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Opinion: Why I cancelled the Times-Picayune, or Adventures in Boycotting

I called the Times-Picayune’s subscriber services department today and informed them that when my seven-day-a-week subscription expires in July, I won’t be renewing — not for one, two, or three days, although the representative tried to convince me otherwise, even offering to throw in an incentive or two, like three days for the price of two, or something like that.

Frankly, I wasn’t interested in whatever incentives they could offer. I told her to let me know when the paper announces it will continue publishing seven days a week, and I’ll be happy to re-subscribe. Otherwise, I’m not able to keep supporting an institution that disrespects its community and its readers.

I am a child of the ’60s, having grown up during those turbulent times, and perhaps I have an excess of idealism and naiveté. But I like to think the spirit of the ’60s lives on.

Of course, I know that the times, like The Times-Picayune, are a-changin’; that digital is replacing print everywhere you look. But this is New Orleans, for God’s sake! A paper with our morning coffee is as much our right as government-subsidized health care (haha — I’m kidding about that one, just so you know that I have a sense of humor), and no one — no corporate behemoth, no two-bit newspaper chain, can change that.

We the readers, we the community of New Orleans, control the future of the T-P. I realize that if others follow my lead, and a reader boycott is effective, it could destroy our beloved morning paper. Of course I don’t want that.

But sometimes you have to destroy something in order to save it.

The paper’s owners say that The Times-Picayune is not for sale, but will they continue to say that if readers — and consequently advertisers — defect in droves as soon as their subscriptions expire?

I expect they’ll huff, and they’ll puff, and they’ll threaten to blow the house down.

They’ll have no choice but to completely shutter the paper.

But I’m gambling that, faced with the option, they’ll consider selling it before having to close it. Granted, Advance Publications and its subsidiary, Newhouse Newspapers, is a privately-owned corporation, so they’re entitled to run their business as they like, without having to worry about stockholder reaction.

But they are a business, and, while subscriptions don’t count for much of a newspaper’s bottom line, I do think that if enough people cancel their papers, advertisers will decline to continue paying a reported $67 million per year for print ads. And, faced with mass advertiser defections, the T-P owners will have to consider selling. Or revoking the three-day-a-week model. The adage “a little bit of something is better than a whole lot of nothing” certainly applies here.

These are tumultuous times, both for our economy and for print publications. I don’t relish the thought of anyone losing his or her job, but even with a three-day-a-week publication schedule, there will be job losses.

It’s vitally important that we let the Times-Picayune know that we, the readers, are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it any more.  Like me, let the T-P know that you’re canceling your subscription, and will only re-subscribe when the paper is published seven days a week.

Yes, digital is the future — that won’t change — but it’s time we take a stand. Vote with your dollars, and cancel your subscription.

When BP’s oil spill nearly devastated the Gulf, how many of you continued to patronize the company’s gas stations? Not many, I’d guess, despite the outcry that some of those stations were privately owned and we’d be hurting small business people.

While Advance Publications is not a small business, shutting down our paper would drastically affect the lives and livelihoods of its employees, and no one wants that. That’s why if the paper sells to a buyer who promises a seven-day publication schedule, or if it reconsiders its schedule reduction, we must support our paper. Again, we must vote with our dollars.

My rallying cry? “Seven Days or No Days!”

No other alternative is acceptable. I say it’s time we lay down our cards and call the paper’s bluff.

Facebook reader boycott page:

Journalist Glen Abbott writes about New Orleans people, places and events for NolaVie. 



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