How Much Are You Willing to Pay for Magazine, Newspaper Subscriptions on the iPad

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How much are you willing to pay for magazine and newspaper subscriptions on the iPad? That's a question publishers like the New York Times are literally fighting over, according to Valley Wag.

In their specific case, the old guard in "print" want to charge $20-$30 a month to access the paper online via the New York Times app shown off during last month's iPad announcement. Seems they're afraid it will cut into the traditional print-it, fold-it, put-it-on-a-truck-and-ship-it business. The folks in "digital", however, want to charge $10 since, you know, you don't have to print, fold, or drive it around to get it to the readers (cost for paper and fuel is zero).

That's just the NYT, mind you. While Apple is releasing a standardized, iTunes-based iBooks Store for the iPad, they haven't offered anything similar for newspapers or magazines (yet), meaning even if the Times settles on one model, the Washington Post (or whomever) could settle on something completely different. Atypically confusing for an Apple platform, isn't it?

And either way, there's really no precedent as to whether or not people will pay $10 a month for a digital newspaper, let alone $20 or $30. They certainly will for real world newspapers they can hold in their hand and share around the house and office, but for digital?

Some magazines, like Wired, are showing off and discussing concepts of what their digital version will look like (see their non-iPhone friendly video, after the jump), perhaps hoping the richer, multimedia experience will create a greater perception of value.

While people are used to free content on the web (Wall Street Journal aside), convenience and ease of use did get some off the file-sharing and onto iTunes Music. Could the same work for print? And what price point will let them stay in business and let us keep reading their content?

How much are you willing to pay to read the New York Times or Wired from the comfort of your iPad?

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, ZEN and TECH, MacBreak Weekly. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter,, Google+.

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There are 37 comments. Add yours.

JoBlow says:

paper subscriptions are too high as it is (considering the modern marketplace), which is one reason why they offer so many specials, and are having so much trouble keeping readers.
They need to change their model to lower cost and more readers make up some difference in ads.
No more than $5-10, otherwise there are other free channels.

Dimwit says:

To me, I would be willing to pay a subscription fee comparable to the drop out card subscription rates for magazines. Newspapers, I don't know if I would buy anyway. I don't get newspapers now...

Jellotime91 says:

Here's how they should do it:
release an app, say, "Vogue magazine" for free. Then from that app you could have in app subscription purchases for 12 issues or 24 issues or what have you. $10 a month is way too much for a mag sub..

The Reptile says:

The NY Times is stoned if they think that someone will pay $20-30/month for the digital version with ads. Then again they do have an over inflated self-image. Anyway, they're going to offer a better product to their advertisers and provide more information then they ever had to their ad paying customers (about subscribers) yet they want subscribers to pay as much as they currently do for the print version and get what maybe a few videos or audio? Fail. The Times may consider themselves to be the best at print but are they worth the premium for the additional audio/video? My sense is that there are other news delivery organizations out there that could deliver a better multi-media package than the Times. I can see their cross town rivals The Wall St. Journal doing a better job in multi-media because their ownership also has cable news, cable business news and media assets in other parts of the world. Time for the Times to come off of their high horse because there is no guarantee that they win in this new business model.

Js says:

Not more that $10. Users would want to read multiple papers or magazines. They couldn't afford more than a couple at $60/mo. And if the publishers kept to the same margins that they had during their heyday,and with the international marketplace today they could charge $3/mo and make more money than they used to easily.

Fender Doc says:

$20-30/month with not win new customers to the Wall Street Journal. A $10 or less would get me to subscribe.
I have a feeling that magazines will offer the option of "free digital iPad copies" with paid subscriptions, just like when Blue-Ray disc are purchased and I can go download my new Blue-Ray movie from iTunes.
I believe that once book, newspapers, and magazine publishers can work a reasonable deal with the Apple, this will big change in the way we read our periodicals and books. I think the yearly new school year magazine sales by elementary schools will have iPad subscriptions included this or a future Fall.
I just like the fact that I will not have a ton of magazines and newspapers laying around my house.
I can just sit on the couch, bedtime, in the car, where ever, and read all my newspapers and magazines.

cardfan says:

I wouldn't mind paying money for a few select newspapers (such as WSJ and my local one), but for most i'm fine reading online.
Seems to me they'd have to force you, like the WSJ, to subscribe if they want paid access to take off. If you publish all your content on a website for free viewing, then selling paid apps will be rough.

bubbatex says:

Off the top of my head, I would pay the same or maybe a little more for the same content on a tablet format that I get in print. It would seem that the cost of the product and distribution would be cheaper overall because they would still have ads. Now if the NYT or WSJ was serving me all of their content without ads, then I would expect to pay a premium over regular subscription costs.

dloveprod says:

I don't currently subscribe to any magazine publications. I was thinking 1.99 a month would be a good price.

Dumb Artist says:

Stick to your pretensious guns NYT. Your business model has clearly been working, what with the multiple rounds of lay offs, filing for bankruptcies, and stock price obliteration. Clearly Pinch Sulzberger is a competent leader. Keep belittling all the competitors like Fox, WSJ and the Washington Times as they not so gradually take over and leave you crying in the dust. Then continue to complain that the public (your customers) are too dumb to value your pompous, slanted "news" coverage. And you wonder why we think the mainstream media doesn't get it.

