Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New York Times Pay Strategy Shouldn't Rest on Backs of Subscribers

Let the Freeloaders Ante Up; Leave the Rest of Us Alone

The New York Times has most of us over a barrel. It knows that for most readers it's a hard habit to break, despite the miscues, cutbacks, and price hikes.
If you pick up the Times every day at the newsstand, that means you're currently shelling out $884 a year for the privilege. It's less if you subscribe, but you're still in for $500 or more, depending on where you live. So, as word comes that the Times could be, possibly, may be moving closer toward a consensus on a pay model for, let's hope loyalty counts for something.
That means not charging subscribers, in other words your most loyal customers, for the privilege of checking articles online or going back into the archives. We already pay enough, far more than subscribers for any other paper. As an example, new subscribers of The Washington Post can sign on for $1.50 a week for 26 weeks. That's less than the $2 newsstand price for the Times -- for one day.
Those of you who would bring up the Wall Street Journal, and its separate charge for the online version should consider this: unlike the Times, the Journal has been aggressive with subscription discounts, as low as $99 a year with online access included. At that price, it's a no-brainer to subscribe. Tacking a charge onto for subscribers: not such a no-brainer.
True, it is the straw that stirs the drink for other newspaper sites. But if you already get the paper it's not so chock full of unique content that it's a must-buy. It's good for emailing articles to other people or catching up on a column you didn't get to read on the train. looks great, it reads nicely, but it's not necessarily a necessity.
That's not the case if you don't get the dead-tree version, and those freeloading folks are the ones who should cough up some dough to keep the Sulzbergers and their bankers happy.
I've done my part.

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