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Subscribe to stltoday.com, get Sunday Newspaper Delivered Free

May 23, 2014 Featured, Media 4 Comments

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, aka stltoday.com, now has some digital-only content for subscribers.

Full digital access includes 24/7 digital access to STLtoday.com, mobile web, mobile apps for iPhone and Android smartphones, an iPad app, e-Edition and stlEXTRA! which is additional premium content and exclusive storytelling on STLtoday.com (source).

I know many current & former staff at the Post-Dispatch, I like the idea of paying for content to support their work. That said, I’m 47 and have never had a newspaper subscription. My parents got the Daily Oklahoman delivered everyday, but it was a habit/expense that never interested me.  I’d bought a  few papers over the years so I knew they were more expensive, thinner, and smaller. Still, I had no clue how much a newspaper subscription cost. In my mind, however, I thought digital access should be less.

No trees to cut down to make newsprint, no need to run the presses, no need to deliver the paper to my address. Apparently the folks at the Post-Dispatch/Lee Enterprises see this differently.

Retrieved on Thursday May 22, 2014
Retrieved on Thursday May 22, 2014
Retrieved on Thursday May 22, 2014
Retrieved on Thursday May 22, 2014

For $13.50/month, or $162/year, you can get the Sunday edition delivered and get “full digital access” described above. Or for the exact same $13.50/month ($162/year) you can get the “full digital access” without the Sunday paper. Put another way, the Sunday newspaper is so worthless they can’t charge anything for it over and above digital access. Is the norm?

So I started to look at subscription rates in other cities:

Kansas City Star (McClatchy newspaper group)

  • Digital-only: first month 95¢, $9.95/month thereafter. This is $109.45 for the first year, $119.40/year thereafter.
  • Wednesday/Sunday/Digital special offer: $1.00/week + tax
  • Print 7-days/Digital special offer: $/month, $/year
  • “26-week Home Delivery Options Offer limited to regular carrier-delivered routes and valid only for new subscribers who have not subscribed within the past 30 days. Subscription will continue at the prevailing full-price rate once introductory special expires unless The Star Co. is notified otherwise.” I have no idea what the “prevailing full-price rate” is.
  • “Subscription rates include a separate fee for delivery. Tax rates vary by location and will be reflected on your billing statement.”

Daily Oklahoman (Anschutz Corporation)

  •  Digital ala carte: $9.95/month
  • Full Digital: $15/month
  • Wednesday/Sunday/Digital: $12/month, $144/year
  • Print 7-days/Digital: $19.50/month, $234/year

The Indianapolis Star (Gannett)

  • Subscribe Now and Get Your First Three Months for the Price of One!*
  • Digital only: $12/month, $144/year
  • Thursday/Sunday/Digital: $14/month, $168/year
  • Print 7-days/Digital: $26/month, $312/year

Minneapolis Star Tribune (Billionaire Glen Taylor)

  • Special offers for new customers, below are their regular rates
  • Digital-only: $2.99/week, $155.48/year
  • Sunday/Digital: $4.24/week, $220.48
  • I was unable to find the rate for 7 days of the print edition.

After these four I’ve had enough, it’s clear to me newspapers use the same tricks as phone & cable providers to hook you with low introductory offers. The other thing I see is they’re pricing their digital options so people will take at least the Sunday print edition too. Some may like the idea but as a person who doesn’t want a physical paper I don’t see the value in a digital subscription. The rates are structured to offer a bonus to print subscribers, but aren’t attractive to me as a person who’s never subscribed before.

I like the idea of a digital subscription for our household, 5 devices is perfect (we each have a computer & iPhone, plus a shared iPad). Our internet is included in our condo fee, we have separate contracts with AT&T for our smartphones, our television service is free (over the air), but we do pay for NetFlix streaming plus one DVD at a time. I’m not sure how much per month I’d be willing to pay for digital access to the Post-Dispatch, but not $13.50/month!

Ok, I decided to look up one more newspaper, The New York Times:

  • Web/smartphone: $3.75/week, $16.25/month, $195/year
  • Web/tablet: $5/week, $21.67/month, $260/year
  • Full digital: $8.75/week, $37.92/month, $455/year
  • According to Mashable, 61% of NYT subscriptions are digital.

I tend to use the Post-Dispatch iPhone app daily, but I rarely use their iPad app. For me I’m willing to pay say, $5-$8/month, $60-$72/year.  In fact, I’d be interested in paying for 6-12 months up front if it saved me a little over the monthly price. I just don’t see newspapers doing anything to convert this non-subscriber into a subscriber. Giving me the bulky Sunday paper that’ll quickly fill our recycling is a disincentive to subscribe.

