All newspapers are struggling to find the right new pricing model as readers flock to the internet, where ad revenue is far less than that of print editions. Now the craziest idea appears from The Newport Daily News of Rhode Island. The Daily News has announced it will charge $145 a year for a print subscription, $245 a year if you want both print and access to their web site, and $345 a year if you want just the web site.
Um. That’s right. You pay a $100 penalty if you want to read Newport news only on the web. Jim Brady, former executive editor of the WashingtonPost.com, says the model reeks of desperation:
“Newport’s strategy suggests it believes it can drive people away from its own web site and back to the newspaper. And maybe it can — for a few years. But as future generations continue to abandon print, this strategy will reveal itself to be short-sighted. By penalizing people who only want to use the paper’s web site, the Daily News is likely guaranteeing itself future irrelevancy.”
We respect the challenge, because even the big boys are in trouble. Back in January Michael Hirschorn wrote in The Atlantic that The New York Times, $1 billion in debt with only $46 million in cash reserves, still had no pricing strategy to deal with consumers rushing online. About 1 million people read the Times print edition each day vs. 20 million online — yet the print version generates the lion’s share of revenues, and if the paper stuff were shut down, web revenue would support only 20% of the current Times staff. NYT has toyed with charging online subscriptions to backfill the holes in online revenue, but keeps backing away, fearful that its web readers might do the same.
Good luck, Newport. But rest assured, we won’t be reading you online.