Bye-bye WSJ print, but not for reasons you suspect

I cancelled my print subscription to the WSJ after 25 years, not because I don’t enjoy reading the print edition, but because of the way it has been delivered to me since January. Saturday’s delivery was the final straw.

When I arrived that morning at the office to pick up a few things for the weekend, I looked for the Journal in its familiar plastic bag. When I saw it, it looked thin. Then I noticed papers strewn throughout the parking lot. I thought, “They might have picked up the garbage, and the wind had blown some of the garbage out.” It happens. But when I picked up the Journal, a sinking feeling came over me: I knew instantly that it was my Journal that was blowing all over the place – and I mean all over. In the water puddles, snow banks, bare trees. Everywhere. “How the heck did this happen,” I asked myself? I mean, the advertising was still in the plastic bag, but the Journal itself was gone – blowing everywhere. I felt like Chevy Chase in the movie Funny Farm, where it was a mail delivery problem.

Since January, we’ve been calling WSJ about delivery issues. I’m not going to go into them, but when we finally got them to go to the right door with the paper, we’d find it everywhere except by the door – in the flower bed full of snow, near a window 10 feet away from the door. Then this happened on Saturday. And remember: this is after years of really good service. Something had changed.

Now, WSJ would not give us the name of the delivery person or method to contact them, because I wouldn’t mind having a chat. Sometimes rational discussion (and a few bucks) helps. So, I really had no choice and issued the order to cancel the print and keep the digital.

The question is, does the WSJ want me to move away from print into the digital world? There’s a lot of discussion about print and digital publishing these days. Even NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. says print is going to be around longer than desktop. But if WSJ does want to kill print, I can think of ways to do it rather than hiring yahoos to frustrate its customer base.

Of course, it could be me. It’s not like this has happened to anyone else – or has it? We think when something happens to us that it only happens to us. But if you’ve been around long enough, you realize that if it happens to you, it’s probably happening to others. The real question is, why?

I wish I knew. I loved WSJ in print. I loved to browse it and let the stories and headlines guide my weekend reading. I never read with a purpose, except to learn. That’s really the best reading sometimes. I will try to do that digitally, but it will not be the same. You see, that’s really the difference between print and digital: print is real. You can touch it, feel it. One upside to this even (there’s always an upside) is that the delivery person can’t throw pixels around the parking lot. Or can he?

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