Of course, the Post-Dispatch has no obligation to try to please me.  But I’m not alone:

  • The mobile audience skews young; the median age of an adult newspaper mobile user is 17 years younger than the print reader.
  • Those who are newspaper mobile-exclusive—that is, those who access newspaper content on mobile devices only—are younger by four more years (with a median adult age of 33). That audience grew 83% in 2012 compared with a year ago.
  • Source: Newspaper Association of America.

It seems to me they really need to get mobile/web-only readers to subscribe, but the current options aren’t the answer.

— Steve Patterson


The Cotton Belt Building Isn’t Made of Cement

April 23, 2013 Featured, Media 21 Comments

In architecture school I had two semesters of classes on materials, so when I read sentences like the following I get irritated:

Cement is a binder used to make concrete

Today, the 750-foot-long face of the old Cotton Belt Rail Depot is in pretty rough shape, a wall of cracked cement and busted-out windows, with a string of graffiti wherever the taggers could reach. (stltoday)

“Cracked cement?” First, what is cement?

The common name for Portland cement, the most important modern construction material, notably as a constituent of concrete. In the manufacturing process, limestone is ground into small pieces (about 2 cm). To provide the silica (25%) and alumina (10%) content required, various clays and crushed rocks are added, including iron ore (about 1%). This material is ground and finally burned in a rotary kiln at up to 1500°C, thus converting the mixture into clinker pellets. About 5% gypsum is then added to slow the hardening process, and the ground mixture is added to sand (for mortar), gravel and crushed rock (for concrete). When water is added, the cement solidifies gradually, undergoing many complex reactions. The name “Portland” cement arises from a resemblance to stone quarried at Portland, England. (click image at right for source)

Cement is an important ingredient used to manufacture concrete, which is what the Cotton Belt building is made of.

There are three basic ingredients in the concrete mix:

  1. Portland Cement
  2. Water
  3. Aggregates (rock and sand)

Portland Cement – The cement and water form a paste that coats the aggregate and sand in the mix. The paste hardens and binds the aggregates and sand together.

Water- Water is needed to chemically react with the cement (hydration) and too provide workability with the concrete. The amount of water in the mix in pounds compared with the amount of cement is called the water/cement ratio. The lower the w/c ratio, the stronger the concrete. (higher strength, less permeability)

Aggregates- Sand is the fine aggregate. Gravel or crushed stone is the coarse aggregate in most mixes. (ConcreteNetwork.com)

Thus, none of the following exist:

  • A cement sidewalk
  • Cement blocks
  • Cement silo

You get the idea…

The concrete Cotton Belt building
The concrete Cotton Belt building

The Rally Saint Louis project is very interesting, click here for information.

— Steve Patterson


Don’t Drive Your Scooter On The Sidewalk Like The McDonalds GoodMorningSTL Commercial

If you watch local television no doubt you’ve seen a McDonald’s “Good Morning St. Louis” commercial filmed in the Delmar Loop, from a January RFT Gut Check report:

Gut Check spotted a film crew and a guy on a moped wearing a McDonald’s jacket in front of Chuck Berry Plaza this morning, and we just hoofed it down the block from Gut Check International Headquarters to confirm that McDonald’s is indeed shooting a TV commercial at the University City, um, landmark.

At 9 a.m., a crew set up a limited McDonald’s breakfast menu and a call box like the kind used to place orders in drive-throughs. When inquisitive pedestrians walk by and decide to try to order from the seemingly random speaker, much to their surprise (or maybe not, given that there are camera crews all over), a guy rides up on the aforementioned moped to deliver fresh, hot McDonald’s food to the person who placed the order. (RFT)

Each time I see the commercial I keep thinking it’s getting people okay with the idea of driving a motor scooter on the public sidewalk — a very bad idea. Illegal too.

Screenshot from McDonald's commercial showing a scooter delivering food on the sidewalk. Click image to view commercial in YouTube.
Screenshot from McDonald’s commercial showing a scooter delivering food on the sidewalk. Click image to view commercial in YouTube.

Hopefully McDonald’s obtained permits to close the sidewalk during filming but I’m disappointed it shows an illegal act.

On the positive side I do like they’re doing locally-focused commercials.

— Steve Patterson


Ten Buildings That Changed America: The Wainwright In Downtown St. Louis

PBS (WTTW/Chicago) has a new special coming out next month called the Ten Buildings That Changed America. One of the ten is our own 1891 Wainwright Building by Louis Sullivan (National Register nomination). I got to meet host Geoffrey Bear last May when he and the production crew were in St. Louis.

PBS film crew on May 8, 2012
PBS film crew filming the Wainwright in downtown St. Louis on May 8, 2012
Geoffrey Baer
Ten Buildings host & writer Geoffrey Baer, right, will be back in St. Louis on April 22nd for a panel discussion, see below

Here are the details on the free event being held at the Wainwright:

Our local PBS station is hosting a free event to preview the program.
Click image to register — seating is limited.

