Patterico's Pontifications

10/21/2012

L.A. Times Sets Price for Paper Too High: Free

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:50 am



Reader Gary S. writes that the folks at the L.A. Times can’t give their paper away:

My adult daughter was shopping in the Von’s supermarket in La Verne late yesterday afternoon. As she went through the self checkout line, she was approached by a LA Times representative offering her a free subscription. When my daughter declined, the rep brought up the “coupons” and that it was “free”. My daughter still declined.

The fun started when the Hispanic-appearing woman behind my daughter was offered the same “deal”. She snapped “absolutely not!” to the rep. When the rep said “what about the coupons?”, the woman snapped back “what about the LA Times?, I don’t want that in my house”.

Intrigued, my daughter hung around for a few minutes, and saw no takers. When she mentioned the story, my wife mentioned that she had been approached at the same store earlier, and she also saw no takers.

When you can’t give your newspaper away, the future does not seem bright. Further, I don’t think Murdoch is that dumb. If he really wanted a newspaper in Los Angeles, he could start one from scratch and bury the LA Times in mere months.

“I don’t want that in my house!”

I came to the same conclusion in 2006. More and more people are coming to that conclusion all the time.

People sometimes ask me why I don’t write about this paper so much any more. Part of the reason is burnout. But honestly? Part of the reason is that it increasingly seems irrelevant.

42 Responses to “L.A. Times Sets Price for Paper Too High: Free”

  1. Yes the Union/Tribune here in San Dieog tried same technicate. Every week I was at Vons and every week they had someone from the UT try her best to give a way the paper. Well after a couple of months I don’t see the UT any more trying to give away there paper.

    Bill (457411)

  2. Newspapers are basically a nuisance at best. You either have to just throw away/recycle them (like leaves that fall on your own) or, if you actually touch & open them, you get their cheap black ink on your hands. In my case I’m actually allergic to the ink so I will start sneezing if too much exposure. There is no positive added-value from having a physical newspaper in your home. The quality of the paper itself doesn’t even really matter. Delivering a newspaper to my house is essentially a form of vandalism and/or assault.

    Sonic Charmer (ed0201)

  3. Hallelulah! Patterico has finally seen the light. The LA Times is many things–badly written, barely edited, laughably PC, the employer of last resort for a whole passel of otherwise unhireable hacks–but most of all, now and forever, irretrievably, the LA Times is spectacularly irrelevant.

    Kevin Stafford (1d1b9e)

  4. I actually buy the Chicago Sun Times everyday and read it at breakfast. I guess I am a dinosour. It is a horrid paper filled with drooling Liberals like Laura Washington and “The Man” Rick Telander who pretends to write about sports. It is good for a laugh every now and then. As for The Tribune, the “conservative” newspaper in Chicago advocated for the repeal of the 2nd amendment when the McDonald case came down. Nuff said.

    Ipso Fatso (1e3278)

  5. IMO subscriptions are among the first thing many households drop in tough times, so the best hope for liberal newspapers’ circulation is that Romney be elected President and be successful in boosting the economy. As a bonus, electing Romney gives liberal newspapers a new target.

    In other words, electing Romney could be a win-win for liberal newspapers.

    DRJ (a83b8b)

  6. Naaah! There’s ain’t nothin’ wrong with the LA Times a good reorganization wouldn’t fix. Take circulation for instance, all they’d have to do is put Mike Hiltzik in charge and toot-sweet everything would be ticky-boo on Spring Street, quicker than you say Catalina Eddie.

    ropelight (a8252a)

  7. _____________________________________________

    the folks at the L.A. Times can’t give their paper away:

    They had a promotional strategy going on awhile back where small upright stands that carried free copies of the paper were installed in the lobbies of various businesses. I’d visit one of those locations frequently and noticed copies of the paper often ended up sitting around untouched. The portable news racks was eventually removed. I did shed a few tears at the time—although to be honest, I’d sometimes pick up a copy, just for the helluva it.

    Mark (d703a0)

  8. the Slimes has been unwelcome in our house for years… we don’t even get phone calls or subscription invites in the mail any more.

    which is too bad, because i’d take the postage paid envelope and mail them back a nasty letter telling they sucked and it would be a cold day in hell before we ever gave them a dime.

    redc1c4 (403dff)

  9. The reason the Times is desperately trying to give it away for free, is because they’re attempting to increase their ad revenue by being able to assure advertisers that there are X number of eyeballs who come in contact with the paper on a daily basis. The holiday season is forthcoming, and they want to have increased numbers to provide advertisers.
    Paid subscribers, newsstand sales, airport sales, complimentary copies given to hotels, schools, lobbies at hospitals, office buildings, et al, and “free trial subscriptions” all adds up to the number of copies in circulation, then they have a method of extrapolating how many sets of eyeballs see each copy, and then they can set their rates for advertising based on that.

    I imagine the participating supermarkets (Vons, Ralphs, et al) that allow the Times to set up a table in their store/in front of their store like that probably get a little price break in their advertising.

    Considering how many people use the Times to line birdcages, I bet there are a lot of ill-informed pet parakeets in the LA metro area.

    Elephant Stone (65d289)

  10. I made this comment at last week’s post re How the LAT Sees the Romney/Ryan Debate, and I think others may be at the same point,

    I discovered that I used up all my free articles at the LAT at the beginning of last week. Now when I try to open up a link, a notice pops up about subscribing and becoming a member in order to access articles. While I understand this is what they realized they have to do to survive and remain competitive, I realized I can happily live without them.

    If a newspaper is going to put up a pay wall, they better make darn sure they are indispensable to the reader.

    If they cannot even give it away for free, what makes them think they will have enough readers willing to do whatever it takes to get behind the pay wall? That would indicate that what they have to offer is like no other. And that is just no longer so. I believe they know this, but there is always the insular belief that what they have to offer is simply that unique and relevant.

    Unfortunately, reality begs to differ.

    Dana (292dcf)

  11. An appropriate YouTube music Vid:
    Who Could Support the Liberals?

    GhostOnTheWind (bffd16)

  12. Back in 2009 I finally stopped my subscription after years of inertia — the daily Obama hagiography had become too much. They sent me a final bill, which I paid, and then simply continued to deliver the papers for free for almost a year. Since I liked the Sunday Calendar and the Friday FRY’s ad, I just let them come, tossing most of them into the recycle bin. I saw no real reason to waste my time trying to save them money.

    Eventually they stopped, and I find that the Internet quite completely replaces the Times in my morning routine. They’ve put up a paywall, which mostly means I have to get my local info from the Daily News site. But I’d probably do that anyway.

    I cannot fathom how they remain in business. Maybe they are subsidized by the DNC.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  13. They should just deliver the coupons I think. This way everyone can save money.

    happyfeet (d95778)

  14. Dana, I get that pay wall message, too. In football season I like to read the accounts of the SC game on Sunday. A couple of years ago I even subscribed for football season after dropping my subscription about ten years ago. It was funny because I got a dunning notice from the paper for not paying my $2.95 bill before I ever got a copy of the paper. I called and cancelled again.

    The Register does a good job on SC games and there are blogs to read.

    Mike K (326cba)

  15. Los Angeles, SoCal generally, lives for gossip and lurid human interest tales. Murdoch would be well-advised to takeover the LAT and turn it into a tabloid, like the Sun in London. (Not like the New York Post, that’s too serious and newsy for LA.)

    EsausMessage (72b8e3)

  16. Greetings:

    I don’t have that many fish to wrap.

    11B40 (612af7)

  17. Sort of like the late, unlamented Newsweek, which last sold for $1. That’s for the entire business, not an individual issue. And it turned out that even then it was overpriced.

    As you pointed out, Murdoch can do far better starting fresh. And he wouldn’t have the headache of forcing out unionized incompetents.

    great unknown (1e96fb)

  18. Well I’ve got the newspaper habit–although the Daily Dog Trainer long ago ceased being a serious newspaper. I do like to read the sports page in the morning–glance at the international news section, skip the op ed page altogether, and read two comic strips. The 6 or 8 page local news section gets read.

    But for serious stuff, I read the Wall Street Journal. And it’s sort of funny how the WSJ is getting fatter (their special Saturday sections have been very popular for the last two or three years) and they just added a fat new section on Friday. People actually read that newspaper.

    Today’s Times announced it was cutting publication again–their “very local” section–in my case “The Glendale News Press” already wasn’t printed on Tuesdays. Now on Sundays, it will be available only in Glendale and Burbank will have to go without.

    It’s skinnying down; but when both your circulation and your advertising revenues are going like a turd off a tall moose, well–something has got to give.

    Comanche Voter (29e1a6)

  19. What a funny story! Even looking at the paper drives people into paroxysms of anger, LOL!

    I visited their newsroom once a few years ago–long story–and the people in there were as weird as you might suspect: kinda like an AARP Woodstock.

    Pitiful.

