‘Newspaper boys’ are an endangered tribe. At least in Kerala and, I dare say, in many other parts of the world too. And in many places ‘newspaper delivery people’ are already an extinct tribe.
In a very poignant post a few months ago, Joe Scaria of The Economic Times talked about these “unsung heroes holding up the crumbling edifice of print in Kerala”. And as he put it: “A surprise indeed that there are these few who are still willing to do a job that involves waking up at unearthly hours, offers hardly any off-days and pays a pittance.”
Well, one “newspaper boy” — or newsagent as he prefers to be called — I know in Trivandrum is trying out a new business model. It’s the obvious one — get people to pay for the service. From this month on, he will charge every household Rs 10 a month as a delivery charge. It doesn’t matter whether you subscribe to one newspaper or 10; if you want newspapers delivered to your home every morning you pay 10 bucks a month for it.
Ten rupees a month is not much I guess and will just about cover his delivery expenses, I gather. Most customers, he says, seem untroubled at the thought of shelling out a monthly delivery charge for their morning news fix. Some, in fact, asked him why he had not taken this decision earlier, he claims.
From what I can gather, at least through Mother Google, it seems newspaper distributors in Ahmedabad and Pune started collecting delivery charges from customers a couple of years ago. What I’ve not been able to find though, is whether this business model worked for them.
I have no clue whether my newsagent friend’s new business model will work. Perhaps it may, offer a partial solution to the problems that Joe Scaria touched on in his post. But will other newsagents adopt this method? Will some consumers object and stop buying newspapers? What impact will it have on Kerala’s newspaper industry as a whole? I have absolutely no idea.