Personal

To the New York Times: You’re too expensive

I get most of my news on my phone. Over the years it’s edged out the more traditional news sources I used to rely on. I gave up on my local paper almost a decade ago. I never watch cable news and almost never watch network or local TV news. I catch an occasional NPR newscast during my commute. Other than that, it’s my phone all the way.

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I started to rely on The New York Times back when I had my Palm Pre. It’s easy to say that theirs was the best Pre news app; there were few apps for that forlorn platform. When The Times erected its paywall in 2010, they never got around to updating their Pre app to require paid login. At last, an advantage to being on an abandoned mobile operating system! For two years I had free run of The Times while everybody else could read only so many free articles before the paywall insisted they pony up.

In those years I came to really value The Times’ reporting. I felt better informed than I had with any of the sources I followed before ā€“ achieved just by scanning the headlines and reading maybe five articles each day.

About a year ago The Times finally got wise to us freeloading Pre users and killed the app. I went through withdrawal! Shortly afterward I upgraded to a shiny new iPhone 5, and the first thing I did was download The Times app. I could read only stories among the day’s top headlines ā€“ limited access, to be sure, but it was surprisingly satisfying. I could only have wished for greater access to their business and technology coverage. But they changed the rules a few weeks ago. Now I can read articles from any section, not just the day’s top headlines ā€“ but I’m limited to just three articles a day. I found this to be crippling. Every day I burned through my three articles in no time and was left hungry for more.

The New York Times’ reporting has value and deserves customers who pay. I’d be happy to pay in line with the value I think I get from The Times. But given how few articles I read each day, their entry-level digital subscription is too expensive at $195 each year. If they offered a limited-access subscription for $50 or $75 a year, I’d bite. I would probably even bite at $100 a year, though I’d grumble a little.

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In frustration, I deleted The Times’ app from my phone last week and downloaded the Thomson Reuters app, which gives free access to a huge number of articles. The app is slick and easy to use; it’s better designed than The Times’ app. Reuters brings good coverage of national and world stories, and their technology and business beats are pretty good. Content is updated continuously, often while I’m in the app, so there’s always something new to read.

But I miss The Times’ voice, and keep hoping they’ll offer a less-expensive entry-level subscription. I’d come right back.

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