Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Newsonomics: In the platform wars, how well are you armed?
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 18, 2014, 11:43 a.m.
Business Models

washington-post-logoIn 1980, The New York Times launched a daily national edition that, despite a significant upfront investment, turned into a position of strength; today, more than half of the Times’ print subscribers are outside New York. The Washington Post didn’t, and while its strength in the D.C. area generated big profits for a long time, it entered the digital age without the same sort of cross-country reach as its rival up I-95.

But the Post has a new twist on that old debate. The paper said Tuesday it will begin to offer free digital access to its websites and apps to subscribers of a number of local newspapers around the country in an attempt to reach a larger digital audience — and signaling that the paper is moving to position itself as a major national news brand. The Dallas Morning News, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, The Toledo Blade, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will be the first papers to participate.

The program launches in May and would seem to be a win all around: Local papers get a significant new benefit to offer subscribers; the Post gets extra premium audience online and likely doesn’t lose many (if any) marginal digital subscribers. And it’s a model that could, if successful, be expanded at near-zero cost to dozens or even hundreds of other dailies.

And the idea of a Post digital subscription as a throw-in benefit opens up lots of new possibilities. The Post could potentially work with other subscription services like Amazon Prime, Spotify, or others to offer digital access to the Post, Washington Post president Steve Hills told the Financial Times. He also said that the strategy, one of the first major initiatives launched since Jeff Bezos bought the Post last year, is a substantial shift in how the paper approaches its business.

“He is asking a different question. He is asking the question of: ‘What can you do to have a great digital audience 10 years, 20 years from now?’” Mr Hills said. “Under previous ownership, the very reasonable question we were asking was: ‘How do we make money in the next two to three years?’

“This different orientation opens up a wide range of new opportunities,” he added. “That’s the interesting part of the story.”

At this writing, a new digital subscription to the Post goes for $3.99 every four weeks or $39 for a year, although prices can vary depending on current offers. The paper launched its metered paywall last summer.

[Update: The Washington Post’s communications staff would like you to know that the price for a digital sub is $9.99 a month for web only or $14.99 for web plus apps. That’s despite this screenshot right here, linked above, that clearly shows a $3.99/month offer. Here’s the full page. I reached that page through the obscure method of clicking the “SUBSCRIBE: Digital” link at the top of the homepage. —Josh]

Bezos is known for not worrying about profit margins, and the FT reports that no money is changing hands as part of the partnership with the six local papers.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: In the platform wars, how well are you armed?
“Think about platforms as fishing places where you can find large, engaged audiences and build a relationship with them by providing content. Then offer these users some other services off-platform.”
Wired’s making the long and slow switch to HTTPS and it wants to help other news sites do the same
With its HTTPS implementation, Wired’s starting with its security vertical and for users who pay for the ad-free version of the site.
The Guardian’s first VR project makes viewers experience the horrors of solitary confinement
“It’s a story which is all about space and the environment you’re in. Even though this is a small space, the story is all about that space.”
What to read next
0
tweets
The U.K.’s Times and Sunday Times are structuring their new apps and website around peak traffic times
The papers are behind a hard paywall, and their platforms will be updated four times each day to correspond with peaks in readership.
0Can audio go viral on Facebook? Here’s what happened when NPR ran an experiment for a month
“Trust me, this is really, really great even though you don’t know who’s talking and there’s nothing to look at and I’m asking you to focus for 40 seconds!”
0NPR built a private personal finance Facebook group that now has more than 10,000 members
“The group has become a great community in its own right.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Fuego is our heat-seeking Twitter bot, tracking the links the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about most on Twitter.
Here are a few of the top links Fuego’s currently watching.   Get the full Fuego ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Press+
Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism
The Daily
Associated Press
Next Door Media
CNN
Chicago Tribune
The Wall Street Journal
GateHouse Media
OpenFile
The Sunlight Foundation
The Orange County Register