So how much have you spent on your Thanksgiving feast this year (assuming you’re done with your shopping – and doing your own cooking)? A few recent surveys say one key component of the holiday celebration costs less this year. But if you plan to spend part of your day poring over the local newspaper for Black Friday deals, your Thanksgiving celebration could be costing you a lot more.

First, let’s talk turkey. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual price survey of the average cost of a Thanksgiving feast for ten, was up just slightly this year – 37 cents more than last year – but still a bargain at $49.41. The typical turkey itself, however, is 11 cents cheaper.

Another recent survey, by the Private Label Manufacturers Association, found that you can buy store brands for your Thanksgiving feast for 33% less than you would spend on name brand equivalents. And then there’s Walmart, which says you can save 34% just by shopping with them – that $49.41 meal costs just $32.64 at Walmart, they say.

That’s nice of them, considering you can spend some of your savings on the ads that Walmart and others will be offering in your Thanksgiving Day newspaper.

For many newspapers, the coupon- and circular-stuffed Thanksgiving edition has become the biggest of the year – Sundays included. That’s prompted many papers to charge Sunday prices on the newsstand. But now, more papers are charging their subscribers Sunday prices as well – many of them, sneakily.

Big-city papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit Free Press, and smaller publications like Greensboro, North Carolina’s News & Record, are among those announcing this year that they’ll be charging subscribers more for their Thanksgiving editions. Unlike the Sunday papers, there’s not actually more news in the Thanksgiving editions – just more ads.


So you’re essentially paying for the privilege of receiving a ton of retail advertisements. Newspapers don’t want you to buy coupons, but it seems they’ll happily charge you more for a bunch of department store sale circulars.

This has been a trend for the past several years, so it’s not a new development. Nowadays, though, papers are able to do it much more surreptitiously, thanks to automatic payments. Subscribers are notified – but many probably don’t even notice – that they end up paying more, and that they might have an extra newspaper or two knocked off the end of their subscription period to make up for the increased Thanksgiving edition cost.

Newspapers say it’s because the Thanksgiving paper is the costliest edition to produce, and the most challenging to deliver, given its sheer heft and the fact that carriers have to work on a holiday. Though most don’t say so publicly, publishers privately admit that, let’s face it, ads are content for many readers. So even if the news sections are a little thin, the papers are still packed full of value for subscribers. An editorial in today’s Montgomery (Alabama) Advertiser says tomorrow’s ad-stuffed edition “is a big paper, with lots of advertising that reflects our region’s strong retail market and an improving economy.” Furthermore, the paper says, it shows “a belief in newspapers, in print media as both an advertising vehicle and as a provider of content that people want to read.”

Oh, and did they mention that subscribers are being charged Sunday prices for it?

Maybe it’s worth it to many readers, but it does make you wonder – don’t newspapers get paid to include those ads? Should they really be squeezing more money out of their dwindling subscriber base, for an edition they’re already making a bundle on?

Plus, considering this Sunday’s edition will have just one coupon insert, and there are times when the paper has no coupons at all, shouldn’t the publishers that charge you more for Black Friday ads, charge you less when they have no special ads or coupons to offer?

Something to consider, when you renew your newspaper subscription, and prepare to shop the Black Friday sales this year. Unless you really want to save – and then you might just want to skip them both.

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