BENNINGTON — For Vermont News & Media newspapers, as well as for an increasing number of daily papers around the country — especially in rural areas or with rural delivery customers — the switch to mail delivery is becoming a necessity to ensure financial viability to support local journalists in their work.
“In reality, the options were rather limited,” Jordan Brechenser, VNM publisher, said this week. “Delivering newspapers via carriers in our market had become unsustainable. Primarily because of the costs and staffing, these contracted delivery positions also had become increasingly challenged.”
He said the number of print subscribers has shrunk greatly over the years, while the cost to distribute newspapers has gone up greatly over the same timeframe.
Brechenser broke down the costs this way: “It costs about .75 cents per day to get a paper printed and delivered to your home, with about .40 cents to produce the physical paper and about .35 cents to get it delivered to subscribers.
“We, the newspaper, subsidize this. In the past, that was all well and good, because advertising dollars allowed subscriber delivery to be the loss leader. But with the pandemic and a loss of advertising revenue down nearly 50 percent from prior years, we can no longer bear the cost of delivery, not if we want to stay in business for the next decade plus.”
Brechenser said he rejects the option of slashing the newsroom budget and laying off employees to balance declining advertising revenue.
“I feel that decreasing the quality of a paper by stripping the staff that generates local news coverage is not a path we should go down. Having seen fallout from that before, it's not the kind of thing local ownership and management can stand behind," he said.
"Just know, we are all hands on deck to work and resolve this for our print home delivery subscribers. From daily logs of missed mail, calls with the Post Office on every missed paper, and ongoing reporting into why these problems are so persistent and seemingly occurring mostly in Bennington County."
"We appreciate our loyal readers and subscribers, and will get this matter straightened out, for their sake and ours."