NY Times Execs Think People Will Pay $20 To $30 Per Month For The iPad Edition Of The NY Times

from the let-me-introduce-you-to-newsday dept

Wow. Doesn't the NY Times have some of the world's most famous and accomplished economists writing for them at times? You would think that, at some point, as they tried to figure out business model ideas, they would think to actually run some of these ideas by an economist. We've already explained why the NYT's decision to put up a paywall makes little sense from an economic standpoint, but now it's getting even worse. You see, there are still some folks who bizarrely believe that tablet computers -- or, really, just Apple's iPad -- represent the savior for journalism because suddenly people will pay for apps. Already, this suggests a rather tragic misunderstanding of the economics of apps, but apparently it's even worse than that.

Rumors are flying that there's a battle within the NY Times on how to price their app for the iPad. Those on the newspaper side of the house apparently believe that it should be priced at $20 to $30/month to avoid cannibalizing the print product. By the way, if you want a simple tip for how to fail at business, it's to make a decision to avoid cannibalizing your own business. When you do, you've just made it clear that a competitor is going to cannibalize your business for you. The folks on the interactive side of the house think that $10/month makes a lot more sense and believe that pricing it at the $20 to $30 range is suicidal. Of course, if you thought that the management at the NYT's was really crafty, you might believe that this whole story was floated to reset the anchor price, though I have trouble believing that's true.

The problem, of course, is that the NY Times is pricing based not just on trying not to cannibalize the physical product, but without regards to basic economics, and the fact that everyone knows that without a physical product, the costs of the paper actually go down. Yes, of course the costs of all the reporting and editing remain -- no one is denying that. But you no longer have the printing and delivery costs, which are substantial. And reasonable people would expect that, at the very least, the cost of the app will reflect that. Either that, or (more likely), they'll realize that other, more well managed news providers will step in and offer up news for free in order to get the market share that the NY Times once had.

Oh, and one final word for the NY Times. I recognize that you're a better paper, with a much better reputation, than your neighboring competitor, Newsday, but remember what happened when Newsday tried to charge $20+ per month for access to its digital version? It got a grand total of 35 people to sign up. I'm sure more would sign up for a NY Times' app, but how many more?

Filed Under: ipad, paid content, paywalls, pricing, subscirptions
Companies: ny times

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  1. icon
    Joe (profile), 18 Feb 2010 @ 7:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Why should digital paper costs _have_ to fall?

    You are trying to read too much into my point. _All_ I am saying is that there is no reason why a different delivery mechanism should _have_ to mean a different price. Furthermore it isn't clear that the price should have to fall either.

    You're kind of right, in principle, but I think most people feel that if you're paying additional money for the ability to consume a different medium, that medium's price should reflect a savings to recoup that initial investment. Especially when the new medium is less valuable (in the case of ebooke: can't share it, can't write on it, can't use it without power, etc.).

    And even if you are trying to maximize profits, you need to be able to drop that price to keep up with competition or they'll price you out of business. In the case of this story, I doubt NYT is prepared to keep prices in check...

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