    Patricia (e1d89d)

  20. They could continue to have MSNBC-sized circulation, or they could have FoxNews-style circulation, twice as much even in Los Angeles. Sure the town is 60-40 Democrat, but most of the latter don’t read newspapers or get the NY Times.

    Kevin M (bf8ad7)

  21. If you are a Liberal, you shouldn’t subscribe to the Times printed edition, because you’re killing trees and you can get the same material online.

    And if you’re a Conservative, why would you want either in your home?

    Ken (3158ba)

  22. A Chicago Tribune representative approached me last year. When I said I wasn’t interested no matter what the price, he became angry. Poor baby.

    pst314 (49d034)

  23. The much prettier Dana wrote:

    If a newspaper is going to put up a pay wall, they better make darn sure they are indispensable to the reader.

    If they cannot even give it away for free, what makes them think they will have enough readers willing to do whatever it takes to get behind the pay wall? That would indicate that what they have to offer is like no other. And that is just no longer so. I believe they know this, but there is always the insular belief that what they have to offer is simply that unique and relevant.

    The business-savvy Dana (f68855)

  24. Fouled up the last comment! The much prettier Dana wrote:

    If a newspaper is going to put up a pay wall, they better make darn sure they are indispensable to the reader.

    If they cannot even give it away for free, what makes them think they will have enough readers willing to do whatever it takes to get behind the pay wall? That would indicate that what they have to offer is like no other. And that is just no longer so. I believe they know this, but there is always the insular belief that what they have to offer is simply that unique and relevant.

    And that would be the one newspaper to which I do subscribe, for the electronic edition, The Wall Street Journal. It has information simply not covered by other papers (I suppose that Investor’s Business Daily has the same things), but the general circulation papers are amazingly redundant. After you’ve gone through your ten stories behind the NYT paywall, you can get the next ones over The Philadelphia Inquirer’s site, or ten more from the LAT, ad nauseum, and never run out of free sources.

    The uglier Dana (f68855)

  25. They tried to give it away,
    To Gary, they tried to say,
    “Listen to me,
    Take it, it’s free!”
    But he said, “That’s too much to pay!”

    The Limerick Avenger (f68855)

  26. 6177 online newspapers from around the world:
    http://www.thepaperboy.com a mere 212 in California..

    Calypso Louis Farrakhan (e799d8)

  27. After I cancelled I used to get calls from telemarketers asking me to re-start my subscription. I mean, I had these calls probably every three weeks or so. I got to the point where I would finally say, “Hey, I know you are just doing your job, but please tell your supervisors that the reason I won’t renew my subscription is because I think it is an awful newspaper.” After a few months of that, I never heard from them again.

    I haven’t purchased a copy of the Sunday paper in years, but if the coupon section is still decent I would consider accepting a free subscription. I confess to being a coupon clipper, and back when I subscribed I remember that I used to get $3 or so worth of coupons from the Sunday paper. Back in the days of double coupons that would come to $6 per week, which pretty much paid for the cost of the paper.

    JVW (f5695c)

  28. Here is how I quit the Boston Globe over 6 years ago.

    Dave (in MA) (016fb2)

  29. Hi all, longtime (I understand references to mikekoshi and ihatecablecompanies) lurker just weighing in on the “paywall” issue with a fix. I read the San Diego Union-Tribune online for the Chargers articles, and regularly defeat their “you’ve read too many articles” block with a simple workaround.

    Just go into your browser’s settings and delete all cookies from the newspaper’s site (i.e. latimes.com, utsandiego.com, etc.). The only way the paywall works is by keeping a cookie in your browser counting the number of visits to their site. No count, no problem.

    Eliot (a1e88a)

  30. Comment by Eliot — 10/22/2012 @ 12:00 am

    Hi all, longtime (I understand references to mikekoshi and ihatecablecompanies) lurker just weighing in on the “paywall” issue with a fix….

    ….Just go into your browser’s settings and delete all cookies from the newspaper’s site (i.e. latimes.com, utsandiego.com, etc.). The only way the paywall works is by keeping a cookie in your browser counting the number of visits to their site.

    That’s why the paywall limitations doesn’t work in the public library, or certain other shared computers. Cookies are deleted after every session.

    Sammy Finkelman (de7af0)

  31. The digital/internet revolution would have doomed newspapers and news magazines eventually anyway, but the industry hastened their own demise with their headlong rush to become leftist propaganda organs instead of seeking to report the news quickly and accurately.

    Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway just bought virtually all of Media General’s newspapers, including the flagship Richmond paper, demonstrating that Buffett has truly succumbed to senility and is reliving his childhood when newspapers were a growing industry.

