My mailbox has been peppered recently with offers to subscribe to the Boston Globe. The latest round offered what it called a “revolutionary” price. I’m pretty addicted to news, and anxious that good reporting could go the way of the sets of encyclopedias that people my age grew up with, so I decided to check out the Globe’s offer.
The large print made it seem simple. 99 cents per week for 16 weeks.
So far so good.
That would be just under $16 for four months of the Boston Globe. If extended through the full year, it would be about $50. A bargain.
But there was a bit of fine print down at the bottom of the ad.
The first sticker shock. After the 16 weeks, you agree to pay $3.99 per week for the rest of the initial year of your subscription. You can cancel, but if you don’t, the $3.99 a week goes on your bill.
Okay, that’s a lot. At $3.99 a week, a full year would add up to $207.48. Pricey, but perhaps justifiable. By comparison, the New York Times has a promotional offer of $.99 for four weeks, jumping to $3.75 per week after that.
But the Boston Globe had another bit of fine print.
Yup, that’s the bottom line hidden down in the fine print.
At $6.93 per week, the Boston Globe is going to end up costing you $30 per month, or $360 for a full year. And that’s without getting a physical, printed newspaper.
Now you’re talking real money. That’s nearly double the cost of a digital subscription to the NY Times.
The subscription prices were raised to this level in mid-2015.
Yes, I understand that the Globe is really a regional newspaper. It’s not the NY Times.
But according to a November 2015 article from NiemanLab.com, the Globe’s pricing is working.
The Globe’s analytics tell it that once digital-only readers reach the 13th month of subscription, they’re unlikely to cancel. It’s at that golden point that they see the price increase to 99 cents a day. New subscribers pay 99 cents for the first month. Then, in their first year, the price goes to $3.99 per week, or $15.96 every four weeks. At that thirteen-month point, it’s 99 cents a day.
The Globe has largely moved through a year of that pricing, and is encouraged by the results. “We have migrated the entire base of subscribers that have previously reached their one-year anniversary,” Doucette says. “We are now in the phase of graduating subscribers as they reach their one-year anniversary, and we manage these cohorts on a weekly basis.
“We do see a slightly higher churn rate for subscribers paying 99 cents a day, but only nominally so.” Doucette doesn’t specify a churn — or cancellation — rate, but we can figure it’s in the 5-percent-plus range.
If churn doesn’t go up much when you nearly double the price, what do we make of that? The experience confirms the highly aggressive print pricing publishers have put into place in the last four years: Highly engaged readers will pay more for a good news product than we had ever guessed.
I’m just not convinced, although most of us routinely pay more than $30 a month for cell phone service, and for broadband connectivity at home, and probably for digital entertainment as well.
And if you only read one newspaper, perhaps $30 a month isn’t too much. But for the Boston Globe’s national audience of readers who don’t live anywhere near the Boston area and who want to add the Globe to what they’re already reading for local and national news, the dollar-a-day price point doesn’t make sense. At least it doesn’t make sense to me, and I’m probably more willing than most to pay for professionally produced news.
I still don’t know what the answer is, or what a reasonable overall news budget would be for the average news junkie (presumably more than the average newspaper reader, and far more than the average person).
Any thoughts? In this digital age, how much should we realistically set aside to get professionally produced news from experienced journalists? When all your sources are added up, what do you spend?