After subscribing to the paper for 25 years, I just cancelled my subscription
I grew up reading the newspaper. Before the internet, before ESPN, it was the only way to get scores and stats, which was the only thing that mattered to me back then.
I grew up believing that it was important to read the paper, and I had lots of company: almost everyone I knew subscribed to the paper. It would have been weird to NOT read the paper. Other than the Evening News on tv, there really wasn’t any other way to know what was going on in the world.
A newspaper franchise in a major US city was a fantastic business back then. If you need a reminder, go read some Warren Buffet’s annual letters starting in 1979 as he buys the Buffalo News, introduces a Sunday edition, and then outcompetes his rival Buffalo paper over the ensuing years to create a natural monopoly, which he then turns into monopoly profits. (Interestingly, he moves on to local television shortly thereafter.)
Over time, though, as we all know, things changed. The first thing to change was cable tv: you could learn way more about sports watching ESPN that by reading the paper — and with highlights, too — and, over time, pretty much the same thing became true in every other category. And then came the internet …
Meanwhile, through all the change, I continued to subscribe. I just couldn’t imagine not waking up to the paper everyday.
But I also realized that the value proposition of subscribing had only gotten worse. The paper continued to get thinner but the price continued to get more expensive. What content remained was mostly syndicated from other news organizations which meant I could usually find the same story somewhere else, usually online and for free.
There isn’t much there there in my local paper anymore.
Finally, today, I received an email advising me that the price had gone up again, to $11.50/week (I don’t even know what I currently pay), and when I stopped to do the math, I realized I would be paying $550+/year for a paper that I can finish reading, cover to cover, before my eggs get cold. That’s a lot of money. I concluded, reluctantly, that it’s just not worth it anymore.
I realize that the paper’s management is caught is an economic vice: costs keep going up, advertising keeps going down, and so do the number of subscribers. They probably feel there’s little they can do other than raise the price.
Whether that’s true or not — and it may not be true if they refocused their model (read this) — I’ve reached my limit. Instead of haggling with them over the new price, something I might have done this time last year, I just voted with my feet and cancelled my subscription. At least for a quarter or two, I’m not going back.
I feel so ashamed and so ready to move on all at the same time. My mornings will need a new routine.