Sunday, March 11, 2018

Health update

Took my last dose of prescribed antibiotics this morning. Let's hope I stay healthy for a while. When you're a self-employed businessman, being sick and run down has economic consequences.

On the other hand, getting through the transition with the purchase of a business is an accomplishment. The two are somewhat related. We're still in the black, and still growing.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Interesting observation for today

I attended an event where a four-year old cancer survivor was presented with a very nice gift by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. It was hosted at a local church, in the fellowship hall. As I arrived I saw people filing into the building single-file. It was a normal door, not a double door.

There was a man at the door shaking peoples' hands and greeting them. I assumed he was there for that purpose. But as I stepped up to the door he turned away and ignored me. I just walked in.

It reminded me that in small towns, which are always considered more "friendly", that friendliness sometimes extends to people who know each other. It's rough when you are an outsider in a small town, at least in the beginning. In this case, the man at the door - who was a relative of the child honoree - didn't know me and it's not in his world view to shake hands with a stranger. It wasn't intentional

I've actually encountered a few cases over the years where people who didn't know me couldn't engage in conversation because they literally don't know how to talk to strangers. I'm gregarious and will strike up a conversation with anyone, but I've had a few example where people couldn't respond to my banter because they never have the opportunity speak to people they don't know beforehand.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

On the mend

I started taking antibiotics Thursday, and this morning I'm feeling better. I was walking around with a sinus infection for a few weeks. As I said before, I am usually able to recover from a cold or flu, but the stress caused by the circulation management problem at the newspaper probably cratered my immune system.

The biggest symptom that something was wrong was how I would run out of stamina by like 5 p.m. I'm not usually exhausted by the time I get home from the office. But I didn't have the energy to do anything in the evening. I assumed that was because of the energy my body was utilizing fighting the infection.

Overall I think I'm still pretty healthy - for an old fart of 61 - and I'm getting better.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

What works, and what doesn't work

The long-running trend in the U.S. for companies to be owned and bought by "chains" has not worked for the newspaper business.

The best newspapers are strongly local; the standardization forced on them by chain ownership works against that. Also, the cash flow is notoriously erratic, and can vary widely. The tendency for "bean counters" to set the bottom line for accounts receivable at the lowest possible cash flow level means many newspapers appear unprofitable on paper.

You can make a living from a newspaper, but they are not profitable enough in general to pay out large dividends. Attempts by corporate owners to generate that kind of profit usually leads to cutbacks to the point the newspaper can't produce a decent, interesting product. Plus corporate owners often cheat employees by giving then workloads that can't be accomplished in a 40 hour work week, thereby forcing them to work off the clock (they never approve overtime).

Owner-operated small newspapers will be around for many years, but we will probably see the demise of daily newspapers, and newspaper chains, within my lifetime.

I've gotten by over the years by pretty much trying to always work for locally-owned newspapers whenever possible.

If I ever write my journalism autobiography, I'll call it "I'm a Fugitive From a Newspaper Chain Gang".

Friday, February 23, 2018

Hopefully resolved

It took weeks of effort, but it looks like we finally solved the problem with new subscribers not getting their papers. It has been especially intensive the past two weeks, and took getting both a new label printer and a new computer. We now can print the mailing labels in-house - before we were sending a file via email to the press and having them run off the labels. That was convenient, but as I've noted before, somewhere along the line the subscription list wasn't being updated and no one who subscribed to the paper since Jan. 1st was getting one.

This week the press had a set of labels delivered to them. I think starting next week we will simply label and sort the papers ourselves in Clarksville.

Yesterday was the first Thursday in weeks we weren't inundated by irate subscribers who didn't get their papers. It was actually becoming a disruption to office operations.

We've picked up at least a couple of dozen new subscribers since the start of the year - which is great! - but you can imagine the hassle when 24 people call, ranging from irritated to angry because they didn't get their newspaper.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The subscription saga continues

The new printer was delivered to the Clarksville Times office today, and we got it up and running. We were able to print mailing labels - the first that's been done in the office since last summer - but couldn't complete the set because we were short of blank labels. The labels were in a box, but it turned out they were set on the top of a pile of labels that weren't the right kind. It was a box of Avery labels with the sprockets on the sides, but the labels that work with our printer don't have the guide sprockets and are friction fed. Sometime in the past someone got a box of the Avery labels at Staples, not realizing they were the wrong kind, and put the last of the old - correct - labels on top of them.

This circulation saga has been the death of a thousand cuts.

You can't buy the friction fed labels locally, you have to buy them from the circulation management company. So not only is the printer proprietary, so are the labels.

The circulation company has pledged to overnight the set of our mailing labels to the printing press so they will have them on Wednesday. They also said they will send us some blank labels so we can run off the labels in-house next week.

The one bright spot is that once we ran off the labels today I could check for the subscribers who haven't been getting their papers, and I could see they have labels being generated. For the past month and half the labels were being printed from a file we exported and emailed to the printing press, so we couldn't actually be sure the labels were being printed. If the circulation company ships the same labels as we ran off today in the office, these people will finally get their papers. I have no idea why the labels were not being generated by the exported file in the first place.

The circulation company followed through on its pledge to train us. I spent two and a half hours on the phone with them, and Patricia spent two hours herself.

I've had sinusitis for a week now, and I'm feeling sweaty and feverish. I'm keeping a fan blowing on me when I sit at my desk, both at work and at home. I assume I'm sick because of the stress and high blood pressure. This fiasco has to come to an end.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Big hassle

I haven't posted much this past week. We've had a crisis at the newspaper. When Patricia and I bought it at the start of the year, we inherited a printer for the subscription labels that didn't seem to work. We got by that by emailing a file of subscribers to the newspaper that prints us, and having them label the papers as they exit the printing press.

That means. however, we don't see the labels before they are put on the papers, and during the past few weeks we have gotten complaints that people who bought subscriptions since the start of the year are not getting their papers in the mail.

The company we pay to service our mailing list - sort it according to postal carrier route and otherwise organize it for bagging to the post office - has not been helpful at all. We must be doing something wrong, but they have not been able to help us. Soon we will have to start refunding subscriptions.

Last week I gave up on them and decided to hit the reboot button. As difficult as it would be, I decided we needed to look for another servicer

The Clarksville Times has used the company for many years, but Patricia and I just took over, and apparently we don't know the system well enough. Customer service finally offered to train us like new users, but set the date as March 2.

I told them forget it, by then we'll be sending out refunds.

The folks that are missing the paper have been very good about it. Many who live in the city are just coming to the office and picking theirs up. We've also been doing some home delivery and dropping papers at people's houses. Which is ridiculous because we are paying this company to prepare our mailing list.

Friday Patricia and I delivered two papers to people who live in the Clarksville zip code but live out in the country. It was a 40 mile round trip.

And people who live in other counties are not getting their paper at all.

The circulation company now says a they are shipping a printer that works and it should be at the office tomorrow. They also have promised to give Patricia and I each two hours training on Monday.

This has been so stressful my health has declined and I'm fighting a cold again because my immune system is obviously weakened.

Tomorrow we'll see if the current circulation management company follows through and we keep them, or whether we switch to a new provider. Having to make a switch will bring its own set of problems, but we may have no choice in the long run.

Health update

Took my last dose of prescribed antibiotics this morning. Let's hope I stay healthy for a while. When you're a self-employed busines...