The Greensboro News & Record announced a new digital subscription model that its editor explained in a front page piece of today’s paper. After explaining that all 7-day print subscribers will get digital access for free he described the digital subscription model:
After a special introductory period with rates as low as $9.99 per month, a digital-only subscription will cost slightly more than a seven-day print subscription.
The reason for that variance? A print subscription permits us to subsidize the cost of content by providing access to your home or business for preprinted advertising circulars. A digital-only subscription lacks that advertising subsidy.
Readers who have no subscription may view up to 20 articles or photo galleries every 30 days at no charge. There is no limit on viewing selected content, such as many wire service stories and classified ads.
Here’s the thing: consumers don’t give a sh** why you’re pricing your digital subscription at whatever level it’s priced, they only care that the product is worth the price. What matters to them is whether or not they are getting bang for their buck. Is the content that the N&R is producing worth the price of admission? If so then people will gladly pay it, if not then they’ll find what they need elsewhere or just go without.
I’m willing to bet that part of the thinking is that people will just decide to get the print subscription, and thus opt in to the advertising subsidy, if they price the digital-only higher than the print+ option. That’s logical in a way, but ignores the reality that they have to produce content that’s compelling enough for people to pay for it whether it’s print or digital. They might think they’ve lost a ton of subscribers because those subscribers believe they can get the N&R’s content at the N&R website, but it’s more likely that they lost subscribers because much of the content readers used to get exclusively from the paper – stuff like syndicated columns, wire reports, classified ads, national news, etc. – is now available from a variety of sources. That means the N&R’s only unique product offering is local news/data/information and the last time I looked they hadn’t expanded their local coverage or deepened their editorial bench, which makes it hard to imagine the product being perceived as worthy of the price they’re asking.