I’m at least current.  News, traffic, sports, and weather.  Thank you. 

Still, ajc.com sits there when Chrome greets me after a click. 

What news there is... I’ll read some of it.  But I’m much more likely to check out photos of a local concert, see pictures of somebody’s fashionable crib, scout out events happening over the next weekend, or play their very pleasurable Find Five Challenge, easily the best thing on the site.

No comics, though, at least without a deep dive in the menus.  That doesn’t matter much, anymore, though, because after Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Dilbert left the scene, there was really no point.

Well, except Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist Mike Luckovich, who draws whatever the Obama administration tells him is true and right.  Funny stuff. 

Newspapers are dying.  Total circulation is dropping almost as fast as their staffs.  Reuters and AP do most of the world’s reporting, and newspapers pay to republish what’s going on.  The ajc wisely avoids paying others for news when there are so many SUVs crashing through guardrails, high school coaches charged with molestation, and Obama platitudes out there for daily disclosure.  Did you know the President is returning 5% of his salary back to the Treasury?  That’s the zenith of the ajc’s national reach.    

Local news can be reported.  It doesn’t take much time and energy to state what happened.  Now, journalists and editors... those start costing money.  But does factoid-news require a news “paper?”

Nope. 

Naturally, more newspapers are beginning to charge for digital content.  Having gotten “free” news for years, I resist paying for it now.  I should note that as careful as I am, the web designers still manage to hide clickable ads in spots where my mouse lands when I just want to scroll, so I do pay with the aggravation of having to hit the “close” button or the “back” button.  Well done, indeed for treating your cursory audience with respect.

As of last October, print circulation amongst newspapers was actually fairly even from the year before.  Although a single point in time, I assume that the people who still want papers get papers.  Paid digital had risen to 15.3% vs. 9.8% of subscribers in the same period.  Got it.  People will pay for the news, even digitally.  And more certainly will in the future.

And maybe they should.  After all, it’s exactly the argument of environmentalists.  The savings of forest, chemicals in pulp plants, oils in presses, and fuel in trucks is worth any offset in corresponding jobs.   It’s the beatific vision of a green world economy.

It certainly should make sense to advertisers.  They get hard data about the number of people who click their ads, how long they stay, transaction percentages, and whatever else the data monster will give them.  That’s much better than buying 1/8th of a page and never knowing if it’s ever noticed by the audience. 

So, the ajc.com is now offering myajc.com.  The “my” would rightfully be worded because you’ll have to pay for it in short order.  It’s gloriously free of tacky expanding banners and hidden ads in the background.  It might be worth paying for just that... and if I read the news.   They promise more news and, oh, investigative reports, because we don’t want to know just exactly how corrupt our local politicians are, we also want to know how long they’ve been corrupt and if anyone else can be blamed for it. 

I will say that visually, it’s formatted nicely and those using iPads and the like would prefer it over the noise at ajc.com.  Whether that audience wants expanded news or just drops by for a brief respite from Angry Birds is another question altogether.

So, let’s look at the subscription fees, all of which include myajc.com!

  • A newspaper every day delivered to your door:  $5.81 per week.  If you like the newspaper, that’s actually a great deal off the retail price.
  • If you find that the news Monday thru Wednesday isn’t worth your time, you can get the rest of the news for only $4.78 per week.  You saved $1.03 by not getting 3 newspapers.  Apparently, they recognize M-W papers aren’t worth retail either.
  • Well, let’s say you just want the fat issues, the ones with the larger weekend previews and coupons and such.  Thursday and Sunday, no fuss:  $3.32.  Friday and Saturday’s papers must be better than those earlier in the week, because they’re worth $0.73 each vs. the $0.33 for the others.  $3.32 for two papers.... it’s close to retail, but it’s yours if you want it.
  • Let’s skip the Thursday stuff and go for the couponer’s nirvana, The Sunday Paper:  $3.32.  Well, if that don’t beat all.  The price is there in black and white, and so is the message.  The Thursday paper is worthless.  I guess the advertising inserts pay the freight for that rascal.
  • And, what if you don’t have a cat, a painting project, or a plant that needs newsprint bedding, and you just want your news virtually?  (insert Richard Dawson voice)  “Survey says... $3.46!”  Now, that’s something. You’re be charged $0.14 EXTRA to NOT receive something that has to be printed, trucked and thrown on your driveway.  That sounds like the kind of math that led to the Affordable Health Care Act.

But, I get it.  If people don’t buy The Sunday Paper, the weekly capstone issue, then...  circulation really drops.  If that happens, advertisers won’t buy space and insert coupons, at least at a price which makes he effort worth doing.   And then even more people won’t buy the paper because there are no longer enough coupons to make it worth the cost.

And therein is the state of newspapers in America today.  The number of people who buy newspapers for coupons are the equivalent of independent voters.  The buys and the buy nots have made their stand, and it’s a fight for the middle.

Rest assured, publishers.  I’m certain the internet will never become a medium for coupons.

*cough*

By the way, if anyone from the ajc takes offense, please publish an investigative piece on how the first 6 rows of the balcony seats at the Fox always seem to end up in the hands of scalpers.  There’s a story there.  Prove  yourself.

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