Nate Silver weighs in on the NYTimes pricing messiness

A Note to Our Readers on the Times Pay Model and the Economics of Reporting - NYTimes.com

Nate Silver on the FiveThirtyEight blog on the NYTimes:

I’m less sympathetic to the notion, however, which I’ve heard in some quarters, that there are a lot of good substitutes for The New York Times. Certainly there are some good substitutes: depending on the type of coverage you’re looking for, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal or CNN or ESPN.com. Of course, some of these substitutes already charge for digital access, are also having trouble balancing their budgets, or both.

Maybe that's an issue in some quarters. That's certainly not my issue. There is little question that the Times is the Paper of Record for original reporting in the US. From Silver's own tally, that's pretty clear. My problem is that the pricing model provides incentive to support the status quo: if you take the dead-tree paper, you get the digital edition comped. To get the digital edition only, it generally costs a little bit more.

For example, to get the digital edition exclusively, it's $15 every four weeks. To get the digital edition comped, I have to pay for the Monday-Friday subscription plan at $3.70 per week, or $14.80 every four weeks. The Sunday Edition is $3.75 per week, or $15 every four weeks.

There's a really good argument to be made that the times is spot on in their pricing -- that for $15 every four weeks, if you're a Sunday subscriber -- you're getting significantly more value digitally by getting 100% of the Times content every day on your mobile or tablet device. That's a good thing, to be sure.

But, the thing is, there's no "Five Easy Pieces" solution. What I want is the digital edition, all the time, every day, and I want them to hold the paper. I do an awful lot, I'm sure, that is not pro environment. I don't recycle every carton that comes across my kitchen. I probably flush the toilet too often. But there's little out there to compare with destroying tens of thousands of trees every day to present information when another viable approach exists. I'm not keen on paying into that model anymore when an alternative choice exists.

I wish the Times offered a solution that supported guys like me, a progressive pricing model that encouraged digital consumption with no paper requirement.