You could be better, Philadelphia Inquirer

3 Jul

I really like good newspapering. I clip it and annotate it and save it and share it.  I have a soft spot for that shopworn Jefferson quotation (rather have newspapers without a government than the reverse). And I abhor bad journalists, because they do so much harm to the work of the good ones.

But today I’m writing about customer service. Which might seem a little crazy, except that…well, my hometown paper* is doing pretty dismally in that department.

Over the years, I’ve made an awful lot of reader suggestions to an awful lot of people at the paper, so at this point I don’t feel I’m talking out of school to complain.

Here are my top 5 customer frustrations:

1. Hassle. Promo codes that still require me to use an e-mail address to log in, Twitter links that go nowhere, constant expiration problems with story links (maddening to send a link to someone and have the article vanish an hour later).

2. Confusion. Is the Inquirer part of Philly.com or not? They say no, but virtually all of the content on Philly.com is branded with an Inquirer (or Daily News) byline. If you click on a paywalled link at Inquirer.com, half the time it bounces you to a free version of the same article at Philly.com. As a reader, I would love to vote with my feet and not patronize Philly.com…except:

3. Pricing. It’s boggling to me that a digital-only subscription costs two and a half times as much as digital-and-print bundle — $6.44/week compared to $2.50/week.

I have to assume that’s because print advertisers are still willing to pay for my eyes, but it still grates. I travel too much to want a Sunday paper delivery — it would just sit there, advertising my empty house.

Plus, $300+ a year is a LOT of money. (So is $100+ a year, but it’s a bit closer to being within reach.)

Which brings me to:

4. Lack of creativity. Why not offer a menu of subscription options such as being able to subscribe to a specific reporter, beat, or story? (I bet a lot of people would have paid $5 to have every update on the building collapse sent directly to them for that week when we were all glued to the story.)

There are a million ways the company could be creative about how they package and distribute their excellent journalism. I wish they’d try just two or three of them.

5. Competence. Their Twitter handle is @PhillyInquirer…but they don’t even pony up the $20 a year or whatever it would cost to buy the PhillyInquirer.com domain and use it as a redirect.

Sure, it’s a petty point — but it’s symptomatic of the larger issues.

The name of this blog is Better PHL. So come on, my city: Be better!

*I love ya, Daily News, but sorry.

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