Thursday, November 18, 2010

The sucker rate and the New York Times

While magazine circulation directors worry all the time about price sensitivity of their subscribers (and track their data religiously to try and predict their likely response to, say, moving from $29 a year to $32)at least they think of them as sensible consumers.
There's been a flurry of comment in the U.S. about the inadvertent revelation by a New York Times executive that the paper raised its rates and no one apparently noticed. According to a story on Slate,
The assistant managing editor for new products and strategic initiatives at the New York Times made a minor strategic error last week. On Nov. 10, Gerald Marzorati blurted out at a Times panel discussion on digital media that the paper had "north of 800,000 subscribers paying north of $700 a year for home delivery" who "don't seem to know that." During the recession the paper raised the home-delivery rate 5 percent, Marzorati said, but only 0.01 percent canceled. "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they're literally not understanding what they're paying," Marzorati said. "That's the beauty of the credit card." (He meant not the credit card itself but rather its use by the Times for automatic subscription renewals.)
The truth is that, with a little work (not unlike hunting down the best rate offered for hotel rooms or airline fares)those credulous souls could have the paper for half that. As Slate senior writer Timothy Noah says
"I feel a little bad sharing this information at a time when newspapers—even the mighty New York Times—are struggling to stay solvent. I am a lifelong Times reader and onetime Times employee. I love the product, as we longtime subscribers tend to.

But it doesn't sit easy with me that the Times' most loyal readers—the people who love the paper so much that they figure they'll pay whatever they have to—end up paying twice what they have to simply because it doesn't occur to them that the good Gray Lady is playing them for suckers."



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