Post-Dispatch Proposal

by brendan on 01/20/2013

Dear Post-Dispatch –

I don’t get home delivery of the paper. It’s nothing personal; reading a physical paper has never been part of my routine. However I do read the news online, and often end up on the website. But it’s almost always a grating experience. I don’t like the website, and it doesn’t seem like you really want me to like the website. When I visit I’m greeted with six to ten ads, some of them animated, and an auto-playing video. I do my best to tune those out, find the article I want to read, and get out. Unless of course I make the mistake of opening the comments. Talk about the dregs of humanity. Not once have I closed a comments section thinking “I feel better about my fellow St. Louisans” or “That was a good decision I just made”.

Here’s the thing. I really want to support the Post-Dispatch. I appreciate the value that the P-D brings to the community, and how important it is to have a strong local press. I look forward to reading several of your writers, including Evan Benn, David Hunn, Bernie Miklasz, and Tim Logan. I get that if your readers don’t support you, then you won’t exist, and the void that you would leave behind isn’t going to be easily filled by a scattered group of local bloggers.

Currently my options are to either subscribe to home delivery for $155/year, or the E-Edition only for $300/year. Home delivery would be wasteful, since I wouldn’t ever read it. And the E-Edition without home delivery costs twice as much? That’s just stupid. Only in some alternate reality would a self-downloaded PDF file cost more than ink and paper hand delivered to my door. Plus while the E-Edition is great to occasionally browse, it’s not nearly as efficient as the website for just popping in on a favorite column or two. So neither of these options work for me.

I propose that you offer a third subscription tier. $8/Month for “Enhanced” access, with an optional $2/Month add-on for Sunday E-Edition.

Enhanced access would include:
1. No Ads. A Deals page is fine, but let me choose to navigate there.
2. Comment Blocking. A setting to turn comments on or off, site-wide.
3. Auto-play control. A setting to toggle autoplay, site-wide.

This would extend to the mobile site and work with at least two concurrent logins, since most people have at least two devices (laptop, phone, tablet, etc).

I visit a couple times a week to read probably 1-3 pages each time, and I never click on ads. What do I represent to you, in terms of CPM page revenue? I would suspect it’s a lot less than the $96-120/year I would rather pay you to take the ads away. Can you go even lower than $8/month and still pull in decent revenue? Do it. The idea here is to make this as accessible as possible, and you’re only increasing revenue when a non-subscriber / site-lurker chooses to convert.

Taking this idea a step further, how many people are subscribing to PDF only for $300 a year? I can only assume that it exists solely to make Home Delivery seem better by comparison. So let’s abolish the current E-Edition tier. Anybody who chips in the extra $2 on top of the Enhanced site access gets E-Edition for all seven days. That would probably be a lot more popular than the current E-Edition option.

We share the same goal. I don’t like hearing about layoffs at the P-D, and I certainly don’t want the P-D to become the next paper to cut down days of operation or worse. But if you want me to help out, you’ve got to adapt and offer something I can latch on to.

Please give this some serious consideration. I’ll gladly be the first one to sign up.

Brendan Gates

Update 2/17/13:
I emailed this to P-D Newsroom Leadership, Public Relations, and Customer Service. The Customer Service department replied a couple days later to say they would pass it on. I also posted it on Twitter to Weatherbird’s attention, and received a similar response from Weatherbird as well as a kind reply from a P-D reporter. No sign of an enhanced online access tier, though. Maybe someday.

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