The following appeared in an announcement issued by the publisher of The Mercury, a weekly newspaper.
“Since a competing lower-priced newspaper, The Bugle, was started five years ago, The Mercury’s circulation has declined by 10,000 readers. The best way to get more people to read The Mercury is to reduce its price below that of The Bugle, at least until circulation increases to former levels. The increased circulation of The Mercury will attract more businesses to buy advertising space in the paper.”
Discuss how well reasoned you find this argument. In your discussion be sure to analyze the line of reasoning and the use of evidence in the argument. For example, you may need to consider what questionable assumptions underlie the thinking and what alternative explanations or counterexamples might weaken the conclusion. You can also discuss what sort of evidence would strengthen or refute the argument, what changes in the argument would make it more logically sound, and what, if anything, would help you better evaluate its conclusion.
In the opinion of a newspaper publisher the price of its paper, The Mercury, should be reduced below the price of a competing newspaper in order to stimulate sales. This suggestion is in response to a decline in circulation of The Mercury during the 5-year period following the appearance of The Bugle on newsstands. The publisher’s line of reasoning is that a lower newspaper price will increase its readership, thereby increasing profits since a wider readership attracts more advertisers. This line of reasoning is problematic in two important ways.
While increased circulation would make the paper more attractive to potential advertisers, it is not obvious that lowering the subscription price is a surefire way to obtain new readers. The publisher assumes that price is the one and only factor that caused the original decline in readership. But no evidence is given to support this claim. Additionally, given that The Mercury was a common and widespread local paper, it is unlikely that such a mass decline in readers would be explained by subscription price alone.
There are many other factors that might account for a decrease in The Mercury’s popularity. Readers might be displeased with the extent and accuracy of its news reporting, or the balance of local to other news coverage. Moreover, it is possible that The Mercury has recently changed editors or undergone equally drastic internal shifts, giving the paper an unpopular local perspective, political or otherwise. Or perhaps readers are unhappy with the paper’s format, the relevance of its articles or its entertainment value, etc.
In conclusion, the publisher’s argument is flimsy because it depends on an oversimplified assumption about the connection between the price of the paper and its circulation. To strengthen the argument, the author must identify and analyze factors beyond cost before concluding that lowering subscription prices will indeed boost circulation and increase advertising revenue.
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