New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

Summary: The New York Times launched its long-awaited digital subscription plan and access for all platforms---smartphones, tablets and Web---can be pricey at $35 a month, but the model may just work out.

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The New York Times on Thursday launched its long-awaited digital subscription plan and access for all platforms---smartphones, tablets and Web---can be pricey at $35 a month, but the model may just work out.

This digital subscription plan aims to thread a lot of needles. For starters, the Times doesn't want to nuke its Web traffic. As a result, everyone gets 20 pieces of content before a subscription is needed.

Once you hit that cap things can get complicated in a hurry (statement, Times' letter to readers):

  • For Web access and the smartphone app it's $15 every 4 weeks, or $195 a year.
  • For Web access and a tablet app, it's $20 every 4 weeks, or $260 a year.
  • For access to all digital content---tablet, smartphone and Web---it's $35 every 4 weeks, or $455 a year.
  • And the Times is supporting in-app purchase on Apple's App Store.

As I noted in my Kindle Single on the business of media, 2011 is going to be an interesting year for digital subscriptions. One of my biggest beefs is that publishers are charging per distribution channel. The Wall Street Journal is the worst offender here. You get charged for a tablet app, Kindle access and Web access. I argued for a content license across all platforms.

The good news is that the Times takes care of that problem---almost. E-reader access is still a separate subscription. Access to mostly all digital content (Web and apps) is $35 a month. The big question is whether you think there's value in Times content on all of those platforms. To borrow a phrase from the Neiman Journalism Lab: Do the newsonomics add up for you?

For instance, I don't mind paying for NYTimes.com access, but the app access seems overkill. As browsers improve on tablets and smartphones it's far easier to just go to the site.

Mozilla's Firefox browser on Android really drives this point home for me. You get a full Web experience and my passwords and bookmarks are synched with what I have on my desktop. In other words, I barely miss the app. For many folks, the solution is going to be NYTimes.com on a browser no matter what the device is used.

The other big question is whether people will simply stop consuming content at the 20 story cap. That outcome is a real possibility for many.

When you weigh the pros and cons though the Times subscription model seems fair. Here's a quick scorecard:

Pros of the Times model:

  • There's still free access.
  • There's a plan to cover multiple platforms.
  • Price points seem reasonable.

Cons:

  • It's unclear how much revenue will come. Do you really read more than 20 Times items a month?
  • Times doesn't lump in e-reader access.
  • The all access plan at $35 a month is pricey.

We'll know in July how this adventure turns out. The second quarter reporting season will be the first full quarter when there will be real metrics to judge the subscription plan.

Topics: Tablets, Browser, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, Smartphones

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26 comments
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  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    As usual, it's too much money. Sure there are people that can afford this - but many people read articles all across the internet. If I had to pay $35 a month for 4-6 different papers, I would not do it. So the times cuts off it's readers at 20 articles. Why not have a stepped subscription at a lower cost? People do not read the whole paper (only one paper) anymore, so their old subscription fees just do not work. They don't have a captive audience anymore. They really need to acknowledge it. I pay for Salon and weather.com because they cost a reasonable amount and if I don't use them, it's not the end of the world. NYT should pay attention. If it was $50-75 a year, more would subscribe.
    miranda97415
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    The NY Times has lost all credibility, they are the new "Pravda".
    wkulecz
  • Clear your cache, change your IP

    "As a result, everyone gets 20 pieces of content before a subscription is needed"

    And what technology are they using to determine this? There is no way to really do this accurately. Yeah, you can track IPs but IPs change passively and can be actively changed too. You can cookie the user's browser but that is easy enough to clear. I guess they expect enough people will be willing to pay and not willing to just circumvent these tracking technogies. I am guessing they are as wrong as their editorial staff.
    goingbust
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    Charging smartphones and tablets separately, rather than offering smartphone "free" when bundled with tablet access seems to be a good reason to just uninstall my NYT iPad app (after down-ranking it).
    dougsyo
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    ok the times can come to your door for less than $8/week, that's around $32/month. Now this includes paper, which needs to be printed. Now remove the need for printing and add the obvious advertisements that will still be showing even thou you're paying and what do you get? NYT is screwing anyone who buys any subscription. They're saving a ton of money by not needing to print and still making more money off of the advertisements on the site! I hope this fails so bad, it serves the greedy bastards right.
    KBot
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    Good Bye New York Times.
    What_the
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    Ouch! Bandaids! Sutures! Gauze! Doctor to the nearest device, STAT!<br><br>Why the different price points?<br>It makes more sense for one size fits all. When I used to get the NY Times, I did not really get as much from it as hoped and discontinued. Now they are trying this "electronic subscription" version? <br>Don't think I'll buy in.<br>Later.....<br><img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/sad.gif" alt="sad">
    rhonin
  • Reminds me of the old joke ...

