Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Make 'Em Laugh

Once upon a time, to be specific in 1945, the newspaper unions of New York went on strike. (There is still some clout in such actions, but is much diminished).  To attend to the needs of the City's youth deprived of the Sunday comics, and in a completely politically astute calculation, NYC Mayor Fiorello La Guardia directed the City owned WNYC to read them each week. These were read by La Guardia himself, in his weekly radio show.

The "funny papers" have value.

Recently, the owners of The Buffalo News directed the removal of most of the comics, as well as puzzles and part of the opinion page.It pissed me off. Keeping up my subscription was hard enough to justify...

In any event, I gave voice to my disappointment by submitting a proposed article for the daily "My View" column. I didn't expect it to get published, and they did tur it down for not meeting the guidelines for that column.

So, I thought Id share it here:

I lost my job during the summer. Just another body caught in a shrinking enterprise. Call it “Reduction in Force”, or “Downsizing”, or “Layoff”; the result is the same. I wasn’t alone – others were affected, directly or indirectly, by the same budget axe. That led me to wonder: Do any of those directly touched by the cuts have anything in common? The answer as that all of the positions are unnecessary, in a way, to the core mission of the business. Also, they were fun.

When a business faces a negative income flow, there are usually two reactions. The first is to find a way to raise revenue. Sometimes that comes in the form of a new idea, other times its swinging for the fences. This is increasingly difficult these days, and increasing revenue is not always a reasonable option.

The second way is cutting costs – however possible. A business can examine the totality of its enterprise and try to find places to cut back. The easiest targets for such cost cutting are often the fun, the unique, and even perhaps frivolous, departments. They do not, on the surface, add to the bottom line, so they get eliminated. This can create problems all on its own as the corporate version of “cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face”.

These “frivolous” items are often what sets a business apart from the competition. They give potential customers something that the others cannot or do not offer. That is why there a third option for an organization: the loss leader. Most of us are familiar with the loss leader, it’s why grocery stores will sell items like milk below cost with the knowledge, and hope, the customers will purchase more. If they buy milk, they may buy cereal and perhaps fruit. While wandering the aisles they may stock up on other items. In short, the milk is bait to lure in a consumer.

Any business can bear such a loss leader - and accept the losses attributed to these enjoyable programs in the hopes that consumers will see that, and opt for their services over any alternative. It is a risk, but one that often pays off.

This has come to mind over the last few weeks, not because of my personal situation, but rather because of the decision by the owner of The Buffalo News to eviscerate the daily comics page. Gone are the delightful strips Sally Forth and Rhymes with Orange. Surviving, and adding insult to injury, the remaining strips include Charlie Brown, which hasn’t had a new offering since Charles Schultz died twenty-two years ago, and Garfield which hasn’t had an original thought since it debuted in 1976. Of the remainder, most are forgettable save for one or two comic strips.

Consider my father, almost 95 years old.  Growing up in Rochester we always subscribed to both papers, and Dad still subscribes to the D&C today. Like me, he’s also a news junkie and gets his information from a variety of reliable sources. Why does he still subscribe? For the comics and the crossword puzzle. Eliminate those and he has no reason to subscribe.

I’m not quite at the same place as my father – there are still many things in the Buffalo News important to me.  I also well understand the realities facing a local newspaper. Yet I cannot say that when it comes time to renew my subscription the loss of the comics will not heavily impact my decision.

I, for one, would hate for the Buffalo News to disappear because of the self-inflicted wound and the shortsighted decision-making its owner.


1 comment:

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -