In this lackluster economy -- where prices for everything have increased, where manufacturers have tinkered with their packaging to make consumers think they're getting the same value for their money, where the job duties of many workers have increased but compensation has stayed flat or gone backwards when you factor in real-world inflation -- every business is trying to find an edge to eek out the same amount of profit that they used to earn back in the Good Ol' Days.
I notice this trend a lot with package goods. The price has not increased, but the quantity has been slightly decreased. For instance, have you seen the 20-can "cases" of soda, replacing the ubiquitous 24-can packages that have been around for decades? Perhaps that's what is considered metric packaging.
Or have you noticed the "half-gallon" of orange juice that is now several ounces less, but still comes in what looks like the same size container?
Everyone is doing it. I'm sure my employer and the publisher of this website, is doing something to that effect, but I don't know what that would be.
I'm usually not involved on the revenue side of the business although if an money-making idea occurs to me, I always share it. My latest brainstorm involves the newsroom.
Traditionally, newspaper newsrooms have not been "profit centers," but over the years paid editorial content has become acceptable. For instance, paid obituaries are commonplace in a lot of papers as are charging for wedding and engagement announcements. I once suggested we offer divorce announcements, but that idea was shot down. Some people would likely pay us not to print some content like DUI arrests, but we've never done that.
A couple years ago the Missourian added a pay option for the Letters to the Editors section on the opinion page. A number of papers have done this and most still accept letters to the editor that they will run free of charge (we do), provided that the letter is pertinent to the publication's given audience and does not exceed a certain number of words.
For instance, the Missourian limits writers of free Letters to the Editor to a 250 word submissions and that is often times the rub. Since a lot of letters to the editor take a stand on an issue, it is very difficult to make a convincing argument in 250 words. The fact is, if a person is passionate enough to write a letter to the editor, being concise is often the last thing on their mind.
And that is where the paid Letters to the Editor section has come in. Passionate readers can write to their hearts content about this issue or that issue or this candidate or that candidate or how gawd-awful-this-rag-of-a newspaper-is, and as long as they pay up front and don't write anything libelous, our paper will normally print it.
Major election years like this one are considered the "high season" for paid Letters to the Editor. Contentious elections bring out strong opinions in even the meekest of people. That revenue category is up at our paper, but I think we could improve it even more.
Considering that this is a fairly conservative county and by a lot of journalistic standards this is a fairly conservative newspaper, perhaps the editorial board could lean a little to the left and write some opinion pieces to make the local liberals giddy.
I'm not exactly sure what they could write about. Perhaps, they could talk up the greatness of Obamacare and why it is beneficial to small businesses, or criticize the legacy of President Reagan, or if they're really gutsy endorse every non-Republican candidate running for election. I'll leave it up to them. They just need to channel the writers at the New York Times and Washington Post, and maybe watch a little MSNBC to get some inspiration.
And then I bet the trickle of paid Letters to the Editor will turn into a flood.
Oh, so you really don't like that idea? That's your opinion, of course. Everyone is entitled to one. But if you feel passionate enough I would encourage you to write a Letter to the Editor to complain about my suggestion. Paid, of course.