Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tags for Rags

It’s no secret that print media is having a tough time making a go at the television networks; sales are down across the board and many small newspapers are struggling just to keep in the black. But the management at The Saratogian has a plan to change all this. In vain attempt at giving their waning circulation numbers a proverbial shot in the arm, they’ve cooked up an overly elaborate gimmick in which participation seems more akin to switching one’s registration down at the local DMV.

With the “Tags to Riches” competition, subscribers or buyers –lets not call them readers –are prompted to fill out a contestant form found only in the paper or at The Saratogian’s main office that supplies the paper with their license plate number. Every day until late June, the paper will select at random and publish three of these “tags” for prizes ranging from $50 to $250.

Simple? Not quite. Prize recipients must contact marketing director Lynn Flanagan –who herself might actually be a former DMV employee –between the convenient hours of 8:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. on the day their license plate appeared in the paper. Then to claim their prize, winners must appear at the Lake Avenue offices in person between the hours of 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. armed with their notarized auto registration, as well as picture identification matching the name(s) listed on the aforementioned registration.

If all these procedures aren’t met to a T, their prize money gets added to a jackpot drawing to be conducted at the end of the contest. This is in addition to another raffle for the big payola, a brand new car –no manufacturer name included –valued at more than $20,000.

In total, the paper plans to relinquish $36,400 in hope that potential buyers and subscribers, frenzied with the scent of money and free car, will frantically eat up the otherwise lackluster Saratogian, so that circulation numbers will be inflated in time to net a slew of new summer advertisers. In reality, however, this competition is nothing more than a sham; a desperate ploy for the paper as circulation threatens to dip below 10,000 for the first time since the Journal Register Company bought the paper in 1998.

What the wayward Saratogian leadership has failed to realize, however, is that a paper’s circulation is indelibly linked to its reputation, which is something that doesn’t improve for any sustained period of time with zany contests and quick fixes. Despite what some ad directors might foist as truth, content and presentation ultimately determines who lays down 50 cents for a paper; simply put, people don’t buy newspapers to read advertisements or to win quick cash.

And when the average neophyte reporter at the Saratogian earns roughly $20,000 annually, the money the management seems fit to give away in less than two months could purchase the salaries of nearly two new writers in the newsroom. Better yet, that prize money could be used to hire an experienced journalist in addition to giving the existing news staff a nice raise.

But wait, that’s right. Employees of The Saratogian and its subsidiaries aren’t eligible to participate in the “Tags to Riches” competition.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Alger,

You forgot to mention our other program to generate funds for the paper: adopt-a-reporter. For a corporate sponsorship of $250, one of our reporters will wear a shirt with your logo on the back while he or she is in the field. For $500, this person will slant some news story in your favor. The $1000 gold plan gives you access to our editorial office to oversee content and pitch stories. The Captain plan for $10,000 lets you "take over the helm" for a day at the Saratogian. We also like to call it the "see if you can do better" prize.

Good luck to our players of Tags-to-Riches. If you can guess how much we are inflating our circulation numbers, then you get a special reward [hint: it is around 5000].


The Staff of the Saratogian

P.S. Sorry Dottie, but that check we gave you has been canceled because you failed to say the secret password when you picked up your winnings yesterday.

4:06 PM  

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