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Nov. 26, 2012, 11:45 a.m.
Business Models
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News companies use Cyber Monday to attract subscribers, push coupons

As retailers court holiday shoppers, news companies try to get in on the action.

News companies aren’t just covering Cyber Monday this year — they’re hawking their own wares, trying to woo new subscribers with holiday discounts.

The New York Times has a half-off special that runs just over six months. It means you can get all-digital access for $110 rather than the regular $227.50 from now through mid-May. The Wall Street Journal is offering a fine deal too:

The team at Honolulu Civil Beat — which, like the Times, uses a metered paywall — is scaling its sale in smaller terms. Today only, get a 12-month subscription deal that amounts to “27 cents per day for access to Hawaii’s most informed watchdog journalism.” (Full-disclosure: I used to be a reporter for Civil Beat.) Usually the monthly subscription is $19.99; this knocks it down to $7.99 per month.

Discounted subscription offers have a long history in the news business. Most newspapers have cut back on print discounting from the churn-happy days of old. But digital subscriptions are still relatively new, which means getting exposure to new customers is key. Some paywalls limit the amount of sampling a reader gets to do before paying; letting people in at a discounted starting rate can help build a future base of full-freight customers.

Elsewhere, Cyber Monday is an opportunity to reinforce the idea that print advertising and coupons in the print newspaper are still useful. For example, The Chicago Tribune isn’t just offering 45 percent cheaper subscription rates. It’s also giving out free newspapers — yes, the physical ink-on-newsprint kind — at retail locations.

“We hope this free copy highlighting the best deals will help so you can spend more time with friends and family and less wondering where to find bargains,” Bob Fleck, the Tribune’s senior vice president of advertising, said in a statement.

POSTED     Nov. 26, 2012, 11:45 a.m.
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