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“Journalism moves fast…philanthropy moves slow.” Press Forward’s director wants to bring them together
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Feb. 14, 2018, 5:05 p.m.
LINK: bit.ly  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   February 14, 2018

It doesn’t really matter where you live or how large your local newspaper’s circulation is: The average price for a digital newspaper subscription is $2.31 per week, according to a new report from the American Press Institute.

API research fellow Tracy M. Cook looked at pricing of digital subscriptions to 100 newspapers across the U.S. in October 2017. The median price across the papers: $2.31 per week, or about $10 per month or $120 per year. (That’s actually down slightly from a 2016 API report that pegged the average weekly price of a digital newspaper subscription at $3.11 per week, across 77 papers. For this new data set, the average price was $2.44/week.

The median price excludes special introductory offers, as well as bundles like The Washington Post’s partnerships with Amazon and Hulu and The New York Times’ with Spotify. Cook also notes that digital newspaper pricing tends to fluctuate quite a bit, and it’s often unclear how long “short-term promotion” prices will hold.

According to this study, pricing wasn’t really dependent on market size or a paper’s circulation. What did seem to matter was the papers’ own “market testing,” as well as papers’ ownership. Some companies, like Tronc and McClatchy, standardized their pricing across all the papers they owned; for other companies, like Gannett, it varied.

In the case of Gannett, for instance, which owned 19 percent of the papers studied: “Most Gannett sites (14 out of the 19) charge an introductory rate of $0.99 for the first month of access before raising rates to $4.99 per month. Four sites charged a yearly fee of $29. One listed a $9.99 monthly rate with no introductory offer.”

Since the publishers say they’re relying on market testing rather than other factors, I wonder if the report suggests that readers have come to see an “appropriate digital subscription price” for most newspapers as about $10 a month — whether you’re talking about news or other kinds of content — and if a lot of publishers are just looking at other types of digital subscriptions and taking their lead. Spotify Premium is also $9.99/month, for instance; Hulu is $7.99/month, and Netflix’s standard package is $10.99 per month. Those services all offer access to a much wider variety of content than a single newspaper subscription does; in that context, the fact that people appear willing to pay $10 a month for one paper seems almost heartening.

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