Victoria is in the middle of considerable changes to newspaper distribution let by decisions of News Corp.. While change can be challenging, as we have seen in Queensland and New South Wales, the newspaper distribution experts at News Corp. are certainly expert at the botch up. Newsagents are suffering, enduring higher costs and upset that they are letting their long-term customers down.
Here is the experience of one regional newsagent in Victoria in dealing with the Herald and Weekly Times:
The Herald and Weekly Times replaced the reliable transport company they had used for decades to deliver papers to us and many newsagents in regional Victoria. Under the new transport company arrangement, it has been a nightmare.
Previously, papers for home delivery were delivered between 2:30am-3:30am, giving us time to unload, wrap and deliver by 6:30am. This meant deliveries were done when there was less traffic on the road. Delivery people are working longer hours and are delivering to homes in a less safe situation given more traffic on the road later in the morning.
Newspaper home delivery drivers are angry and threatening to leave. Customers are disadvantaged with later papers, often coming after they have left for work.
Circulation people at the Herald and Weekly Times have been disinterested. They tell newsagents to be patient and that what newsagents are experience are teething issues. For the first couple of weeks this could be the excuse, but months in, it is no excuse at all. To be fair to them, maybe they are saying all they can given the company’s decisions.
The Herald and Weekly Times people set the OH&S standards that newsagents are consistently unable to meet now because of their failure to deliver newspapers on time. The consistent failure puts delivery drivers and the public at risk.
The failures of this change in newspaper delivery transport arrangements is impacting the mental health of some in our channel. Yet, management at the Herald and Weekly Times, and their masters at News Corp. headquarters in Sydney appear disinterested. It feels like the News Corp. financial situation is all that matters.
I get that News Corp. wants to cut costs. But to do so in a way that even more burdens are shouldered by local small business retailers reflects a lack of ethics, it represents poor social responsibility.
I tell newsagents who tell me about the challenges relating to getting newspapers on time for home delivery to quit newspaper home delivery. There is no upside. What you make today in real terms from newspaper home delivery is less than a couple of years ago. Few newsagents genuinely profit from it. It is a distraction to other parts of the business that should be experiencing double-digit growth, and which make you happier.