by Don Keith
It is no revelation to even the most casual observer that rapid technological change has had a devastating effect on some traditional media. Among the hardest hit is the local daily newspaper. Many large cities no longer have a daily paper with many only publishing a few days a week. Some towns have no traditional print newspaper at all.
This is clearly because consumers no longer want to get their news and opinion in a printed paper. Or at least not enough people so the publishers can charge advertisers enough for ads so they can make money at it. Still, as with my other favorite media whipping-boy, broadcast radio, it amazes me that those outlets seem hell-bent on hastening their own demise through dumb actions, poor customer service, or attempting to cut their way to prosperity. My local paper, The Birmingham News, is a prime example.
I received in the mail a prime example of this very thing this week. It came from my town's former-daily-now-three-times-a-week newspaper, to which I still reluctantly subscribe for my own personal reasons, some of which are mentioned below. The letter happily told me that on September 18 I would receive with my paper "a 100-page investment and Retirement Guide (sic)." Well, whoop de doo!
It went on to promise, "This is the first of up four (4) 'premium editions,' in addition to the premium Thanksgiving Day edition, that will be delivered with your Sunday newspaper throughout the year and applied to your subscription account." Yep, they were sending the thing to me whether I wanted it or not and they were damn well going to charge me extra for it!
After touting in the letter what a fine book the investment guide would be, they get around to the dirty details of what it will cost me: "$2.99 will be applied to your subscription account for the Investment and Retirement Guide and for each of the other premium editions; and $4.00 will be applied to your subscription account for the Thanksgiving Day edition. Applicable sales tax will be added. There will not be an additional charge to your credit/debit card or checking account for these premium edition charges. However, since the charge is applied to your subscription account balance, it will shorten your paid-through date so the next charge comes about sooner."
Thank you very much sir! May I have another kick in the teeth?
I had no choice. I had to dash off a sarcastic missive to the paper's customer service department, which is almost certainly farmed out to some overseas entity. Still, in an effort to let others know how goofy I think such a heavy-handed thing is--even if the money is not that much--I am presenting my open letter below, primarily for your entertainment.
I do this blog to discuss rapid technological change and its effect on media, society and my hobby of choice, amateur radio. But I didn't say I was thrilled by every single one of those changes.
I'll let you know if I hear from anyone who speaks English and what they tell me.