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Outstanding Circulation

October 29th, 2013 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Journalism, Newspapers, The National, UAE

Sounds medical, yes?

In print journalism, it has always meant how well and how predictably a newspaper is delivered, especially to its home subscribers.

In the U.S., the circulation department was always seen as mildly disreputable, slippery characters leading a crew of people you might hope did not get on the same elevator as you did. Any newsroom in which calls for the whole paper are routed, after hours, knows how angry subscribers can get what the circulation department has failed them.

But in Abu Dhabi?

The circulation department is wonderful. Marvelous. The best ever encountered in five decades of picking up a newspaper at my front door.

The newspaper also is inexpensive (about $95 a year) and a new subscription often comes with some sort of gift, often a coupon book for local business that is quite valuable.

But none of that matters if the paper isn’t delivered, and The National’s crew never misses a day. Well, nearly never. And if you call the circulation department to report a missing paper, it is likely to appear at your home — no matter where you live in Abu Dhabi, anyway — within minutes.

Not only that, the people in circulation have a habit of calling back. To make sure you got your newspaper, and sometimes to make sure that a problem you reported the previous week has been fixed.

Not only that, The National is not an easy paper to “throw” — as the verb was once known.

The newspaper’s “penetration” (you can tell I’ve been to too many management meetings) is not good. I remember when I worked at a newspaper with a penetration of 28 percent — that is, 28 out of 100 households subscribed — and that was considered substandard. Unacceptable. Hardly worth the time and energy to deliver the paper.

The National’s penetration has to be quite low. In single digits. In part, because only some less-than-half fraction of people in the country can read English. And because people, even in a part of Asia where newspapers still make money, don’t buy newspapers as they once did.

Delivering one paper here, one paper there, is time consuming. Whoever brings ours has to find the tower we live in, take the elevator up about half way (I can just see the delivery guy tapping his toe in frustration) and then find my door.

Also, as noted on this site years ago, Abu Dhabi has no street addresses. None. (Though they are now being planned.) Imagine picking up 100 newspapers and you have to find a door via landmarks.

(“Near Najda and Muroor, behind the Mercedes dealer, second villa on the right, second floor.”)

Yes, I am impressed — on a daily basis — that newspaper delivery here is so prompt and so thorough. Outstanding circulation, indeed.


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