Tuesday, January 05, 2016

The Globe's here, The Globe's here.

Back in the day when most folks actually read a physical newspaper, The Boston Globe - the paper of record in these here parts - had a TV ad with a catchy refrain: The Globe's here, The Globe's here. 

Well, for an awful lot of subscribers, that refrain, in the last week, has been revised: The Globe's NOT here, The Globe's NOT here. 

What the paper's management (or, rather, mismanagement) decided to do was save some money by switching to a new "distribution partner" - i.e., the folks who deliver the paper to the doorsteps of those who still get a paper on their doorsteps. 

I'm not one of them.

For years - make that decades - I've been a daily newspaper reader, and for years - make that decades - that meant The Boston Globe.  I never subscribed but, rather, bought the paper each day from a corner store or from one of the many newsvendors that I passed along the way to wherever I was going. 

A few years back, I switched to reading online. Although I do miss the physicality of the paper paper - among other things, I prefer my crossword puzzles offline - reading the paper online is much easier. And I don't have to worry about whether the "distribution partner" is going to make it to my doorstep. Comcast has solved the last mile problem for me.

The decision to switch delivery methods has been a complete and utter debacle. 
Behind disruptions affecting up to 10 percent of daily subscribers are two basic problems, both sides sauid. ACI Media Group, which took over home delivery in Greater Boston last Monday, has yet to hire enough drivers to cover every route. And many of ACI's new delivery routes lack any logical sequence, leaving drivers criss-crossing communities and making repeated trips to the same neighborhood. (Source: The Boston Globe.)
ACI's COO, Jack Klunder says that he "thinks it's going to improve each week," but that it will take four to six months - yes, that's FOUR TO SIX MONTHS - before things are on par with the system that was replaced. He further maintained that he had warned The Globe that there would be service disruptions during the switch-over period. He also pointed out that the fact that there were no performance penalties built into the first three months of the contract indicates that Globe execs knew that there would be problems. And that those Globers should have done a better job communicating to their subscribers that there would be some hiccups along the way.

A big part of the problem is ACI's failure to hire enough route drivers, and their refusal to hire the old drivers, who knew the routes, their customers, etc. It almost goes without saying that some of the promised cost savings were going to come off the backs of drivers. The great race-to-the-bottom continues!

But not to worry:
In an unprecedented grass-roots effort Sunday, scores of Globe employees from departments throughout the company oluntary fanned out to distribution centers after midnight, taking over many of the 150 routes that had no drivers, delivering papers until late Sunday afternoon.
These employees include managment, editors, and writers - one of them (columnist Kevin Cullen) had a quite amusing account of his latter-day stint as a paper boy. I'd link to it, but you have to subscribe to access Cullen's work.

There's a lot of finger-pointing and he say/he say going on between ACI and The Globe.  ACI's claiming that they don't think that this will do any harm to their reputation. Hard to believe that will be the case in this day and age. If nothing else, I don't imagine they'll be enjoying any contracts as loosey-goosey and pro-ACI as the one they have with The Globe.  For The Globe's part, they're having to deal with an awful lot of pissed off customers, their phones ringing off the hook, and plenty of cancellations. There are some rumors that this debacle poses an existential threat to the paper. 

I certainly hope not. Who wants to lose the paper of record???

I've read The Globe for over fifty years.  Let's say "no" to talk of existential threats, okay?

Boston Globe officials are discussing a plan to divide distribution duties in Greater Boston, bringing in a second company to take pressure off ACI Media Group. (Source: The Boston Globe.)
Back to the future!

Thought I'd see how ACI's delivery network - recently renamed ACI Last Mile Network - positions itself.

Two Channels (Print and eCommerce)/Millions of Doorsteps/One Powerhouse Last Mile Delivery Network. 

What's not to like? Especially when they boast that their "systems get the job done efficiently."

They're "recognized industry leaders" with "unmatched experience." They have "unique operating efficiencies" and "supreior technology for routing, reporting, analysis and workflow adminstation." And, of course, that vaunted race-to-the-bottom "innovative operating model based on leveraging our independent distributor network."

It's "low risk"! "Best in class"! "Cutting-edge"!

All this because they "live and breathe our core values of Integrity, Innovation and Customer Service."

Tell that to the displaced drivers, the undelivered subscribers, The Globe employees who spent their weekend delivery papers.

Someone at The Globe didn't do a very good job negotiating their contract with ACI. Someone at The Globe didn't do a very good job overseeing this deployment. Someone at The Globe didn't do a very good job communicating with their customers.

So there's plenty enough shame-face to go around.

But I think that ACI is coming off looking worse than they care to adnmit.

As for me, when I read ACI's web copy - and realize how many of those magic words I've used over the years: recognized industry leader, unmatched - okay, I'd say unparalleled - experience, unique operating efficiencies, superior technology, best in class, cutting-edge - okday, I'd say leading-edge - I'm a tiny bit embarassed for the marketing profession.

Meanwhile, as long as it's online, The Globe's here. Unless this situation turns out to indeed be an existential threat.

No comments: