At the moment I don’t pay the NYT anything (they pay me!) I’m a very heavy NYT.com reader — I read 262 articles in the past month, according to their stats, but I think they may be undercounting.
Another thing I am is a cheapskate. I generally don’t pay for stuff that I can find free online. This includes a lot of things I’d rather not mention. Suffice it to say, though, I know how to get through paywalls — I wrote one of the Web’s first how-tos about getting through the WSJ’s paywall — and the NYT’s is not really a paywall but a paycurtain. It will take half a second of Googling, Binging, Bitlying or some other Web trickery to get at Times content.
One more thing to note is that I don’t really need the Times’ iPhone and iPad apps. I generally read the mobile site on my phone and tablet, so the loss of those features wouldn’t bother me so much.
And yet: This morning I’ve decided to pay for the New York Times. This will be the first time I’ve paid for the NYT in about four years (I got the paper for many years, but at some point decided it made no financial sense).
I’m doing this because I realized that one of the many subscription offers the Times is now offering is actually a pretty good deal.
Due to the bizarro math of print ad subsidies, it turns out that getting the Sunday paper delivered is actually cheaper than subscribing to the Times’ All Access Digital, which is the top tier of their new digital subscriptions. (AAD gets you unlimited access to the Website, all the mobile apps, the excellent Times Reader software, and the Chrome Web app.) AAD alone is $35 every four weeks. But the Sunday subscription includes AAD, and it costs only $30 every four weeks (this seems to vary by zipcode, though). In other words, they’ll cut five dollars off your bill if you get the Sunday paper.
Anyone who’s ever handled the NYT Sunday knows it is an awesome thing. It’s unbelievable that any institution can produce so much content at all, let alone one that can produce something that is so frequently top-notch (even if two-thirds of it is filled with disquisitions on the lives of wealthy people with first-world problems; hey, I’ve got first-world problems too!). The Sunday paper deals in volume, and as a consequence it’s just not the kind of thing that’s possible to appreciate on the Web or really in any digital form. It works only on paper, and once paper is gone, I imagine it will cease to exist — Sunday’s content will be spread out over the week or the month, SEO’d and slimmed-down.
Still, of course, Sunday’s expensive — $7.50 a week is more than most monthly magazines — especially when you consider that you’ll very likely miss it most Sundays, or have just enough time to skim the news, the book reviews, and the magazine. And probably if there’s a magazine article you really want to read you’ll get online and Instapaper it so you can spread it out over the week, and read it in the dark when you can’t sleep.
But what the hell, is my thinking: It’s worth a shot. They’re giving me this enormous pile of beautiful and interesting paper every week, and they’re letting me get to all their content online in any form without the minimal hassle that would be necessary otherwise. I’ll at least take a stab at this and see how it goes.
Now, is this a better deal than free? No. Of course not. But for me, free was never really the only way. Even though — as I said — I pilfer a great deal of content online, I’ve also been known to pay for a few things that make me appreciably happier. Among other things I pay for Netflix, for Cooks Illustrated, Rhapsody, and public radio. Now I’ll pay for the NYT Sunday, including All Access Digital.
I’ll let you know how it goes, especially if I decide I need to ditch it.
(Image from nialkennedy on Flickr.)