Thursday, March 17, 2011

NY Times introduces digital subscriptions

Email went out today to registered users from the New York Times announcing its introduction of digital subscriptions. The program was rolled out today in Canada for a shakedown trial; the rest of the world, including the United States, enter the brave new world on 28 March 2011.

The Web site will continue to offer up to twenty articles per month free to everyone; a subscription will be required to access more than that. There are more caveats, generally in the reader's favor, about readers who follow links from Facebook, Google, or certain other sites.

There are three pricing tiers, all of which include full Web access from any device:
  • iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphone app access: $15 for 4 weeks
  • iPad and Times Reader 2.0 access: $20 for 4 weeks
  • All of the above: $35 for 4 weeks
It's telling that these tiers all assume some kind of dedicated-app access. I would seem to be out of the mainstream in not using a smartphone or iPad app to read the paper. (Out of the mainstream -- who would have guessed?)

Existing Times subscribers and registered users on nytimes.com will be eligible for an as-yet unspecified special offer; details on that offer (or those offers) will be available on 28 March.

More information is available at nytimes.com/access. The Times's own article on the subject contains more detailed information and context.

When the Times introduced its "premium access" tier a decade or so ago, I was still hooked on the idea that I should not pay for Web content. Too, the premium content I could no longer access seemed to be mainly op-ed pieces and so wasn't that compelling to me.

Today? The world has changed somewhat, and so have I. We have far fewer well-curated and well-edited sources of information. I've come to accept that somebody has to pay for the hardworking people who bring us good information, properly contextualized.

The minimum announced price works out to around $200 a year (assuming a 52-week year). That at first blush sounded steep to me, but consider that the paper's newsstand price is $2 and the home-delivery price for my part of California is $14.80 a week (after a 6-month teaser rate of $7.40 a week).

Though my own finances are rocky right now, as I consider my monthly subscriptions, the paper is a serious contender, while cable TV, for instance, is less and less compelling.

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that subscribers to the print edition will have unlimited access, as you'd expect. From the FAQ:
Free, unlimited access is provided to all print subscribers, no matter what type of subscription you have (daily, weekday, Weekender, etc.).

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