Subscribe to your eight favorite newspapers for $18.99 a month?

Wouldn't that be great?

Many high end newspapers charge something like $10 a month to subscribe, just to the digital edition. But most people who use digital editions of newspapers scan several, pick and chose what to read, and end up reading them all for free because they don't reach the limit of number of articles provided to a certain web browser per month.

But sometimes, one runs into that limit and suddenly can't access articles for the last several days of the month. This hurts readers. (In some cases it hurts the papers. There are a half dozen items in the Washington Post right now that I'd like to blog about, sending thousands of readers to that paper, but I cant' because I ran out of freebies early. Or they got stricter. Not sure.)

One can get around this by clearing cookies, switching web browsers, switching computers, etc. But this is unethical and defeatist in two ways. First, the writers and other staff actually do have valuable paid jobs, and ripping off the paper is ripping them off. Second, related but at a different scale, these are companies that may annoy us in various ways, but that we actually want to exist.

Due to new media and other considerations, newspapers, which may often be annoying but are still important, are facing an existential crisis. They have to make some money somehow. It simply is not true, though this philosophy arose during those heady days of the Time of Napster, that IF something can be downloaded from the internet, by any means, it IS therefore free, and any attempt to charge for it is IMMORAL.

One can also get around this by subscribing to the damn newspapers! And, if you have a fave, and that is the paper you generally read, do that!

But that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm talking about the user scenario where several newspapers, not one, are roughly equally important to someone. For me, it is the Star Tribune, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and some subset of papers from Saint Paul, Chicago, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Francisco, and London. This is because I read and write about topics that are covered by all these papers. I do this to write a blog that does not make me enough money to subscribe to half dozen papers to the tune of $600. But, for personal pleasure and blogginess, I'd pay ten or even 18 bucks a month for a service that gave me all of this, or a choice of several.

So, I have a proposal, which is embodied in the headline of this post.

Netflix for Newspapers

Not necessarily run by Netflix, not necessarily restricted to newspapers. But mainly a paid monthly subscription to ... to what? To all the newspapers? To your choice of six? To your choice of X for Y dollars, where the incremental increase per X of Y decreases until a point where you get them all for a hefty but not absurd cost, but allowing regular people to have easy access to, say, a half dozen or so of their favorites for the current cost of one or two subscriptions? Something?

Am I missing something? Is there already something like this out there? I doubt it, because if there was, someone would have tried to sell it to me by now. Why does this not exist? Can someone please arrange for this to exist?

Would you want this?

More like this

Damn, Greg, you had me all excited, and then ::WHAM:: you burst my bubble...

Yes, i want something like this! I would subscribe to it.

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

At ~$18/month, that wouldn't be bad. They might do it so that you get access to all of the papers, but payout to papers based on readership. So, if there are 100 views and the Washington Post gets 15 of them, they would receive 15 shares of the income or $2.70, less any overhead costs.

By mkoormtbaalt (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

I don't have eight favorite newspapers. Nevertheless, I think this would be a good idea. Presumably it would involve sharing server costs (assuming we're talking about purely digital subscriptions) — a setup vaguely similar to Publishers Clearing House.

In thinking of the newspapers I've come to respect over the years, I would list:
* The Washington Post
* The New York Times
* The Boston Globe
* The Los Angeles Times
* The Rocky Mountain News (now gone)
* The Christian Science Monitor (now online only)
* The Atlanta Journal & Constitution
* The Chicago Tribune
* The Guardian (former Manchester Guardian)
* The San Jose Mercury News

Except for the first two, I don't look at any of these often, and I find many of them less reliable than they were.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 20 Sep 2016 #permalink

Yes, I want this! I already subscribe to the NYT, but get half of my news elsewhere. Would also like an option for the physical editions.

By Heloise Chung (not verified) on 21 Sep 2016 #permalink

No, I wouldn't go for it. It's not transparent, and it's still based on a misrepresentation of the news outlets' business costs. Prices for digital subscriptions are set to match the prices for paper subscriptions, even though the distribution costs are close to zero and going down due to cloud computing technology.

I'm not interested in paying a subscription rate that is based on the cost of a paper edition when I don't receive any paper. I don't want the paper edition, and I shouldn't have to pay a subscription rate that includes even a discounted portion of those tcosts.

I want publications to disclose their digital ad rates to customers as well as to advertisers. (*) I'll match their ad rate per story plus 30% in order to get a reading experience free of intrusive ads. What I won't do is pay a paper-based rate for an ad-free digital edition.

I can work with a subscription that charges monthly for the average number of stories that I read and allows for occasional overages, as long as the cost is based on the "free" ad-supported rate.

(*) Yes, I understand that Google, Facebook et al. don't disclose to publishers the payment rates for ads that they get from advertisers. They just send a check, and say "trust us, you wouldn't understand our complicated algorithm. You'll take our money and like it." Ha!

Yes, this is exactly what I'm looking for. Easily worth $20 a month.

Greg, I actually found your blog by Googling the (admittedly optimistic) question: "is there a way to subscribe to all newspapers?" ... because I've had the same thought for some time and wish that such a subscription pool existed. I already subscribe to my local paper (LA Times in print & online) and to the NYT online, the Economist (print) and various auto industry publications in print (the weekly Automotive News being the most expensive, especially if you want to access their data, which I do and pay for). I could imagine a deal where I can access up to 30 articles a day from any of a large pool of major papers that I don't already read every day, for which I would gladly pay the $18.99 you recommend. I can't help but think there's a way to benefit all, while also giving click credits to those I end up reading most (as mkoormtbaalt mentioned). If this model could save us from the intrusive online advertising that newspapers are forced to do to cover costs, all the better.