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SF Chronicle finds a new way to keep subscribers

by Baron Earl

2011-03-27 18:22:22

The San Francisco Chronicle has found a new way to keep their newspaper subscribers from canceling their subscriptions -- they don't provide a "Cancel Subscription" option on the Subscriber Services page.

On the Subscriber Services page there are options for subscribing, putting delivery on hold while you're on vacation, redelivering a missed paper, or even moving a subscription to a new address. There's a "Discontinue Delivery of The Wrap" option, which allows you to discontinue receiving The Wrap, but not The San Francisco Chronicle.

There's also an "EZ Pay" link for setting up automatic renewals, so you can have your subscription automatically billed to a credit card. Studies show that with this option you'll be less likely to cancel and less likely to notice any price increases. A win-win! (For the Chronicle.)

Of course those increases are pretty hard to miss. Over the past three years The SF Chronicle has raised the price of the paper from $19 for 4 weeks to $39 for 4 weeks.

Over that same period of time the Chronicle has laid off many of its reporting staff and reduced the size of the paper to a fraction of what it once was. They've cut their printing costs, slashed their payroll expenses, and doubled the subscription price. About what you'd expect to get if you turned over newspaper publishing to a bunch of accountants.

Unfortunately the resulting end product is a news source with very little news, and what there is people can easily get elsewhere for free. You'd think people would get fed up and start canceling their subscriptions en masse, except for one small thing: There is no "Cancel Subscription" option on the Chronicle's Subscriber Services page.

The message to newspapers everywhere is clear: If you've got a poorly-performing paper just get people to sign up for automatic payments, raise your price every couple of months, and don't give your readers an option to cancel their subscriptions.

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

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