Do you crave the feel of a printed newspaper in hands when you travel?
If so, one hotel company believes you’re increasingly in the minority.
Milwaukee-based Marcus Hotels & Resorts recently replaced complimentary printed newspapers for guests with a free-to-use mobile device app called PressReader in three of its 17 hotels. The PressReader app gives news craving guests access to 3,500 papers and magazines. Guests can use the app to download publications on their smart phone, iPad/tablet or e-reader, or print out an ad-free version.
Guests can expect to find the digital publication app at these hotels: Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Lake Geneva, Wis., and The Platinum Hotel & Spa in Las Vegas. Marcus also operates branded hotels such as Hilton, Westin, Sheraton, Hilton Garden Inn and Marriott properties.
As a veteran newspaperwoman (USA Today, Miami Herald, Fresno Bee) who straddles the print and digital worlds, this concept naturally intrigues me.
Now clearly, hotels have been ordering fewer newspapers for guests for years particularly since the recession. It’s been years since I could reliably expect to open my hotel room door, and bend down in the hallway to pick up my newspaper. More often than not, hotels leave a first-come-first-served stack near the elevators or in the lobby.
So I reached out to Chris W. Anderson, Marcus Hotels’ senior vice president of sales, marketing and brand development, to learn more about what motivated this experiment and what sort of reaction they’re hearing from guests. Here is our Q&A:
Q. Why consider even trying digital newspaper delivery? Did you, for instance, see quite a bit of newspapers left behind in your hotels?
A. Yes, you are correct. It was the sheer waste of unused papers (that indicated) that everyone has their specific preference of where to get their news – whether Fox, Drudge, MSNBC, etc. Everyday we would have our housekeepers fill their carts with newspapers that were not even touched.
Q. Which print newspapers were you/are you offering today?
A. USA Today is the most widely used by our brands, but we also carry the leading paper for the city or region we were in, i.e. Chicago Tribune, Atlanta Journal Constitution, etc. Most request are for the Wall street Journal. We still carry some of the papers, but now much much fewer of them. If someone wants the paper printed, the PressReader app allows them to print the paper, which comes in about 5-10 pages on 8.5″ x 11” standard paper. It also comes without the ads.
Q. Give me an idea of what you are hearing from customers about the switch. Did they grumble at first but now they are getting used to it? Or were they happy about it?
A. There were so few customers using (traditional print papers) that we only had a couple of requests for the traditional format, which we quickly delivered to them. But once we show them the app, they quickly go to browsing the app and looking at their hometown favorite paper, which they are much happier getting. If you’re staying in Las Vegas and your home paper is the Chicago Tribune, boom, now you have it.
Q. What does the future look like? Is print gone for good? Why or why not?
A. I think print will struggle if it does not change its format and become more investigative in nature. Drudge and similar digital news formats are where I think readers go to in their limited time to get a handle on the worlds news…it is short, concise, updated instantly. More times than not, if you are reading today’s (newspaper) on a 2 p.m. flight, what was printed the day before could have already changed. Take the Malaysia flight 370 story, for example.
Q. Does this move save Marcus Hotels properties money?
A. It was never about the money, but rather, the expanded service and just feeling better about not having to waste all that paper. Our customers love the change and have had the same revelation we have had regarding the PressReader service: ”Hmmm, why didn’t we think of this?”