In Print Media Subscription Offers, Digital is An Afterthought


I received a newspaper subscription offer in the mail the other day, and what I noticed most was the option that wasn’t there.

I received a generous offer — at least, they’d surely call it generous — from The New York Times in the mail this week.

Not via email, but by snail mail. Old school.

The offer was for Sunday home delivery of its printed paper. Old school.

Included, as a parenthetical, is FREE ACCESS to plus tablet and smartphone apps. Finally some new technology!

I had two options: a four-week plan or an eight-week plan.

The third option that wasn’t offered, but that I might have considered, was a digital-only option. But there wasn’t one.

The only way to subscribe to this particular offer, unfortunately, was to commit to the delivery of a printed newspaper which I could then ignore in favor of the digital version that I’d rather put that money towards.

Then there’s Time magazine. When I subscribed to it, for the digital edition on my iPad, the printed magazine came along. I’ve yet to find a way to subscribe to the digital edition without having the paper version delivered.

Unlike some people who work in broadcasting, I don’t hate newspapers or magazines. In fact, I hate to see newspapers struggling to survive. In fairness, having things at the click of a button 24/7 has wreaked a certain degree of havoc on broadcast news as well, where things are written for people with ever-shortening attention spans.

What I enjoy about the digital side of broadcast news is that it allows for longer-form stories, the kind of thing newspapers and magazines did all along, so that people whose attention span is slightly longer than that of a gnat can actually dig in deeper with a story.

But still, it’s the 21st century now. Other than folks who don’t have access to technology, I don’t see the appeal of newsprint if I can get the same content electronically and save the ink, the production costs, the shipping costs and the gasoline that it takes to get from the printer to my door.

It’s not that I’m out to see anyone in the industry lose his or her job; it’s just that I wish that hard and often under-appreciated work could be put to more efficient use in the digital side, at least for people who’d prefer a digital-only option.

And then there’s the clutter factor. Some of us who’ve been born with the packrat genes — in my case, from both sides of the family — hardly need printed media piling up all over the place when the digital version could take up virtually no space.

It’s about time the digital-only option get some serious consideration. Would you be more likely to subscribe to certain media if a printed version wasn’t in the mix?

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.

1 Comment

  • I recently looked into the possibility of subscribing to Macworld digitally. Happily, Macworld does have a digital-only subscribtion available. This was a breath of fresh air, as many newspapers and magazines (including my local newspaper) don’t provide such an option.

    What kept me from subscribing was the price. No, it wasn’t prohibitively high, but it was exactly the same price as that of their print PLUS DIGITAL bundle. So I could either pay $21.97 for the digital-only version, or $21.97 for the print AND the digital versions both. Cutting out the need for anyone to buy ink and paper, print the pages and glue them together, put them in a van and drive them over, and stick them in through my mail slot, I thought I’d be seeing at least _some_ kind of savings.

    I remember when the first arguments about digital distribution threatening print media first came about. One key issue suggested was that quality writing would be one of the casualties of such a transition. I beg to differ; it doesn’t cost me anything to read this blog, and it’s filled with quality writing. Either magazines will adopt new business practices, or they will make way to those who are interested in doing so and taking their place.

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