Ironically, the news that Starbucks is stopping the sale of newspapers at its coffee shops hit the streets on one of the national papers that the chain will stop selling on Sept. 1: The New York Times.
The Seattle-based chain says papers aren’t big-enough sellers in their shops so The Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and local newspapers are no longer items for sale.
Why? Because most Starbucks customers no longer buy a cup of java and a paper to read. Most read the news online on their smartphones, tablets or laptop computers. Most read or subscribe to the Times, the Journal and USA Today. as well as The Washington Post and others.
I don’t frequent Starbucks. Did not do so when we lived in Arlington with one of their shops on the corner across the street from the subway. I think their coffee is bitter crap and would much rather have a cup from Dunkin’ Doughnuts.
But while I still write and shoot for newspapers, I tend to read my daily consumption of news on a computer at home over cups of coffee provided by our trusty Bunn drip pot or at Blue Ridge Cafe or Red Rooster in Floyd.
Yes, I did use Starbucks a lot during the early days of Wi-Fi because they had a solid system provided by AT&T but now you can get free Wi-Fi at a McDonalds in Christiansburg or Roanoke or at Subway, Pizza Inn, Red Rooster and the Floyd Country Store (among several other shops) in Floyd.
Back in the 80s and 90s, Amy and I would often spend a leisurely Sunday brunch at one of our local restaurants in Washington or Arlington with the Sunday New York Times. Carriers delivered The Times at our condo door each morning, often before The Washington Post arrived.
While traveling, a fresh copy of USA Today appeared each morning at our hotel rooms.
Not so much now. We still read our newspapers but do so online. I can catch up with news back in Alton, IL, where I worked for a dozen years in the 70s, online, and she can do the same with her favorites St. Louis news publications.
Still, having a paper in hand is a familiar activity.
“I think it should still be available,” Dustin Fitzharris told The New York Times Friday while sitting at the 15th Street and Seventh Avenue location in Manhattan. He feels some Starbucks customers want their news the old-fashioned way.
“Not everybody is on their computers,” Mr. Fitzharris said. “Especially for a certain age demographic. An older demographic may not come in with their iPad or their computer. They will come in with a book or want to read the paper.”
Starbucks feels otherwise.
“We are always looking at what we offer our customers in our stores and making adjustments to our portfolio based on changing customer behavior,” Sanja Gould, a company spokeswoman, said in a statement Friday.
In 2018, newspaper circulation in the United States stood at 28.6 million on weekdays and 30.8 million on Sundays. The numbers dropped eight and nine percent from 2017 and are expected to drop further when this year’s numbers are in.
At the same Starbucks location in Manhattan Friday, David Perozzi told the Times he agrees with Starbuck’s decision.
I think it makes total sense; it’s not a surprise. I don’t think there is any upside to keeping the paper. If you look around in this Starbucks, there’s no one buying a newspaper. It’s just another casualty of change. Another casualty of the internet.
As a newspaperman, those thoughts bring sadness but for a newsman who has been writing for the internet since 1994 and owns a national political news web site, I understand the economic reasoning for such actions.
But it is still sad.