Last Sunday was the special ‘Arts & Leisure Fall Preview’ edition of the ‘New York Times.’ Despite reading all of my favorite newspapers and magazines online, I make an exception with the ‘Fall Preview’ to see the corresponding ads for the season’s new films, exhibits, concerts and books.
I was surprised when I received no change after handing over a five-dollar bill to the checkout clerk. She repeated the price out loud as if to say “What idiot spends this kind of money on a newspaper?” Walking out to my car, with the newsprint ink already staining my fingertips, I wondered if I should have paid for what I have been getting for free.
Driving home, l thought of all the magazines and newspapers that I once, but no longer pay for, because of free online content. With the surplus of free online content, major brands like the ‘New York Times’ are at a quandary on whether they can turn premium content into a feasible business model. They need to show confidence in the quality of their content, reporting and writing as it all develops into new digital distribution platforms.
A step in that direction is their decision to charge a five dollar monthly subscription rate. I feel that the fee is well thought out — one week’s worth of digital news content for the same price as their Sunday print edition. It’s very likely that the ‘Times’ will give subscribers archive access, as well.
The premium versions of ‘The Wall Street Journal’ and ‘The Economist’ make money for their publishers and Rupert Murdoch has already stated that he’s tired of free content and will even begin charging for the mobile edition of the ‘Journal.’ Despite the enormous brand value of the traditional version of the ‘New York Times,’ the large selection of free online news content could very well affect its’digital profits.
As for me, there will still be occasions when I buy a print newspaper for the convenience, layout and advertising that a computer screen cannot provide. But I will never miss that Sunday ink on my fingers.