Business Models

by Marcus Carab

Filed Under:
business models, paywall, print

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 @ 12:57pm

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

    You make raising prices sound like it won't work. Many of the comments about the NYT sound strangely like the naysayers who condemned cable TV because people would never pay for what they're getting for free over the air.

    Selling a premium product at a premium price is a valid business model that works in almost every business. The tricky part is figuring out how much more people are willing to pay for how much perceived quality.

    And finally, if you're going to quote me at least quote the entire sentence. I explicitly included the possibility that free sources like TMZ or your daily rag will continue to exist. But the proportion of ads to content will be maddeningly high.

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