Called for Charging: Mark Cuban Delivers News Some Suggestions For Keeping Readers

This morning, The Dallas Morning News released its circulation stats covering the last six months, and, as to be expected, they're down: "Daily circulation in the same period was 331,907 and 474,923 for Sunday, representing a reduction of 9.9% and 8.7% respectively, compared with the six-month period ended March 31, 2008." But A.H. Belo execs claim they're content overall with the numbers -- chiefly because the recent raise in rates offsets some of those losses. And, says the paper's president and GM John McKeon in this morning's media release, "An indicator of reader engagement and satisfaction is the more than 33% of subscribers who pay using our automatic credit card renewal feature, EZ Pay, which is one of the highest rates among major metro markets."

Coincidentally, Mark Cuban addressed this very thing last night on his blog, in his "Note to Newspapers." The Mavs' owner wrote that newspapers -- specifically, his hometown Dallas News -- needs to make it even easier for folks to renew their subscriptions. Because that envelope containing rate-hike info and re-up demands (not to mention a don't-quit-us missive from editor Bob Mong) ain't doing anyone any favors:

Being the curious and cynical fellow that I am. I went to the website of the Dallas Morning News to get more information on payment options. There, to my surprise was the ability to EZPay. I could pay by credit or debit card and avoid "The Envelope" . So I converted to payment by credit card.

For a year of pre-paid service. Did they offer me a discount ? Nope. It was $19 dollars a month whether I got 1 month or 12. New subscribers got a $30 gift card and 10pct off. But not me. That's ok. Belo needs the money more than I do.

But the bigger point here is one that eluded me in the past. The ownership of the credit card by newspapers. I've always been a believer that Amazon has excelled not just because they have great customer service and decent prices, but because they have those, PLUS they have my credit card on file. It's easier to buy from Amazon than it is to go to the store.

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