The employees at the Denver Post knew about tough times in the newspaper business long before the general public keyed in to the depth of the dilemma. But the message really hit home on April 4, when the attached flier turned up in their mailboxes. The item, distributed under the auspices of the Denver Newspaper Agency, urges staffers to peddle subscriptions to either the Post or the Rocky Mountain News -- and if they manage to do so, they may be eligible to receive either $25 in cash or an iPod Shuffle that typically retails for almost twice as much. Woo-hoo!
Post business columnist Al Lewis makes sport of the deal in an amusing blog entry on the Post website (it's the second item). "I don't just write the newspaper. Now I sell it," he declares, adding that, "like most Americans, I will do ANYTHING for an iPod." But others at the paper took the admonition more seriously, including business reporter Elizabeth Aguilera, who sent out an e-mail about the contest to a wide range of folks on her contact list -- not just friends, but also people she met while working her previous beat, urban affairs.
"I don't think this is the first time" the paper has tried such a tack, Aguilera says. "It's just the first time I've paid attention."
For Aguilera, the Shuffle isn't much of an incentive; if she earns one, she plans to give it to her eleven-year-old niece. As her e-mail makes clear, she decided to take part out of a commitment to help the paper during an especially difficult period. According to her, "We've all been talking about how the media industry is changing and we all need to grow with it, whether it's podcasting or blogging or maybe doing something like this."
Aguilera notes that the fliers generated "a lot of conversation around the newsroom," and she hesitated before jumping in. "It's a little bit awkward, and I did think about that," she concedes. Still, her efforts appear to be meeting with at least a measure of success. Many of those who received an e-mail wrote back to point out that they already subscribe to one or both of the local dailies. But Aguilera says "I've heard from a few people who said they'd been planning on subscribing or would like to sign up. And I think I had someone ask me for information about the other paper."
Even so, she isn't ready to take a second job in the sales department."It's a responsibility I've not thought about having before," she allows. "It's sort of an interesting step to take, and I don't know that it's something I'd want to do often, or that I'd carry these forms around with me. But I thought I'd participate, since they've made such a big deal about it."
No doubt that's music to management's ears -- and perhaps her niece's as well. -- Michael Roberts