Uh-oh, USA Today. Bill Marriott, the chairman of Marriott International and a man who pays close attention to every detail in his hotels, is onto you. Not only is business travel off, meaning you're giving away 100,000 fewer papers a day, but Bill Marriott noticed what a lot of business travelers have been noticing: Increasingly, hotel guests aren't even bothering to drag those free USA Todays into the room from the hallways in the morning. They just sit out there in the halls like little tiny forgotten room-service carts.
In a body blow to USA Today, Marriott International said that rather than dropping off all those free newspapers at guest rooms, starting June 1 it is switching to a new system to "streamline" delivery of newspapers at its 2,600 properties in the U.S. (sorry, Al: USA). This means hotels will offer -- in the lobbies, or by delivery to rooms upon request -- not just USA Today (which is far too often the only choice for those of us who want to read a print newspaper every day), but also the Wall Street Journal and whatever the local paper is.
"We want to give guests the choice of whether they want a newspaper or not," Bill Marriott said. "I visit more than 250 hotels a year, and more often than not, I’m stepping over unclaimed newspapers as I walk down the hallway. This new program is more guest-focused."
Ouch, Al Neuharth. The USA feels your pain.
Marriott projects that newspaper distribution will be reduced by about 50,000 papers daily or 18 million papers annually, thereby avoiding 10,350 tons of carbon emissions (calculated by Conservation International assuming an estimate of .5 pounds per paper). Cost-savings, if any, will vary based on consumption at individual hotels.
More than 25 years ago, in a partnership with Gannett and its flagship paper USA Today, Marriott was the first major hotel company to feature broad newspaper delivery to its hotel rooms in the U.S. (oops, sorry: "USA").
USA Today pasted one of its great big smiley faces on the dire news. "USA Today was founded on the idea that one newspaper could reflect the shared interests of Americans across the country. Our ability to connect readers with what is important to them makes us the most-read newspaper in the country and the number one choice of travelers," Susan Lavington, the marketing chief, said in a statement. "As the needs of news consumers continue to shift, USA TODAY has innovated to provide valued content in any platform consumers choose. We look forward to extending that choice to Marriott’s valued guests through print, online, mobile devices or on a GoBoard in their hotel lobby."
The Wall Street Journal also put a great big smiley face on the Marriott announcement, but it seemed to have a Cheshire-cat grin. The print Journal now has an opening that had been blocked by all those piled-up free USA Todays. "More individuals choose to buy the Wall Street Journal than any other newspaper in America. We applaud Marriott for now extending this choice to their guests." said Paul Bascobert, marketing chief at Dow Jones Consumer Media Group. Note the word "buy."