Fun With Numbers: New York Times Digital Subscriptions Edition


We run the numbers so you don’t have.  There are four new options:



Rate (every four weeks)

Free 20 free articles a month plus unlimited access to the home page, section fronts, blog fronts and classified.  Plus free access via search engines, the Facebook and Twitter. $0
+ Smartphone app
Unlimited access to and the NYTimes smartphone app. $15
+ Tablet app
Unlimited access to and the NYTimes tablet app. $20
All Digital Access Unlimited access to and the NYTimes tablet and smartphone apps. $35

Where this gets interesting is when you compare these plans to the physical paper subscription plans which all come with the equivalent of the All Digital Access plan.




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Annual Cost Articles/ Month

Smartphone App Access

Tablet App Access

NYT Editorial Page Guilt **

Free $0 20 * None None Low
+ Smartphone app
$ 195 Unlimited Unlimited None Low
+ Tablet app
$ 260 Unlimited None Unlimited Low
Weekday Only Subscription $ 384.80 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited High
Sunday Only Subscription $ 390 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited High
All Digital Access $ 455 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited Low
Weekender Subscription $ 540.80 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited High
Daily Subscription $ 769.60 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited High

Net, keep the Weekday or Sunday-Only mountain of ink-smudged paper if you are living la vida multi-device.  I had really hoped to get rid of the newsprint altogether but I shouldn’t be paying more for near zero marginal cost product.

* How long before there is a GreaseMonkey script that adds a Twitter or Facebook referrer to every link on and everything is free again?

** The physical paper of course entails the wholesale pulping of forests, vast carbon emissions for home delivery, “paperboys” with inadequate health care insurance, overflowing land fills and customers with inky fingers.  I look forward to the editorial page thundering in dismay at the shortsightedness of this lamentable capitalist organization.

Circling the Drain – Maybe the Government Can Help?

Policymakers have woken up to the plight of the newspapers and are on the problem:

Post Post-Intelligencer

The newsprint carcass of the Seattle PI isn’t even cold yet and we’re already learning new (and perhaps revisionist) things about the departed:

The two best print newspapers in the United States – the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Christian Science Monitor – have just died.

How typical of us not to appreciate what we have until it is gone.

The author then goes on to suggest France as a model for saving newspapers where they are inculcating a (state-subsidized) love for newsprint amongst teenagers.  (Hat tip to John who monitors cutting edge European policy innovations for Platformomics).

image Senator Blowhard to the Rescue

Evidently the newspapers’ problem isn’t a demand issue like declining readership, they are just taxed too much:

With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

Easy to offer tax breaks to money-losing entities that don’t pay taxes…

If governments really want to help newspapers, banning the Internet seems like a better way to address the root cause.  Still waiting for a flat-out, cold-hard-cash newspaper bailout, but it can’t be that far off.

Circling the Drain – More Time for the Times (of New York)

Slim is in for newspapers.  Not only is the Times (of Seattle) getting slimmer and slimmer, but the Times (of New York) is getting slim too with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.  Silicon Alley Insider reports:

Carlos Slim has loaned the New York Times (NYT) $250 million. This further lessens the immediate cash crisis and should give the company another year or so of breathing room. As we expected, however, the money was breathtakingly expensive.

The reckoning in May has been put off, but at significant cost:

We estimate that the New York Times Company will need about $200 million of cash this year and about $500 million in each of the next two years. Slim’s money, combined with some of the company’s other recent cash-raising initiatives, should get it deep into 2010.

This money will not, however, solve the company’s long-term viability problem. It will also not allow the company to turn cash-flow positive anytime soon: On the contrary, the additional interest load combined with the ongoing deterioration of the business will increase the amount of cash the company burns each year.

Circling the Drain – “End Times” in May?

The Atlantic asks “can America’s paper of record survive the death of newsprint?” (hat tip to Steve):

Virtually all the predictions about the death of old media have assumed a comfortingly long time frame for the end of print the moment when, amid a panoply of flashing lights, press conferences, and elegiac reminiscences, the newspaper presses stop rolling and news goes entirely digital. Most of these scenarios assume a gradual crossing-over, almost like the migration of dunes, as behaviors change, paradigms shift, and the digital future heaves fully into view. The thinking goes that the existing brands — The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal — will be the ones making that transition, challenged but still dominant as sources of original reporting.

But what if the old media dies much more quickly? What if a hurricane comes along and obliterates the dunes entirely? Specifically, what if The New York Times goes out of business — like, this May?

