Saturday, 19 March 2011

On Digital Subscriptions

For the third (?) time now the New York Times has announced that it is disappearing behind a subscription wall. I wonder how long it will take for others to follow ?

This morning I got the following notice that they're testing it out on Canadians before launching it worldwide !

Dear New York Times Reader,

Today marks a significant transition for The New York Times as we introduce digital subscriptions. It’s an important step that we hope you will see as an investment in The Times, one that will strengthen our ability to provide high-quality journalism to readers around the world and on any platform. The change will primarily affect those who are heavy consumers of the content on our Web site and on mobile applications....

Thanks to the success of 'apps', which have shown that people will pay for online content as long as it is called something other than a subscription, a new era of paid online content is coming very soon.

What's innovative about the Times' new approach is that there are three different packages you can choose from versus past attempts when, if I recall correctly, you had be a paid up subscriber at the dead-tree subscription rate to get online access (this was in pre-App days).

Options are:

- NYTimes.com (unltd access) & Smartphone App: $15/ mo.

NYTimes.com (unltd access) & Tablet App: $20/ mo.

- All Access (NYTimes.com and both Apps): $35/ mo.

Oh, and if you want the the paper version ? It's $23.40/ mo delivered in New York and $29.60 delivered in other major U.S. centres (L.A. and Minneapolis, for instance). You get the All Access with that.

It won't be a complete subscription wall. As the notice sent today states:

Readers who come to Times articles through links from search, blogs and social media like Facebook and Twitter will be able to read those articles, even if they have reached their monthly reading limit. For some search engines, users will have a daily limit of free links to Times articles.

The home page at NYTimes.com and all section fronts will remain free to browse for all users at all times.

Around Downtown
Closer to home, the Free Press already advertises different price points. The online version is $12.50/mo and paper-version (delivered) is $23.96/ mo ($26.95 outside of city). Of course with little content behind a subscription wall subscribing online is a bit moot but presumably the day will come ....

On the magazine front, most major Canadian magazine titles have jumped on the zinio bandwagon for their e-versions.

What seems a bit counter intuitive is that with many titles, The Walrus and Winnipeg-produced Canada's History (formerly The Beaver, snicker, snicker) for example, the subscription price of $29.95 per year is the same for either the paper or e-zine version.

Others do differentiate between the two. For instance (annual rates):

- Toronto Life: $24.95 in paper; $15.95 for the e-zine.

- The Hockey News $52.95 in paper; $39.95 for the e-zine.

- Reader's Digest Canada (which is Canada's top selling mag) is $24.95 and $20.00.

For an international magazine like Esquire, paper subscriptions via Rogers are $13.75 and the e-zine through zinio is $8.

NYT unveils pay wall: Canada first The Globe and Mail
The Grey Lady builds a paywall The Economist
NYT's paywall will 'absolutely work' The Atlantic


The View from Seven said...

The Economist, which now only appears to apply its subscription wall to archived content, noted this week that the NYT has constructed a "a rather low, permeable paywall" that would allow content to continue to be shared through blogs and Facebook. Thus, they seem to be targeting direct users of their web site as opposed to those for whom the source of the information doesn't matter.

Toronto Life seems to have a similar setup. Browse their site directly, and some of the articles you might be interested in don't seem to be available to the general public. Do a Google search for that article, however, and sometimes you'll be ushered right around the wall.

Fat Arse said...

I am distraught that the NYT has opted for this "pay-wall" scheme - I blew my 20 article limit in the first 24 hours! Now, I have to seek out NYT links from other sites to gain access! ... I am truly bummed over this development. AND because I refuse to subscribe - I guess it is my own fault. But it sure is a bummer!

mrchristian said...

Yeah, it is a bummer. As the Times goes I would imagine the other big papers will follow.

One Man Committee said...

I think a fee to access sites like the NYT is reasonable (whether or not I'll actually pony up is another question), but I find it irritating when publications offer no discount or a marginal discount on an e-subscription versus a dead-tree edition.

I realize that there is some overhead involved with the e-edition (server space, bandwidth, etc.) but surely that can't be anywhere near the cost of printing and mailing? If there are savings to be had, they should at least be partly passed on to the subscriber.

On a totally unrelated note, if you could get the NYT paper edition delivered to your door in time for breakfast for $30 a month (as in Minneapolis), I'd cancel the Free Press in a heartbeat and go with the Times instead.

mrchristian said...

Ha ! Someone created a way around the wall already !