    Estragon (13e813)

  32. Comment by Estragon — 10/22/2012 @ 2:00 am

    when newspapers were a growing industry.

    Newspapers haven’t been a growing industry since about the end of World War I.

    Consider the dated of the founding of major newspapers.

    If it was easy to start a newspaper, the Los Angeles Times would probably have been out of business a long time ago. But it has no competition to lose circulation to.

    Sammy Finkelman (a64d54)

  33. If I were Murdoch I would buy the L.A. Slimes just to get my hands on that video of Obama speaking at that CAIR banquet & then just for shits & giggles, shutter the place.

    Of course the staff would probably burn or delete it while the acquisition was taking place….assuming they already haven’t.

    John Difool (4251ee)

  34. What Elephant Stone said with a little more detail:

    Folks who don’t know the business don’t
    understand stuff like this.

    It’s about keeping the advertising rates UP not increasing it, that’s more difficult to do.

    Newspapers don’t make money (generally) on their subscriptions. Where they make their money is on advertising.

    The ad rates depend on the subscription and street sales stats.

    Many newspapers (unless they outright lie) will up or maintain their sales stats by upgrading a subscribers delivery or giving them free papers after they’ve stopped paying or denied a renewal.

    This is a common tactic and is used by newspapers large and small across the country.

    It makes sense once you know the numbers. Delivery costs are fairly stable due to the use of “contract” workers for most of it. But slippage in subscription and street sales stats can cost them a lot of money.

    As with most newspapers they’ve been hurt by a decline in personal advertising. (when you’re broke you don’t have the money to buy stuff even when it’s a bargain.)

    The ones who get hurt when they do this are the telemarketers (freelance and company salaried) who rely on making more than their minimum by commissions on subscription sales. There’s also a section that prods street dealers and stores to buy more papers but they get to turn unsold copies after and they’re not as important.

    So when you see a newspaper offering free subscriptions and upgrades, you know their stats are slipping.

    Jcw46 (b4329c)

  35. OH, and the ink thing is because although ink that doesn’t rub off have been developed that are also cheap, evironmentalists/recyclers don’t like them due to the chemicals used.

    So most papers stopped using them and went back to the old inks that rub off on your hands (and butt if you’re so inclined.)

    Jcw46 (b4329c)

  36. Jcw46,

    Good stuff, friend.
    Particularly good point about lost revenue from decline in old-school classified ads. Since craigslist and other online websites (everything from Monster.com to Realtor.com to the various websites advertising used cars for sale)have become prevalent, there are fewer classified ads for jobs, used cars, lost puppies, and garage sales.

    The Hollywood dailies used to advertise a lot of job openings and auditions, but now all that’s been moved to online content, which is much more efficient and timely. Now, when a job/audition is closed, the ad can be immediately taken down from the website, whereas, when it was listed in the print edition, a lot of time was spent informing callers, “Sorry, but the job/audition is already closed.”

    Elephant Stone (65d289)

  37. My mother, bless her heart, gets the local paper and cuts the coupons for us, even when there are front-page stories she knows are mostly lies. It’s hard for her to see the paper her father read every day as a malignant thing.

    You can’t run a business like that based solely on grandmothers with scissors. But it is amazing to me that they still try, and in so doing acknowledge that the content they produce is considered by most people to be garbage, or even toxic.

    Amphipolis (d3e04f)

  38. Did B-H buy Media General’s papers because Warren is crazy, or for their loss carryforward’s?
    As we all know, Warren hates to pay taxes.

    AD-Restore the Republic/Obama Sucks! (b8ab92)

  39. Maybe if they changed the name?

    How about “LA Fish-Wrap and Birdcage-Liner”?

    Space Cockroach (8096f2)

  40. Name Change?

    How about “West-Side Deceiver”!

    AD-Restore the Republic/Obama Sucks! (b8ab92)

  41. Intrigued, my daughter hung around for a few minutes, and saw no takers. When she mentioned the story, my wife mentioned that she had been approached at the same store earlier, and she also saw no takers.

    Hmmm. Bird ownership must be way, way down from a few decades ago….

    Smock Puppet, 10th Dan Snark Master and Aviary Enthusiast (8e2a3d)

  42. I get the Chicago Tribune delivered 4 days a week to Milwaukee, because it’s cheaper than just getting the Sunday one and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is a leftist rag.

    I keep old copies around for fire starters when we have bon fires, and haul them to our cottage to heat the place.

    I’ve been thinking about ending even that subscription – but I enjoy leisurely Sunday mornings.

    Daisy (9d7c7e)


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