UPDATE: NYT response to the Atlantic piece and commentary from Henry Blodget. 

Circling the Drain – The End Game Begins

So the rumor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer being up for sale was true.  I expect Seattle’s days as a two newspaper city are numbered (and n is <= 60).

My assumption is the sales process is window-dressing by Hearst, who own the P-I.  They don’t expect any bidders because of the terrible economic climate and the even worse prospects for newspapers.  The one possible exception is the Seattle Times, their partner in the incestuous Joint Operating Agreement between the two papers.  It may be that under the JOA, Hearst’s best strategy is to shutter the P-I in name or in practice and then collect a chunk of the Times’ revenue.  Why go to the expense and trouble of printing a paper if you don’t have to?

The Times oversees all non-news aspects of publishing the P-I, including printing and delivery, under the agreement. The two papers share production and business costs, and divide the remaining revenues according to a formula that gives 60 percent to the Times and 40 percent to the P-I.

Depending on the terms, the Times will have to look at whether it is cheaper to buy out the P-I themselves or potentially pay Hearst a significant share of their (declining) revenues going forward.  Any other bidder would be competing against this analysis as well.

The terms of the Joint Operating Agreement are of course secret (transparency is often a “do as I say, not as I do” kind of thing) so we don’t know what the actual revenue and/or profit sharing terms are or whether they survive if the P-I ceases operating (or just becomes a far smaller, web-only operation).  They did announce in 2003 that the P-I gave up its claim to the Times’ future profits if the P-I were to close (imagine how different their aspirations were when those terms were originally negotiated):

The JOA agreement falls under the Newspaper Preservation Act, a federal law passed in 1970 intended to preserve newspaper competition. But the marriage between the P-I and the Times has been rocky. In 2003, The Times sought to dissolve the agreement, saying it was losing money. After a contentious legal battle, the Times backed down from the divorce.

In a settlement, the Times agreed to take no action to end the JOA until at least 2016. Meanwhile, Hearst gave up its right to receive 32 percent of the Times’ profits if the P-I were to close. In exchange, the Times paid Hearst $24 million.

It looks like Hearst may have a special card here in which case the Times has an economic boat anchor of General Motors proportions attached to its already challenged business model. The best indicator of whether Hearst has that card is if the Times makes a bid for the P-I (and their share of the JOA in particular) in early March.

I bet the TechFlash guys, no matter what challenges they face doing a startup in the current climate, feel better about their decision to leave the P-I and try to build something new.

Circling the Drain – The End Game Commences?

The future of one of Seattle’s two daily newspapers was called into question Thursday by a TV station report, although top leaders at both papers appeared surprised by it.

KING/5 reported at 5 p.m. that “a source close to the deal” said The Hearst Corp., owner of the Seattle P-I, would announce as soon as Friday that it’s putting the P-I up for sale.

Report of possible P-I sale surprises papers’ leaders

Circling the Drain – Part 5

The newspaper industry continues to draw its bloodbath.  It is ugly and unfortunately will get uglier.

New York Times BuildingThe New York Times is trying to borrow against its swanky, new building to ease what the Times itself calls “a potential cash flow squeeze as the company grapples with tighter credit and shrinking profits.”  Silicon Alley Insider continues to provide updates on the Times’ predicament.  Meanwhile, the (Chicago and Los Angeles, amongst other cities) Tribune Company files for bankruptcy.


Seattle Times BuildingThe incredible shrinking Seattle Times (down to three sections as of today in an unabashed effort to reduce their two biggest expenses: “staff and newsprint”) is also trying to unload real estate as well amongst other cost-cutting measures.  I have to say the New York Times’ building is the swankier.

How long before the stewards of the op-ed pages, having loyally supported bailouts for other industries, call for their own bailout?  Surely the basic American tradition of a free press (insert obligatory Benjamin Franklin sidebar here) must be preserved.  Following the footsteps of the auto industry, they can put a veneer of eco-spin on it and claim they only need transitory government support to make the shift to a tree-friendly, digital-only product.  A government-appointed “news czar”, with the help of various House and Senate reelection committees, can no doubt clear up any unresolved issues with the newspaper industry’s business model.  And who could resist the sight of newspaper executives making their way to our nation’s capital, not in private jets, but on foot and by bicycle, like the humble paperboys who embody the work ethic and dedication to local community of the newspaper industry they are trying to save.  [If your industry needs help framing its bailout case, I am available for consultation].