The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz points out this American Journalism Review story on fearsome decline in circulation at The Post. When focus groups treat free samples of your product like radioactive waste, it’s time rethink your packaging.
Eight or nine Washington, D.C.-area lawyers, government workers and other residents sat around a conference table in an office building. They were strangers, all younger than 45, all had moved to the region within the last five years. None subscribed to the Washington Post.
“An affable session leader from Boston began by asking about their daily routines and news habits. About an hour and 15 minutes later, he opened a cabinet, removed a stack of Posts and dropped them on a conference table. ‘What if I told you that you could have a six-month subscription free?’ he asked them.
“‘In one session after another, I don’t think I saw one person who would take it,’ says a Post staffer who watched the focus groups with colleagues from behind a one-way glass. The participants picked up various sections–Style, Metro–and stared at them like they were ‘Egyptian hieroglyphics.’
“They knew about the Post, of course. How could they not? It’s the region’s dominant daily and one of the nation’s best. They even liked the Post. But they read it online at work. Former subscribers complained unread papers piled up at their homes, making them feel guilty because they hadn’t read them.”As Esquire used to say, “Why Is This Man Smiling?”