    Two kids are running competing lemonade stands across the street from each other. A man goes up to the first stand that has a sign up reading "25 Cents", but there's a line of people waiting. So he goes to the second stand and asks "How much is a cup of lemonade?" The kid replies: "A hundred bucks." The man is astonished, saying "That's crazy, how can you compete with that price?" "Easy," said the kid, "I only have to sell one cup."
    terry flores
  • NYTimes is Great

    I read it all the time, and currently get their daily "Today's Headlines" in my email. I browse the headlines and click the links to the stories I am interested in. Do I do this more than 20 times a month? Sometimes. I will have to see if I exceed the limit and how often, and then decide if I want to pay their price. Since I don't have any of the current crop of Toy tablets (when a real tablet gets released - that is, one that can replace my laptop, we'll see. ) and I read the AP News on my Windows phone, I would only need the web access.
    jpr75_z
  • Will New Yorkers Pony Up?

    Several of the large, well-known papers like the WaPo and the NYT have become ersatz "national newspapers" because of news aggregation sites that link to them instead of, say, the Buffalo Bugle.

    But that could change fast. Unless one lives in New York, much of the content in the Times is not worth anything like the prices they are asking for here, because the same national news is available all over the web from other sources.

    This could still work. After all, for a century the Times subsisted pretty much on print subscriptions from New Yorkers. If New Yorkers want to fund this, the Times gets to stay in business. Otherwise not.
    Robert Hahn
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    http://in2s.us/1z8
    dfhjtykyk
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    http://in2s.us/1z8
    http://in2s.us/1z8
    dfhjtykyk
  • NYTimes vs Economist

    Is the NY Times REALLY worth much, much more than the Economist? I don't think so. Not only do you get full access to the web site and a physical copy of the magazine, the Economist tosses in another feature at no extra charge -- excellent, professional readers read all of each issue, so you can listen to the best news magazine in the world while in your car or wherever.

    The NY Times is way, way overpriced. I have stopped reading it. I no longer have a NY Times bookmark.
    geneven
    • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

      @geneven

      apples and oranges. The Economist, while a fine read, is a weekly publication.
      trev999
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    In all reality, what should happen is:
    1. Those receiving print subscriptions should get digital subscriptions for free.
    2. Those wanting digital subscriptions should be able to get them at about 1/2 the price of print subscriptions (lower costs)

    Now what about Apple's 30% cut? What you do is charge a price that is 30% higher than you are willing to accept, allow in-app purchases, but provide a promo code that gives a 30% discount. Obviously the only place that the promo code will work is on your website, where Apple can't get it's 30%. This would solve the problem.
    cmwade1977
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    As long as they show ads, I don't believe anyone is going to pay. Who would be foolish enough to pay for ad content?
    bionicbub
  • If they would charge $1 per week, they'd get a lot more &quot;subscribers&quot;

    and would make up the revenue loss through volume.

    Let's see, potentially, 100 million subscribers, at $52 per year, equals $5.2 billion per year.

    With the suggested plan, they'd probably get not much more than a million subscribers. That would be, $35 times 1 million, or $35 million per year. In a hopeful scenario, with 2 million subscribers, they'd get $70 million per year, and with 4 million, they'd get $140 million per year.

    In other words, it ain't gonna happen for the NY Times, especially when they've alienated at least half of the potential readership, that being conservatives/republicans/libertarians.

    The NY times is dead!

    Simple question:

    Would any one subscribe to a service which offered its customers, for $1 per week, access to all or most of the media sources (news, information, opinion, news analysis) available on the internet, including the NY Times, Washington Post, and all other major news sources?
    adornoe
  • 20 links gets 20 winks

    I have cancelled.
    binschiz1
  • Why can't they just have more Ads and keep it free?

    This is nuts!<br><br>I wouldn't pay them a dime.<br>There are so many other news sources.
    However, there is always a sucker so someone will pony up.
    Compumind
  • RE: New York Times launches digital subscriptions: Pros, cons and hurdles

    Up there on my Firefox browser is a "latest headlines" link to the BBC. While I get the NYT daily e-mail, it is BBC I use for real news. Goes back to my nights listening to my shortwave radio. I do miss the sound of Big Ben at the top of the hour.

    Paul
    pfyearwood