Archive for March 17th, 2011

NY Times’ subscription model

Today, NYTimes unveiled a new subscription and pricing model. A pretty convoluted one, too. Like Havoc wrote:

* con­tent + phone app = 15
* con­tent + tablet app = 20
* con­tent + both apps = 35
* con­tent + dead trees = 30-ish
[or $72]

In my opinion, this model will fail, and then NYTimes will join MPAA and RIAA to whine back at us about copyright infringement. The truth is that I, and most people, would never pay a minimum of $15 per month for news that I can get elsewhere.

To me, the only model that works is a $5 digital subscription. Movies cost millions of dollars to make, and Netflix is able to charge just $8. Music subscription is also between $5 and $10 for a 15 million songs catalog (RDIO/MOG/Spotify). So I don’t see how NY Times can charge that much for content that can also be found elsewhere in one form or another (even if with diminishing journalism compared to NYTimes’ high standards). So far, all-you-can-eat subscription is the only model that has worked for me in my experimentation with multiple ways for getting my entertainment.

I would personally seriously consider a $5 news subscription with them, if they had support for up to 5 devices per household that they offer an ad-free client for (e.g. smart mobile, tablets, whatever), plus unlimited web browsing (with ads). Also, no reason for 20 free articles per month as they currently offer, it’d be fair to bring that number down to 5 on a $5 subscription. See, the people who truly need NYTimes’ news will buy a subscription no matter the price, but the ones that are on the fence, can get by with 20 free articles a month, so you don’t want to give these for free.

5 is the magic number: $5 subscription, 5 registered devices (+browser), 5 free articles.

I believe the underlying reason for their shortsighted decision, a reason they would never admit not even amongst themselves, is that they suffer from the same illness that their counterpart execs at MPAA/RIAA do: they don’t want to lose the “old way of doing business”. They are afraid that if they give a cheap digital subscription, no one would ever buy their paper version. Within a few months, or 1-2 years, that would mean the end of the way they do finances, or the way some old laws might now be protecting them compared to digital news outlets, their contracts with their pressers etc. I guess nobody wants to be “the CEO that killed NYTimes” (as some misguided people would undoubtedly see this), so they try to devise unnatural and artificial pricing schemes like this one today, to try to delay what’s inevitable: going fully digital.

Dear CEO of NYTimes, get a grip. Take hold of the company and move it to the 21st Century. Fix your mobile apps to be truly bad-ass, modern, and innovative, rather than simple “header_link -> article” paper-version-style stories! If the market demands to go digital, because the low pricing (compared to entertainment equivalents) makes more sense to your consumers in this medium, then do so. What’s the hold up?

In the meantime, Al Jazeera is gaining lots of new readers/viewers online daily, becoming more and more THE place to go and read stuff, while it’s the FIRST major TV channel to provide worldwide streaming without a per-country-IP-address blocking. That’s right folks, your competition now is Al Jazeera, not Washington Post.