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Barbara Lombardo of Saratoga Springs, NY, is a journalism adjunct at University at Albany and retired executive editor of The Saratogian, The Record and the Community News. Follow her on Twitter @Barb_Lombardo.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Walking in another department's shoes

It's valuable, important and humbling for people in the newspaper business (and any business) to experience what it's like to be in the company's other departments. And last night I had an opportunity to do that -- in circulation telemarketing.

"Hi, this is Barbara Lombardo," I began. "I'm calling from The Saratogian newspaper ..."

"Don't say newspaper," interjected my boss, Publisher Mike O'Sullivan, from the desk behind me. "People know what The Saratogian is."

The publisher, the department heads (me as managing editor, plus the directors for advertising and pre-press composing) along with the human resources manager, Ballston Spa Life editor Joe Rocha, and some of the circulation folks who were extending a day that began well before dawn, had a telemarketing blitz to bring former subscribers back to the paper with a terrific offer of $1.99 a week for 26 weeks. I think that's better than my employee rate.

I am grateful for the people who answered their phone and were polite in their rejection; I'm even more grateful for those who signed up. I apologize for disturbing those who were already subscribers and were on the list in error; I would have liked to take the time to chat with those people, but my job was to make as many sales as I could.

I burst out of the gate with the first sale of the evening on my first call. But like the thoroughbreds that break too early, I fell behind; my second sale was one of the last of the evening. That was still 100 percent more than my boss, who could have done better with more dialing and less chop-busting. Meanwhile, sitting next to me, spending what I thought was too much time chatting with people, Joe Rocha quietly sold four of the 26-week subscriptions.

Lauren Rose, the ad director, made four sales, which is only two more than me — or 100 percent more, depending on how you look at it. In our cozy quarters, she couldn't help but hear me fumble through the prepared text.

"Stick to writing," she advised.

Enough said.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why would I buy the Saratogian when I can read about local news online, in the Times Union, and on Capital News 9? I'd rather spend my money on the NYT."

It would be interesting if in one of these blog entries you provided a defense of local news in print form.

Everyone knows that newspapers everywhere are bleeding chips, but surely there must be some compelling reasons to support the Saratogian.

And ultimately, what do you think this newspaper crisis is going to come to? Will it be a case of having to pay for online news content, as Rex Smith from the Times Union has suggested, or is such a proposition unrealistic?

Kind regards,

January 18, 2010 at 9:06 PM 

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