PCC to Beacon readers: Adapt | Editor's Note
Last updated 2/27/2020 at 9:11am
It’s no secret that the newspaper business is in dire straits, with a quarter of the country’s newspapers shut down and half of its employees laid off in the past 15 years.
PCC, a Seattle-based “community market” with a store in Edmonds, is only too happy to speed newspapers’ decline.
The store recently decided to toss free print publications from its stores, including the Edmonds Beacon. Despite reader complaints to management, PCC has doubled down on its stance while demonstrating its utter lack of understanding of the importance of making local news available to all.
In a letter from PCC to a Beacon reader, which the Beacon obtained, customer service manager Kelly McCartan explained that, “While there is a small and passionate following for the Edmonds Beacon, overall, we’ve seen a decline in the number of people who are picking up all of the free publications in our stores. This suggests to us that, as with any item with lackluster sales, most shoppers aren’t interested in that format and are getting their news another way.”
PCC’s reasoning is tone-deaf at best.
First, the Beacon has a strong online presence, and many of our readers do indeed prefer to read their news that way. Those who subscribe (about $3 a month) can also read the Beacon online as it appears in print.
In addition, PCC seems to suggest that those who do not go online to read their news – “a small but passionate” group with money to spend – are out of luck. The Beacon distributes about 10,000 copies in Edmonds and surrounding areas, which is about a quarter of Edmonds’ population.
The Beacon’s circulation department was delivering 300 newspapers each week to PCC; all were gone when the following week's edition arrived.
Look, we get that PCC can do what it wants when it comes to stocking free material. But it’s being disingenuous and selective, at best.
“It’s true that one of the other reasons we’ve chosen to remove free publications is as part of our commitment to environmental sustainability,” McCartan writes. “And you’re right that the papers are picked up when new issues are delivered; however those papers are still recycled.
“Reducing usage in the first place is preferable to recycling, and so PCC began reducing the amount of printed materials in its stores in 2016 when we eliminated educational brochures and ended production of our Taste magazine. In 2017, we discontinued printing recipe cards, our holiday catalog, and holiday menus – instead directing members and shoppers online. The decision to remove free publications from our stores at the end of last year was part of this ongoing effort, which started with turning the lens on ourselves.”
So, the lens. A recent visit to Edmonds’ PCC focused on paper still in the store. There's a lot of it. There are a number of magazines and newspapers around that cost money, suggesting that PCC’s take from carrying them is still important.
There’s no income from stocking free publications.
Paper bags for shoppers can be found throughout the store. Shoppers are offered bags at checkout. Many food items came from paper – cereal, granola, snacks, etc. The point is, we can no longer get rid of paper products in 2020 than we can find organic coffee at a reasonable price.
And again, free country.
But it’s the cutting sarcasm and condescending tone that PCC has adopted that rankles the most.
In a closing comment, McCartan writes the following:
“Consumers are getting their news online, they’re seeking more timely information than print can deliver, and they’re demanding that businesses be more environmentally aware. As with any industry, those who adapt to changing behaviors will thrive – just as we’ve seen in West Seattle and Capitol Hill (where McCartan says residents get all their news online).”
Although PCC is no doubt referencing itself in its quest to “thrive,” that comment could read another way: Those who prefer to read their news in print have failed to “adapt” and so cannot “thrive.”
But that logic can be refuted with the “push versus pull” argument. Example: Matt Krepsik, the global head of analytics for Nielsen’s marketing arm, in an article in Atlantic magazine explained why some companies, such as Restoration Hardware, still send out print catalogs:
“On the internet, I just have to hope that Matt discovers my website. When I send Matt a catalog, I’m reaching out to him one-to-one.”
So while one day all newspapers, magazines, and books may well go the way of the dodo – although Beacon Publishing is in good shape – right now, in 2020, there are still plenty of people who prefer their local news in print.
Many even double up, picking up the paper and following the Beacon through its website and social media platforms.
Perhaps PCC will change its thinking in the near future. Just this week, Amazon opened its first Go Grocery cashless supermarket in Seattle. No more cashiers? Fewer employees? Some adaptation may be required.
PCC, which has “Community Market” in its name, seems to have forgotten what “community” means.
Online readers, congratulations.
Paper readers, evolve or else?
#Editor’s note: You can still pick up the paper version of the Beacon throughout town, and even have it delivered to your door in select areas.#