Boston Globe Delivery Nightmare Expected to Last 4-6 Months

The broadsheet's change in distributors has been a disaster for subscribers.

A flag is reflected in window at The Boston Globe building in Boston, Monday 8, 2009

Photo via AP

Has the dead tree edition of the Boston Globe not made it to your doorstep in recent days? Well, you’re not alone.

The broadsheet is in the throes of a terrible distribution problem so bad that the paper’s editorial staff took to delivering the Sunday edition across the region. According to reports, the paper is struggling to deliver the broadsheet to at least 10 percent of its daily subscribers and will continue to do so for 4-6 months.

The new distributor, ACI Media Group, has struggled to deliver the paper since taking over distribution from Publishers Circulation Fulfillment at the end of December. According to a Sunday night deep dive by the Globe, the problem is rooted in ACI’s inability to hire enough drivers and their new delivery routes:

Behind disruptions affecting up to 10 percent of daily subscribers are two basic problems, both sides said. ACI Media Group, which took over home delivery in Greater Boston last Monday, has yet to hire enough drivers to cover every route. And many of ACI’s new delivery routes lack any logical sequence, leaving drivers criss-crossing communities and making repeated trips to the same neighborhoods.

ACI officials say they are aggressively recruiting new drivers with incentive programs, but could not say when they will have enough to ensure every paper is delivered.

A search of Craigslist indicates ACI started searching for drivers mere days before they took over the Globe’s delivery routes.

Meanwhile, PCF continues to hire drivers and distribute other newspapers like the Boston Herald and New York Times in the Greater Boston area.

The problem isn’t just a physical distribution one, either. Subscribers have complained on social media that they cannot get through to the company’s customer service center to gripe about delivery service.

Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan said the paper’s decision to change distributors was one designed to improve the experience for subscribers and save the paper some money. According to the Globe, Sheehan said the “material” cost savings from the change will be reinvested in the paper.

Still, Sheehan said he was taken aback by the disruption in service.

“Ten percent of our people not getting papers?” Sheehan said. “That was never communicated to us. That goes far beyond any reasonable definition of disruption.”

A quick fix may be not so simple, according to longtime Boston media observer Dan Kennedy. In a posting for WGBH, Kennedy muses that the Globe will likely have a difficult time reassembling its delivery routes if it tries to get out of its existing agreement with ACI. Kennedy’s vision of an extended delivery debacle is bleak:

…a months-long delivery crisis is unacceptable and will set off an avalanche of canceled subscriptions (I’ve already heard from people who want to cancel but can’t because the phones are jammed), refunds to advertisers, and severe damage to the Globe’s brand and reputation.