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Marriott changes, reduces newspaper distribution

Marriott International will no longer deliver free, unrequested newspapers to all of its guest rooms.

In a move that will affect circulation plans for newspaper partners such as USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and local papers nationwide, the hotel chain is shifting to a delivery system based on customer request. Marriott Rewards members will be able to mark a preference for the Journal, USA Today, local paper or no paper on their online profiles. Non-member guests will be asked for their preferences at check-in.

The switch to the on-demand system, slated for June 1, is expected to reduce Marriott’s newspaper distribution by 50,000 papers daily and 18 million annually. However, the company pointed out that customer service, not cost-savings, was the primary motivator for the on-demand system. “Cost-savings, if any, will vary based on consumption at individual hotels,” read a statement from Marriott.

“We want to give guests the choice of whether they want a newspaper or not,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and CEO of Marriott, in a statement. “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.”

Marriott spokespeople also pointed to declining demand for guest newspapers as a reason for the switch; at Marriott’s 2600 US properties, guest demand for papers has dropped by about 25% this year.

Non-request papers will not be entirely eliminated: Starting April 20, free papers will become available in lobbies of select Marriott properties, including Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, SpringHill Suites, Residence Inn and TownePlace Suites. Marriott also will continue its 25-year relationship with Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today, through the introduction of new products such as the interactive, digital GoBoard currently being rolled out in Courtyard hotel lobbies.

In a statement, Susan Lavington, SVP of marketing for USA Today, said, “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.”

“There will be no changes to our circ marketing strategy at this time, but we’re in the process of developing new products to fit the needs of our traveling consumers,” added Alexandra Nicholson, communications manager for USA Today, in an e-mail to DMNews.

The Wall Street Journal declined to comment.

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