Hearne: Star Hits Subscribers for Additional Subscription Fees, Special Editions

Well, the Kansas City Star finally came clean with subscribers…

In a letter dated Wednesday November 7th, Chris Christian told with readers they will be automatically charged an additional 69 cents per week for the newspaper’s new E-Star online content. Whether they want it, use it or not.

Put another way, that’s about $36 a year times 183,000 weekday subscribers or a little more than $6.5 million a year.

Kinda puts the 69 cents figure in perspective, huh?

But nowhere in the letter does it specifically point to an opt out path for subscribers.

Which would have been nice since an untold number of the Star‘s aging print readership probably has little if any interest in its new online options.

On top of that, six of the newspaper’s longtime, regular features will now be billed extra to subscribers at the rate of $2 a pop. Features like its “Football Preview” and”Summer Planner” special sections.

Subscribers will be billed even for snoozers likeĀ and the “Personal Finance Guide,” “Consumer Technology” and “Kansas City Food” sections.

And of course, who could forget the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. Which the Star explained a couple years back would cost extra because they’d sold so many ads it cost more to print and deliver.

So much for the concept of the ad revenue paying the freight. Now readers have to pay extra to subsidize the advertising content.

Go figure.

As Bill Clinton might say, let’s do the math.

That’s another $2, 200,000 for the “extra” sections that used to be free.

Bringing the grand total of the Star‘s money grab to around $9 million a year.

Again, with no reference to subscribers of how to opt out of any or all of the six special sections.

For the record, subscribers can call the newspaper’s Customer Service Department at 877-962-7826, Monday through Friday between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. and haggle over the added new costs.

May the force be with you!

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8 Responses to Hearne: Star Hits Subscribers for Additional Subscription Fees, Special Editions

  1. Rick Nichols says:

    The trouble is, that additional $9 million, assuming The Star sees all of it, isn’t going to put anybody who’s already been laid off back on the payroll and instead will go toward debt reduction within the parent company, McClatchy. So I certainly don’t look for an improvement in the finished product, just an eventual reduction in the number of people who are taking the paper because of these new charges. This lack of an opt out provision certainly isn’t anything new, the thinking being that most people won’t go to the trouble of jumping through a series of hoops to avoid having to pay for something they really don’t want. But I don’t think it’s a good way to do business. You’ve got to be up front with people (i.e., current and prospective customers) and treat them with at least a reasonable measure of respect and courtesy. Speaking of coming clean, why hasn’t Star columnist C.W. Gusewelle provided his readers with an account of what happened at the Romney-Ryan rally along Ward Parkway in October? Many years of valuable service to the paper’s readers still don’t excuse the behavior he is said to have engaged in on that particular day, according to a recent letter to the editor. Want to really turn off your current and potential subscribers? Then come across to them as being somewhat arrogant.

    • ryan says:

      oh, I don’t know, Rick, the only guy who got laid off from news in september got rehired by mcclatchy corporate almost immediately. local control of the Star is gone now. corporate calls the shots.

  2. Bob Bonomeyer says:

    C’mon, Fannin’s salary is $220,000 a year. That money has to come from somewhere.

    p.s. this is an absolutely accurate number.

  3. Rick Nichols says:

    Yes, I’m well aware of the fact that the corporate guys and gals in Sacramento are calling the shots at 18th & Grand these days, especially with respect to plans such as “Kansas City Plus”. So The Star is simply just another “pawn” in the company’s economic “chess game” with the market. Just the same, if you’re going to try something new, you might as well do it right, which means being up front with your customers at every turn. And speaking of doing things right, if you’re going to lay off eight full-time and four part-time employees, you don’t make the announcement on the very day that the paper whose banner they work under was founded many years ago. I find it very hard to believe that Corporate was ignorant of the importance of September 18 in the history of The Star, so I can only assume that that specific date was selected in order to make a statement, so to speak. Hey, I’m happy that this guy quickly landed a job elsewhere within the company, but what about his 11 former co-workers?

  4. jj29 says:

    Hearne, you are on point with this article. Additionally puzzling to me is that the 69 cents is charged whether you take the paper 7 days per week or only 4 days. I thought this was unfair and that the least the Star could do was waive the 69 cent upcharge for full week subscribers. I sent that comment to Kansas City.com a couple of weeks ago and asked for the courtesy of a reply. I haven’t heard anything back yet. Probably won’t.

  5. mike says:

    They are in no position to be taking their customers for granted, yet they are. They are crunching numbers and adding up the revenue based on the assumption that nobody will drop them. That is a mighty big assumption. People dropping them is what has led them to this point in the first place. It is also an insult to the intelligence of their subscribers to say that advertising is revenue negative and they have to subsidize it.
    If they continue to treat their customers in that manner, they are not going to stay around much longer.

  6. Lee says:

    Look. I am not an apologist for the Star. They need to raise rates. It’s just the crappy way they are doing it now.

    Would you feel any better if they just raised the yearly rate $50? That’s essentially what they are doing but they are also closing off the free internet site to anyone but subscribers whether or not you access them that way.

    They are foolish to package the rate increase as necessary to receive what you have been getting anyway or not even using (internet access and their not so special editions which no one wants anyway) but that’s essentially what any price increase is. You pay more for the same thing or even less.

    So, either pay the increase or drop your subscription. It is that simple.

    Eventually, the Star will only be available on the internet anyway and their beautiful printing building will be converted to lofts.

  7. Following Sleepless in Seattle says:

    With decisions like the ones outlined in your article The Kansas City Star is destined to follow the path of major market newspapers like the Seattle daily (no more printing the paper). With declining circulation they decide to charge their few remaining subscribers with additional costs??? Do they really think they can stop the bleeding of declining revenue by charging for internet accesability?
    The internet is the knife to the heart of printed papers, With almost one billion websites in the world today we can get any information we want (for free)

    William Rockhill Nelson’s only lasting legacy will be The Kansas City art Museum.
    Bye Bye KC Star, We will be reading your obituary on line and probably not on kansascity.com

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