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THE LAST WORD

Newspaper focusing on quality of orders, not just quantity

Saturday, June 22, 2013 - 12:01 am

Churn is a bad word for newspapers. It represents the number of subscriptions a newspaper has to sell every year just to keep the circulation level the same.

If readers cancel their subscriptions, then new subscriptions must be sold to replace them. Otherwise, circulation goes down and the newspaper loses revenue.

Churn is a circular process, really, that doesn’t seem to get us anywhere. And it hasn’t benefited readers. That’s why it’s been gratifying to see the Fort Wayne Newspapers circulation department combating the process with a customer retention plan that pulls us out of the vicious cycle of churning and into a sensible process of quality control.

Newspaper readers discontinue their subscriptions for many reasons: poor delivery service, dissatisfaction with content, even because of the cancellation of their favorite comic strip. In recent years, the loss of readers seems to be connected to people believing they just don’t have the time to devote to reading a newspaper. And then there’s the Internet and all the other sources of news they can access at no cost.

In years past, when newspapers lost subscribers, they often tried to replace them by selling new subscriptions at lower prices. As a result, those discount subscribers learned to take advantage of such offers, dropping the paper when the discount period ended, then waiting for the next offer to come around before re-subscribing. Many never resubscribed, so more discount-seekers needed to be found. Thus the round-and-round-we-go-where-she-stops-nobody-knows process of churning.

Fort Wayne Newspapers’ retention plan, however, has been working to change all that. The mission statement, presented by circulation director Lori Fritz, “is to increase subscriber retention through … supreme customer satisfaction, employee empowerment and the implementation of highly visible retention programs.”

The focus is now on the quality of orders, not the quantity. Pricing is not the issue. The product is.

While The News-Sentinel will continue to work hard every day to provide the best possible content, the circulation department, in order to provide that “supreme customer satisfaction,” has been going “above and beyond the standard commitment of providing a dry, readable newspaper, delivered on time.”

As Fritz writes in the mission statement, “The retention programs will be comprised of action steps established to ensure effective follow-up with subscribers through increased communications with our subscribers.

“Through this customer obsession and renewed focus, our readers and advertisers will recognize that our products have value and service unmatched with any other medium. This passion for providing unrivaled service will lead to increased value and will translate into less churn, better retention and increased household penetration.”

That will help keep this newspaper in your hands every day.

Kerry Hubartt is editor of The News-Sentinel.