And it's an Epic Fail.
If you subscribe to the Livingston Daily Press & Argus, you may have gotten a postcard recently about upcoming "premium editions." You can see the postcard, and my email to customer service, in a previous blog post.
The postcard lets us know that Gannett has "listened" when we supposedly asked for "more content relevant to (our) area." Their solution is to add four "premium editions" - an "exclusive, special Sunday premium section on popular local topics" - to the subscription, and charge $1 each for them.
Essentially, this is a subscription rate increase disguised as a premium. "But you'll get more news!" they seem to be saying, "More local content!" - conveniently overlooking the concept that a local paper is supposed to be providing local content...and also conveniently overlooking informing subscribers that this so-called premium has no opt-out.
That's right. You can't say you don't want these "premium editions."
Want a sneak preview of those upcoming "premium editions"? (and yes, I am going to use quotation marks every. single. time. I use those words) Here you go:
- March: Michigan Great Sports Moments
- April: National Parks 100th anniversary commemorative
- September: Great Lakes
- December: Pearl Harbor 75th anniversary commemorative
THAT is Gannett's definition of a "exclusive, special Sunday premium section on popular local topics," people. Seriously.
And they wonder why no one subscribes anymore. And they wonder why communities flock to small, independent online news sites, like the various patch.coms (Dexter and others), and The Livingston Post.
Plenty of people have already bemoaned the decline of print journalism, or even any kind of journalism at all (recently, the Huffington Post proudly declared that they do not pay their bloggers, because paying for writer product somehow makes it less honest). Small community papers, through no fault of their own, get gobbled up by the news conglomerates, and become less of a news outlet and more of a revenue stream for the parent company.
None of which is in the control of the Livingston Daily Press & Argus. But when the "boss" doesn't give a damn about quality content, then it becomes increasing difficult to be bothered to provide it at the local level. And you get opinion pieces, like today's editorial, "Senators Ignoring Constitution," making it into print.
What a mess. I can't provide a link, because the Livingston Daily Editorial Board didn't post it online, but I did document some of the more offensive grammatical and proofreading errors in a Storify post. Thankfully, someone seemed to have figured out the "their vs. they're" confusion towards the end, but come on. Every other paragraph sounds like it was written by an intern - an intern who should be gently redirected to a different line of work.
I wish I could say that today's editorial was an aberration, but it's not; there's no reason to believe that the content of the new "premium editions" is going to be any better. These "premium editions" are hardly premium, they are definitely not local, and no, Gannett, I did not ask for this. What I did ask for was more actual local news, written as if someone cared about it, with enough skill to get the message across without tripping up a reader with awkward sentence structure, poor grammar, and apparently no proofreading whatsoever.
My email conversation with customer service (God bless 'em, to have to deal with me on a Sunday morning) was long - 8 emails in all I think - in which I asked each time "Can I cancel my subscription to just these "premium editions?" (and yes, I used "premium editions" every. single. time.) After several responses in which the answer was "I'll credit your account, but I can't stop you from getting the editions" - hey, I'm up to all four upcoming issues for free now, nothing like not having to pay for something you don't want! I love America. - I finally got the answer to the question I actually asked: No. You can't opt out of the "premium editions."
I'm tempted to ask how the National Parks and Pear Harbor constitute a special section "on popular local topics," but I feel a little sorry for the Sunday customer service team, so I think I'll wait until tomorrow.