When The New York Times announced its new subscriptions for nytimes.com last Thrursday I wasn't that shocked. The Times had mentioned a suscription service would be coming sometime in 2011 last year and most newspapers have been fumbling with similar ideas lately to stop the ad-revenue suck caused by the Internet. On the other hand, when I sat down and looked over the pricing my calm understanding faded, as the tweet below illustrates. (Which nobody from class commented on, leading me to believe that either no one reads my tweets for this class or you all thought it was best to leave the crazy guy alone.)
“Why should we make it affordable? Poor people can’t read.” #nytimes #umdiic
As we all well know, the Internet has effectively destroyed traditional media’s business model. Facing decreased demand for the more traditional formats newspapers, magazines, television news stations, etc. introduced online, digital versions of their product. Save for a couple outliers, most media companies made this new content available to its audience for no charge and slowly began tapping digital advertising to financially support it. And this worked, for a while. But as the market became saturated advertising rates dropped, as did demand for traditional media. This has left companies that invest significantly in the creation of news and content struggling to pay the bills and keep shareholders happy.
This brings us to the introduction of The New York Times digital subscriptions (and the subsequent announcement of the “digital dailies from Wall Street Journal now being sold for $1.99”). The first of many experiments in paid digital content we will be witness to. Indefinitely.
My initial thoughts? I’m not a fan. No, I’m not of the mind that all information should be free. Information – especially the enormous amounts available today – needs mediation as Sarah Ellison noted in the Vanity Fair article and I tend to agree. Furthermore those mediators should be paid for their work. My complaint with the NY Times subscriptions is not their utter existence but their insane cost. The lowest priced subscription, at $15 every 4 weeks or $192 a year, is fairly reasonable. Let’s just hope I never want to read the paper on my computer and on my phone and on my iPad all in the same month. If I did I would find myself shelling out $455 a year for the privilege. Compared to the other media and services I already consume online, many of which are featured on the chart at the beginning of this post, this price is ridiculous.
I can only assume that these rates were seen as the “best case scenario”. Likely agreed upon under the assumption that if there was excessive backlash it would be easier to calm readers with price cuts than it would be to increase prices, and thus revenues, if the new subscriptions were wildly popular.
As for me? I will not be subscribing, preferring instead to scan the print edition at the coffee shop in the morning and read an article online only when it really grabs me all the while crossing my fingers that I don’t hit that magic number of 20.