Thursday, October 18, 2007
Stop the presses! Special Edition!
I bought some newspapers this week. The SF Chronicle called to tell me my subscription had run out, and offered to renew it. $25 for 26 weeks, they said. I told them that sounded like more than I paid last time, and so they looked it up and sure enough, last subscription was $20 for 26 weeks but that was a "promotional" rate. So I asked if they had a promotional rate this week, and so they looked it up and said yes, and so I paid $15 for 26 weeks. A little more than 50 cents a week for the Wednesday through Sunday service, because apparently nothing you'd want to know about ever happens on Monday or Tuesday, or they can't find enough people in the Bay Area willing to work for a living to staff up and deliver all seven days.
Lest you think I am now going to describe how I did my laundry or went grocery shopping, never fear, I have not become the world's most mundane blogger. (I'm still third most mundane.) There is an actual point here.
Granted the Chronicle is not a particularly great newspaper, but what does it say when they are on the verge of paying me to take the thing off their hands? What is happening to our fourth estate when the price of the product is rapidly sliding and still they want to dicker? Reminds me of the joke for which the punchline is "We've determined what you are, now we're just negotiating the price." (If you don't know the setup that goes with that punchline, call 1-800-HARDYHARHAR and ask for Prince Albert. If he's not in, try Seymour Butts.)
Granted also that the radio business has had a reputation for this same kind of loose morals around the value of the product. We used to speculate that some radio ad salesmen (this was before they became "account executives") would respond to their clients resistance to sign contracts by saying "Well, how many ads do you think you should get for $100?"
The problem is, as much as I love my internet (Al Gore, you da man!) and get approximately 93.6% of my news there, for free, I still love newspapers. (OK, I don't love the Chronicle, but I still read it.) Even if all the stories in print are 20 hours old by the time I see it, and even if it's the most un-green thing in the world to use all that paper to print it and gasoline to drive it to my house, and even if there hasn't been a funny comic strip since Bloom County, and even if I can find more good stuff to buy in sixty seconds on Craigslist than an hour in the classifieds, and even if everything else in the paper is as predictable as the outcome of the Patriots-Dolphins game this weekend, I still want newspapers around. Not just news sites, but newspapers.
So come on, traditional print journalism! Believe in yourself! Be all you can be! There are still old fashioned suckers out here who are counting on you as a comfort in our dotage. You are the meatloaf and mashed potatoes of daily news consumption, and the classics never go out of style.