My family is one of the last holdouts who still pay to have a print edition of the Los Angeles Times delivered to our driveway every day. It’s a tradition I have stubbornly held onto because I strongly believe in the power of the press—and also because I enjoy leafing through real pages while drinking my morning coffee.
But in the past few years it has felt like the Times is determined to drive away holdouts like me. I have held on as coverage of my suburban area has dwindled to almost nothing, as staff layoffs resulted in less news and more mistakes every day, as advertisements moved onto section fronts and then to the front page, as earlier publishing deadlines pushed the latest news off the front page altogether.
However, I think the enormous movie ad on the front page of today’s Sunday paper may cause me to lose my grip. Take a look: LAT front page, August 28, 2011.
In the past few months, the LAT has been heavily marketing its Sunday editions, apparently abandoning efforts to sell weekday subscriptions while trying to convince Southern Californians that the Sunday issue is must reading. I get weekly emails telling me what to look for in the Sunday paper; people call to ask me what I think about the Sunday paper; ads on TV and radio stations encourage me not to miss the Sunday Times.
Clearly, the Times marketers want me to believe that even though the quantity and the quality of the paper may be diminished the rest of the week, the Sunday paper will be worth my time, money, and attention. But when I picked up this Sunday’s paper and found that a quarter of the front page had been sold as a movie trailer, I heard a different message.
What I heard was this: “We don’t really believe we are offering anything special on Sundays, at least nothing that can’t be shoved aside for a few extra bucks.”
I wonder if the the Times realizes that it is making itself irrelevant and shoving away people like me who have tried so hard to be faithful. But if they think so little of their own product, why should I continue to buy it or read it?