Marriott International, the first major company to offer mass newspaper delivery to its rooms more than 25 years ago through a partnership with Gannett Co. and its flagship paper, USA TODAY, is streamlining its program as a result of waning newspaper demand, according to a release.
Beginning June 1, Marriott's full-service brands will deliver papers based on customer preference, allowing the 30 million Marriott Rewards members to update their profile and choose from USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, the local paper or none at all. Non-Rewards members will be asked for their preference at check-in. Beginning April 20, the limited-service brands—Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites—will offer newspapers free-of-charge in their lobbies. Residence inn and TownePlace already did this, but Courtyard, Fairfield and SpringHill used to delivery papers to the room.
Marriott, which says demand for newspapers has dropped 25 percent across its 2,600 U.S. hotels, estimates the new distribution method will cut 50,000 papers daily, which will reduce carbon emissions by 10,350 tons a year.
This can't be a good thing for the newspaper industry, which is already reeling more than most. The Internet and ease of access to free news has affected nearly every paper's circulation, ad sales and ultimately revenue. USA TODAY, the nation's biggest paper, will certainly take the biggest hit from this. The Wall Street Journal, from the sounds of the release and the quotation from an executive from Dow Jones Consumer Media Group, could get a boost as an added option for Marriott guests. The WSJ is the nation's second largest paper by circulation.
USA TODAY has long been a favorite spot for hotel companies to advertise, no doubt because such a large chunk of its circulation came from those staying in hotels. I'd guess that could change, especially if more companies follow Marriott's lead, which they did 25 years ago. And I wonder if USA TODAY's coverage of the industry, also robust, changes going forward?
Personally, I love getting any and all newspapers delivered to my hotel room. If given a choice, I always opt for the local paper for variety. I can't imagine not getting a paper at my door and I'd be upset having to trek down to the lobby for a copy. As a former newspaper editor, I admit I'm probably in the minority. It's just not the same reading the news on a laptop or PDA.
And I'm not faulting Marriott for the new program. If demand is dropping, and I wish I could argue it isn't, why not save some money and help the environment? If I'm faulting anyone, it's those people out there who never learned the joys of spreading out with the morning paper and a cup of coffee, or those who have instead chosen to drink their cappuccino while perusing the news online...