Business Models

by Marcus Carab


Filed Under:
business models, paywall, print

Companies:
ny times



Is The NYT Paywall Just A Ploy To Sell More Print Subscriptions?

from the or-are-they-just-crazy dept

There are so many strange and problematic aspects of the New York Times' ersatz paywall plan that sometimes the big and obvious one doesn't get discussed enough: it's really really expensive. A year of full access on all devices comes out to $455 (or $421 if you count their paltry four-week introductory discount). That's more than the Wall Street Journal - way more. In fact it's more than a lot of things, as this chart by Michael DeGusta illustrates nicely:

But it gets even crazier when you compare that price tag to a New York Times print subscription. A year of weekday home delivery only costs $285 the first year, and $322 after that (with some variation by location). That's right: over $100 cheaper than a digital subscription - and a print subscription includes full digital access. Perhaps one of the economists who writes for the New York Times can correct me on this, but that doesn't make any goddamn sense. If you're going to charge $455 a year for a website, you better not tell me I can get the same thing plus a few hundred pounds of free kindling for two-thirds that. If I pay you $150, will you also mow my lawn?

I can think of only two explanations for this. One is that I am severely misinformed about the nature of the internet, and websites are in fact delivered to my computer by truck while system administrators dump barrels of ink in the sewer. The other is that, in the long run, the paywall is just a giant ploy to get their print subscriber numbers up. Some believe that the print prices are purposely obfuscated, but I think this is a temporary situation. I predict two things will happen before the year is out: readers who hit the paywall will start being greeted with home delivery offers alongside the digital packages, and digital subscribers will begin to receive offers to "add on" a print subscription at no "extra" charge.

If I'm right about the New York Times' motives, I'll be pretty disappointed. Their strategy is so confusing that everyone is having a hard time figuring out exactly what they hope to accomplish, but at least it seemed to be an acknowledgement that the economics of news distribution have changed (even if they reacted in an entirely backwards fashion). Now it is beginning to seem like nothing more than an attempt to prop up the same legacy model that has been holding them back this entire time.


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  1. identicon
    bob, 31 Mar 2011 @ 12:20pm

    Re: Re: having reporters in libya is a scarce commodity

    This is an old myth that is often true for some publications at some times, but it's one that's not really true any longer for publications for the NYT. They charge $2 a copy for the daily paper because that's what it costs to produce. Advertising pays a smaller fraction than ever.

    But you're right that it is part of the equation. The only problem is that it's just not working. The advertisers want eyeballs and they won't pay enough of a premium to be next to expensive content in the NY Times. It's just as easy to buy an ad at BoingBoing who will push the edge of fair use and deliver the same eyeballs. And BoingBOing isn't even the real competition. User generated content like Facebook is even cheaper to generate and so the advertisers will flock there.

    If we're going to have professional content, we're going to need to pay for it and it's increasingly clear that advertising will only pay for the cheapest content of interest to the widest possible audience. Think TMZ not sending reporters to Libya.

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