Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mail (idea) theft!

Did The National Post newspaper steal an idea from Canada Post to save a slumping readership?

The flyer says “News & Netflix” but the only news here is that The National Post is suddenly going door-to-door asking its many non-readers to buy a subscription to the newspaper. If you subscribe, you’ll get a free trial period of Netflix.
What’s the catch?
The catch is that The National Post, for all its complaining about Canada Post has kind of stolen the idea of “admail” (delivering flyers door-to-door) from Canada Post in an effort to stem the rapidly declining readership of The National Post. 
The newspaper has always had an irrational hatred of unions, and especially Canada’s mail delivery service; a service that includes the delivery of the very type of flyer The National Post is now distributing. When Canada Post locked out its unionized employees, The National Post, Metro, and MacLean’s Magazine (which has also seen its readership halved in recent years) continued to incorrectly inflate a postal worker’s wage and benefits and called the dispute a “strike” in an apparent effort to turn public opinion against CUPW, the postal workers’ union. Instead, public opinion seems to have turned against The National Post. That is, if anyone ever cared about the newspaper at all.

“Their telemarketing didn’t work. Ads in their own newspaper didn’t work. Even giving away copies of the newspaper didn’t work,” an editor at a competing newspaper says. So what's working now? Canada Post's admail.

For all the money that’s been thrown at it The National Post still feels more like a hobby than an actual newspaper. It doesn’t publish on Mondays during the summer to save money, ironic headlines in elegant font fight with garish, eye-popping graphics, and the writing, according to one online posting, is a mess of simplistic, meandering opinions that read “like the comments section of a YouTube video.” (Two recent columns were about how 1986’s “Blue Velvet” was a weird movie and how one columnist’s brother was defriendling people on Facebook. And those stories were on the same page.) For all the credentials its writers throw around (book author, professor, editor), no National Post writer has yet to achieve anything of note outside the newspaper. Yet for all the loud, unsolicited opinions offered by those credentialed editors, columnists and writers at The National Post about anything and everything, their low readership is a subject they’re uncharacteristically quiet about.
Ironically, dropping flyers on doorsteps lowers The National Post to that most suspect of newspapers: the free weekly “ad rag” tossed on a porch – whether the resident wants it or not. 
But desperate times call for desperate measures.
According to TheNationalDocumentarian website 500 residential points-of-call were studied for their newspaper reading habits in 2011. Only 12 of those homes subscribed or bought The National Post.
As one letter writer said, “only a handful of people subscribe or even read a biased newspaper but every address in Canada wants to get mail and probably likes their letter carrier.” Perhaps The National Post should consider contracting Canada Post to deliver their flyers? “Their telemarketing didn’t work. Ads in their own newspaper didn’t work. Even giving away copies of the newspaper didn’t work,” an editor at a competing newspaper told me on the condition of anonymity. So what does work? “The more things change the more they stay the same,” the editor continued. “There really is no more effective form of advertising than having [a Canada Post letter carrier] – often considered an extended member of a resident’s family - handing mail, parcels and advertisements right into the hands of a potential customer.” Any other advice for The National Post? “Well, if [The National Post] insists on doing their their own admail,” the editor said with a laugh, “they should deliver the flyer like their mailman does and at least put it through the mail slot.”
And this just into our newsroom: Netflix almost always offers a free trial period. You don’t need to subscribe to a newspaper you don’t want in order to get it.