Subscribers not happy with paper deliveries


It has long been Pip the golden retriever’s responsibility to fetch the daily edition of The Age from his owner’s front yard in Kilmore and bring it inside to Dr Shaun Canning, scoring himself a treat in the process.

But Pip’s job is a casualty of the shift to a new centralised newspaper delivery system across Melbourne and beyond. The thwack of a rolled-up edition hitting the porch or the driveway is now a thing of the past, with delivery drivers dropping the flat-packed news on kerbsides. When the paper lands in Kilmore, it’s always beyond Pip’s reach. Canning is grateful if it shows up at all.

Pip loved his job of bringing in the newspaper everyday. Photo supplied by Dr Shaun Canning.

He continues to pay for home delivery because he prefers the tactile nature of the printed news, but is frustrated by the unreliable service.

“We’re either missing papers altogether, or we’re getting the wrong publication delivered. So instead of The Age we’ll get The Australian or the Herald Sun.

In recent times, as publishers Nine (The Age, the Australian Financial Review) and News Corp (the Herald Sun, The Australian) have progressively shifted to the new distribution system, widespread teething problems have been reported. While in some areas glitches appear to be resolving, there are still plenty of subscribers with the same complaints as Canning – no papers, the wrong papers, or late deliveries.

“They’ve gone from local delivery services, who knew every street in the town, and knew everybody and what paper they had, to these centralised models where you’ve got people coming up from the northern suburbs of Melbourne, who’ve probably never travelled past Craigieburn in their life.”

Previously, a network of suburban newsagents and eight-to-10 larger local distributors were responsible for receiving and distributing papers. Last June, following a review, News Corp surprised news agents – who had been anticipating deliveries would be contracted to at least half a dozen operators – when it announced that whole enterprise would become the responsibility of a single contractor, National Distribution Services. The transition began in February and was expected to be completed in June.

News Corp and Nine both said the decision to consolidate delivery was prompted by newsagents handing back their delivery zones. It also reflected the continued shift to readers consuming online news and away from print over more than a decade. Print readership for The Age and the Herald Sun fell another 3.9 and 7.2 per cent respectively over the last year, according to Roy Morgan.

As the delivery changes rolled out in March, with many subscribers complaining of missing or late papers, Nine’s managing director of publishing James Chessell told The Citizen the “printed Age remains a critical part of the masthead. We will continue to print The Age for many years to come, and the consolidation of printing and distribution makes that easier”. But months into the new arrangements, that’s likely cold comfort to many unhappy subscribers.

When media entrepreneur and commentator Stephen Mayne tweeted on May 11 about the late delivery of newspapers to Melbourne Airport, he kicked off a slew of similar reports as others relayed their own experiences of missed, late or misplaced newspaper deliveries, calling the situation “a shambles”, “diabolical” and a “mess”.


A message to Age readers on April 2, 2022. Photo: Petra Stock

A number of subscribers told The Citizen they have not received newspapers for weeks, in some cases months. Or, their papers are delivered late, on the road, in the gutter, or up the street. For some, papers began to turn up only after numerous complaints and having their case escalated.

Nine and News both declined to respond to questions about what steps they had taken to resolve the problems. Chessell responded by email saying Nine’s position hasn’t changed significantly. News Corp and National Distribution Services did not respond to requests for comment.

“The most senior people at the highest levels are spending an awful lot of time and energy trying to fix this as soon as we can,” Alcorn emphasised in an April 5 interview with ABC Melbourne. In that interview she acknowledged The Age had received a huge number of complaints from subscribers who’d “had a gutful”. But Alcorn was confident the contributing factors of printing problems, recruiting drivers in a tight labour market, and new drivers settling into their routes would be “a fairly short term thing”.

Drivers are recruited for National Distribution Services by its agent OnDeck Resources which advertises the two to three hour shifts starting at 3am as earning $100 to $150 a day.

Seven-day subscriber to The Age, Peter Pidgeon, is one of those rusted-on print readers who is yet to see any improvement in deliveries.

Pidgeon lives in Eltham in Melbourne’s northeast and had been getting a paper delivered daily for more than three decades. Under the previous system the newsagent would deliver the daily papers “between 5:30 and 6[am], regular as clockwork”, he says.

In May, he received a newspaper on just three days. The few times the paper arrived, it was delivered late, between 8:15 and 11:30am.

A number of subscribers told The Citizen they have not received newspapers for weeks, in some cases months. Or, their papers are delivered late, on the road, in the gutter, or up the street. Photo: Petra Stock.

Pidgeon keeps a spreadsheet of delivery issues and reports them to Nine’s customer service. Customer service representatives have told him the issues with newspaper delivery have “been escalated to senior management and they’re working really hard at it”. In the meantime, The Age keeps extending his subscription.

He has however removed his credit card from automatic re-billing and has considered complaining to Consumer Affairs Victoria.

When contacted by The Citizen, Consumer Affairs Victoria responded by referring to the complaints process on its website – Products missing or damaged in transit  –  noting “if the seller claims to have posted the product, they are responsible for resolving any issues with Australia Post or the courier company used to deliver the product”.

Pidgeon says what he can’t understand is why the two main media organisations in this country – Nine and News Corp – would contract out delivery of their printed product to an organisation that doesn’t seem capable of providing the service.

“Look, I don’t really want to cancel, I want the newspaper”, he says, still holding out hope even though the delivery issues have been going on for weeks now and there’s little sign of a newspaper ever turning up.