The Post managed to tee off its readers twice this week..
It raised its single-copy price at the newsstand to $1, from 75 cents, and the company did so with no announcement, no publisher’s note, nothing online or in print that I could find.
That angered readers.
Remember that the No. 1 revenue stream for The Post still is print circulation — that is, the money received from home subscribers, newsstand sales and print advertising.
Here’s what one phone caller left on my voice mail:
“This [price increase], so far as I can tell, was unannounced. . . . I looked at my copies of Saturday and Sunday and found no notice of it, and there was no notice of it on the Monday copy itself. It was a huge increase, percentage-wise, at a time when supposedly there is next-to-no inflation. I understand that prices go up in jumps, but this was an enormous jump at what seems to me to be a very bad time. And I can’t imagine how the Post could justify it, but the fact that they do it and don’t even announce it has rubbed salt into the wound.”
A Metro rider who picks up his paper at the Medical Center stop every morning had this to say:
“Maybe you should consider sharing the burden with those getting the free [online] paper. A dime or a quarter isn’t asking too much of them, and then those of us who get the regular paper from the vending machines can catch a break. Many of us leave home too early to get home delivery. I would hate to see you go under, but this was a bad idea.”
The second anger-building moment was when The Post moved the list of holiday closings for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration to online only. (UPDATE: I was wrong about this; see my follow-up post for details.)
Now I know that most Post readers are computer-literate, but not all of them. Many home subscribers are older and rely on the paper for their daily living information, such as when libraries and government offices are closed. Many don’t have computers.
Many called to complain. Here’s a typical lament:
“Hello, sir, I spend a lot of money getting The Washington Post delivered to my door every morning and for many years have depended upon it to tell me about holiday closings. Martin Luther King Day’s closings, I see, are now going to be only available on a computer. I don’t use a computer. Many of your readers of the daily paper don’t use a computer.
“I hope it’s just a one-shot omission and not a new policy. It’s very angering not to open the paper and be able to have basic information. What is the print edition for if not to tell you at breakfast whether the trains are going to be running on a schedule for Sunday or a weekday or whether your bank’s open or if liquor stores are closed. I don’t want to have to go to the damn computer for all my information. Why don’t I just give up the print edition forever?”
If The Post has to raise prices, fine, but give the readers notice in advance, and explain the reasons for it. Is that too much to ask?
As for holiday closings, which normally appear in the Metro section, they do take up space, but not that much. Keeping the key ones in the paper doesn’t strike me as too much to ask.
Older readers of the Post are the most faithful of subscribers. They already complain to me constantly about the thinness of the paper, but they’re sticking with it. But not to give them some basic information like this is a wrongheaded omission.