If you’re not familiar with Sullivan’s Wainwright you might be wondering just how a building in St. Louis changed America, well here’s your answer:

At only nine stories, the Wainwright is the granddaddy of all skyscrapers. It isn’t the first tall building but Sullivan’s innovative structural steel frame showed that even brick can appear to soar. (stltoday.com)

Yes, skyscraper!

— Steve Patterson



Distribution Key To IKEA’s Midwest Expansion

IKEA sells simple looking modern furniture but its hardly a simple company. It is often misunderstood or misrepresented. Even simple facts are often wrong, which get repeated. For example:

The company has 285 stores in more than 20 countries and designs its own product which is then produced by more than 1,000 suppliers in 50-plus countries. With only 38 stores in the United States boasting an Ikea is regarded by many cities as a retail status symbol.  (nextSTL.com)

The number of locations/countries was repeated by two local mainstream news sources:

The furniture company has 38 stores in the U.S, part of a total of 285 stores in more than 20 countries. (STL Biz Journal)

IKEA has 38 stores in the United States and 285 locations in more than 20 countries. (KMOV)

Unfortunately this repeated information is inaccurate. From a February 26, 2013 IKEA press release:

Currently there are more than 298 IKEA Group stores in 26 countries, including 50 in North America (11 in Canada; 38 in the US; 1 in the Dominican Republic). IKEA has six distribution centers in North America. The IKEA Group employs 131,000 coworkers and had 655 million visitors in FY 11. (IKEA)

So these reports were short 13 stores and 6 countries, but did get the number of US stores correct at 38. True, 26 is “more than 20.” But even that doesn’t give the complete picture, there are 333 IKEA stores in total:

In January a Swedish documentary revealed that Interogo, a Liechtenstein foundation controlled by the Kamprad family, owns Inter IKEA Holding, which earns its money from the franchise agreements Inter IKEA Systems has with each IKEA store. These are lucrative: IKEA says that all franchisees pay 3% of sales as a royalty. The IKEA Group is the biggest franchisee; other franchisees run the remaining 35 stores, mainly in the Middle East and Asia. One store in the Netherlands is run directly by Inter IKEA Systems. (The Economist

Yes, all 333 IKEA stores franchise the concept. Complicated…

Click image to view cartoonist’s website.

IKEA first entered North America in 1976 with a store outside of Vancouver Toronto in Richmond BC. IKEA didn’t open a US store until nearly a decade later in 1985. My first visit to an IKEA was the Woodbridge VA location in August 1990. Since then I’ve shopped at five more locations.

In 28 years IKEA has gone from zero US stores to 38. Founded in Sweden in 1943, IKEA is a retail giant. After 70 years 333 stores exist. How does this compare to other retailers?

Apple opened its first retail store in Tyson’s Corner VA in May 2001. It now has, according to Wikipedia, 400 stores in 14 countries with 250 of those in the US. Obviously Apple is opening locations at a much faster rate than IKEA. But they’re in different segments, what about a more comparable company? Like Crate & Barrel:

By 1985, the chain had grown to 17 stores, and has continued to grow. In March 1995, it opened its first New York location (its 59th location), in Manhattan. After selling a majority stake to German mail order company the Otto Group in 1998, the company had financing to increase its rate of expansion. By 2002, it had grown to approximately 100 locations, and over 135 locations by late 2004.

Today there are over 170 stores in the United States. (Wikipedia)

Crate & Barrel, like Apple, is far more aggressive about opening locations. The point? IKEA takes its time. From March 2007:

Ikea, the world’s largest home furniture retailer, plans to acquire land in Joliet for a new distribution center that could eventually be as large as 1.4 million square feet.

The Swedish company has been searching for a site in the region for about a year, and recently signed a contract for a 72-acre tract in Joliet southwest of Interstate 80 and Illinois Highway 53, according to sources familiar with the matter. (Crain’s Chicago Business

The Joliet distribution center was supposed to open in 2009 but at this point it hasn’t yet.

Map showing IKEA's six existing, and one future, distribution centers in North America. Click image to see PDF from IKEA on distribution channels.
Map showing IKEA’s six existing, and one future, distribution centers in North America. Click image to see PDF from IKEA on distribution channels.

From the PDF linked above:

To meet the growing demand for products at the 48 IKEA stores in North America, IKEA locates its distribution centers in regions of the country in the United States and Canada where the company can optimize delivery of home furnishing products to the nearest IKEA stores.

In the U.S., this effort is aimed at developing a network that includes regional distribution centers in the East, Midwest, Northwest, South, and Southwest – as well as in Canada – for serving existing and future stores.

I’ve found no press release about the Joliet DC other than the original from March 2007. I’d guess once that facility is opened we’ll have a better shot at landing a store in the St. Louis region.

— Steve Patterson