Monday, June 01, 2009

Why I Will No Longer Buy The New York Times



I have been a daily buyer of The New York Times for as long as the paper has been on sale in West Michigan. Buying at the newsstand (for me, Starbucks during the work week, the local bookstore on weekends) is the only option hereabouts; home delivery is not available this far west of the Hudson.

But the economy is difficult, life is expensive and we must tighten our belts. I bring up the new personal austerity because at Starbucks today, the daily newsstand price of The New York Times increased from $1.50 to $2--as it did everywhere in the hinterlands. On June 7, the price of the Sunday New York Times will increase from $5 to $6. In the meantime, of course, both the daily and Sunday Times are available for free on the internet.

Let's do some simple math--the kind I generally like, but the kind which, in this instance, makes me wince. 300 daily (paper) issues of The New York Times at $2 per copy will henceforth cost me $600 per year. 50 Sunday (paper) issues of the Times at $6 per copy will cost me $300 per year. That's $900 per year ($600 + $300 = $900) for the luxury of reading The New York Times in its traditional paper format.

In Economics 101, we learn that there is a point at which an increasing price will drive down demand; a place on that legendary curve where consumers go without or substitute from higher priced goods into other, less costly, goods. I am afraid we've reached that point at S@4A.M. I do not consider the internet version of The New York Times to be an entirely adequate substitute for the paper version--primarily because I like to "scan the page" of a traditionally formatted newspaper, and I am sure I will miss a great deal of information because the on-screen, internet format of The New York Times doesn't facilitate this. I also find it comforting to hide behind a copy of the Times at lunch, assuring no one will bother me. Now I will have to become more outgoing, or begin reading Derrida (in French) to maintain my noon-hour privacy screen.

I also worry that if everyone "does the math" as I have, it may be the death of The New York Times. In this economy, I don't think the Sulzbergers can continue giving away free content online and still sell enough $2 copies to keep the paper viable.

But my concern right now is my personal economy. Sacrifices must be made, and at $2 daily and $6 on Sunday, I am at my tipping point on the demand curve. The paper version of The New York Times is a luxury I can no longer afford.

A sad day, this.

10 Comments:

Blogger Leslie said...

It may be goodbye indeed. More and more papers are coming to the conclusion that they cannot give away online what they charge for in print. The movement at the Times is toward paid content or online subscription services.

That is one point. The other is this: A thousand dollars is a lot. Almost $3 a day. But if you buy a coffee a day too, you could cut out the coffee and save the New York Times from extinction.

Which would you rather have: Starbucks or a free and active press safeguarding your rights? And how much is a free press worth to you?

In newspapers, we call that little economics thing (increasing price driving down demand) the death spiral. And newspapers everywhere are in it.

I for one think the nation will be poorer indeed if the Times dies.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

And in the interests of fairness, I should note that I do not subscribe. But I also do not read it online. My issues are economic as well, also environmental (all that paper). But if the Times moves to paid internet content, and I can afford it, I will.

3:39 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Leslie:

Yes, I love the Times and want to see it survive. But at (as you note) an average per copy price of $3 per day, the fate of the NYT is now out of my control.

If they charge (reasonably) for web access---we'll see.

You're right about the coffee, but I am working to economize there as well. I'll probably be buying decent ground coffee and bringing it to work, where we will make it exclusively for our department (and special friends). I've been buying two venti (the largest) cups
of Starbucks per day for my assistant and me but, with no ongoing need to stop for the newspaper, buying 2 coffees (and leaving a tip) now also seems like an extravagance.

It sounds pathetic, but what I will miss most is having people (the employees of Starbucks) being pleasant and saying something nice to me every morning. Leaving a tip has an element of "buying myself friends," but there you have it.

4:07 PM

4:21 PM  
Blogger Adam Deutsch said...

With all that saved dough, you can get a Kindle (or other e-reader) and scan the online edition...without having to go to the store.

Isn't it about time to read the paper in you robe and slippers?

4:24 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Adam:

The new "big screen" Kindle, which I think is coming out this fall, may be an answer to some of my complaints about the online version of the NYT.

But the new Kindle won't have color, will it?

4:33 PM  
Blogger Adam Deutsch said...

No color, but the DX comes out on June 10th. Hearst is looking into making a reader too, but it won't beout until 2010.

5:10 PM  
Blogger Cindy Hunter Morgan said...

If you lived next door, we could share it. We are still (wince) subscribing, but I do make my own coffee in the morning. I'm guessing this will be what happens: the Times will drop home delivery service to out of state communities and reign in their print distribution, keeping paper editions for New York City until print edition newspapers either rebound (unlikely) or disappear entirely. There is a lot to be said for hard copy. Especially with a cup of coffee.

5:48 PM  
Blogger Talia said...

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9:35 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Not pathetic at all Greg. I really hate the American obsession with personal isolation. From bank tellers to drive up to ATM. Self-check-outs at the grocery store. Take-out food. Internet shopping. Cell phones, which are the ultimate stranger repellent.

I love coffee shops because they are one of the few public places anyone goes any more that is basically a happy place and in which lots of people are not in a hurry to be elsewhere and where people strike up conversations. With complete strangers.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Collin Kelley said...

I make my living as a newspaper editor. I can tell you that ALL newspapers are grappling with these issues. With advertising at an all time low, many dailies are hoping that subscriptions -- both for print and online -- will add cash to the coffers. Unfortunately, in this economy, the NYT might be overestimating the loyalty of its readers. I love the NYT, but with my meager salary, there is no way I can afford $900 a year for a newspaper.

If the NYT goes back to charging for online content, it had better be a reasonable price or I fear we will be looking at the end of the NYT. The NYT used to charge for online readership, then did away with it. I would say most people are going to want to cough up money at this point to read it online when there are thousands of other sites giving it away for free. It would be ill-advised for the NYT to both raise its subscription fees and start charging again for the online edition. That's the way to sink the company totally.

After more than 25 years in print journalism, my new motto is adapt or die. At the paper I edit, we are using Twitter, Facebook and MySpace and are rolling out a complete redesign of our website in a couple of months. Our paper is completely advertising supported, and our mission for the last six months has been trying to make the online edition an "added value" to both readers and advertisers. To get the main story, they read the print, to get the extras and more in depth info, they go online. We're still working on getting that balance right.

12:41 PM  

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