Andre says:

I would not be willing to pay anything. I can get what I want elsewhere on the Internet.
If these companies want to make money off their content, they should sell advertising. Oh wait, they do that already!
If there were no ads, then charging for it might be more acceptable, but selling ads AND charging the reader is double-dipping. Maybe they get away with that for the "analog" versions, but information on the Internet is and should remain free.

jakej914 says:

I'm frugal. I may have an iPhone and a MBP, but I don't subscribe to any magazine or pay to receive any newspaper. Personally, I stick to the web for my content, and will continue to do so.

derrythe says:

If the digital version is just a digital copy of the print magazine read e-reader style, I wouldn't pay any more than the print version would cost, even if it removed the ads, the distribution of a digital version removes many of the material and distribution costs associated with print. However, watching the wired magazine video, if I was particularly interested in wired magazine to begin with, I would be fine with paying more for the interactivity that magazine provides.

Dan says:

As interesting as the iPad appears, paying $500 to $700 for the device, then paying for news I can get free elseware makes no sense.

Fender Doc says:

I believe what is being bought/sold here is the "experience" of the iPad. Like everybody else here, I read almost all my news on the internet, but Apple is betting on the sit and pretend I am flipping through the pages of a magazine/book/newspaper experience, to pay off.
We all have, or had, CDs and albums, but being able to impulse buy a song you just heard and download it to your iPhone and sync it to your iTunes. Then we just flip through an album, playlist, genre, etc, to listen to your favorite new song is the iPod/iPhone experience that Apple created and we pay them money for this content and experience.
Apple is betting this similar business model works for Magazines/newspapers/books. Publishers are afraid that Apple will have the influence over them that Apple has over the music industry. These deals they are working and complaining about is about how much control will they lose over content. Traditional publishers need to embrace this new business model and not try to complain about not having the street corner newsie/Hearst business thinking where they controlled everything.

julie l says:

$20-30/mo? Who are they kidding?
I would be willing to pay around $5 for the NYT, ad-free. There are some other magazines that I would be willing to purchase - regular subscription price, but ad-free.
I think this is a great opportunity for specialty magazine start-ups... kind of like the authors who are offering their books on the Kindle for free. Either free or $0.99 for an issue to get readership up, then offer yearly subscriptions for say $10/year (for monthly pubs). One could really make a difference that way.

Lady Kaede says:

I'm already a $20 NYT subscriber, so I assume I'm already signed up for whatever they settle on. It seems tome that in general magazines and newspapers (especially newspapers, which have a limited geographical range when delivering hard copy) should be able to lower subscription rates and deliver ad-free copy given the much wider reach of the iBook and App stores -- assuming here the iPad and similar
devices take off. But they won't be able to drop those rates all the way all at once. If they offer the digital subscriptions at a moderate discount from paper subscriptions and begin to attract digital subscribers, I think they should eventually be able to get down in the $5 to $10 ($6.99 anybody?) range.

cycling56#CB says:

Not enough info in one newspaper or magazine worth any amount of money, if you want to know about something JUST SURF THE INTERNET.

2bigfeet says:

I get a half dozen Pro Audio magazines for free each month. I assume their advertising pays for it and they get circulation numbers to show their advertisers. As it should be.
For all my other interests I go to the local Barnes & Noble and read a dozen magazines for free each month. Oh sorry, it did cost me a coffee from Starbucks. The amount of money they charge for a cover price these days is obscene. Average is $7.99. Content is getting smaller and advertising dominates the pages. They want me to pay to look at advertising? Books and magazines will not be my interest in the iPad. All the other things it does will be.

tys says:

I'd pay 10% more that what I pay for a paper subscription. It's worth a little extra to me for the convenience, resource conservation, and eliminating clutter at home.
Purely academic for me since I only subscribe to one magazine and it's run by a Luddite!

Dimwit says:

Anyone willing to pay MORE for a digital sub than a printed sub is nutz. Printing costs money. Postage costs money. I would love to see an honest breakdown of the cost to deliver 1000 printed coppies of a newspaper versus delivering 1000 digital coppies. Generating content should cost virtually the same amount either way as everything up to setting for the presses (writing, editing). Digital distribution doesn't require plates to be created, nor does it require ink, or assembly. There is much less personel required to maintain physical equipment.

Liberty For ALL! says:

ZERO. Who has time to read all that crap? I would MUCH rather just check them out whenever I have time -- no interest in paying for ANY subscriptions at this point.

dandbj13 says:

Seems to me they are competing against free. They need to decide what they are charging for; the content, the experience, the format, the subsidizing of the print paper... When they figure that out, perhaps they will be able to come up with a reasonable price.

Cody says:

aside to pay for the "wonderful" ipad and the "reliable" 3g, why in hells name pay for news-boring with ads-paper, when anyone could just http any site they one for free :S
apple is a $50billion company now, and i just realize why I_I ...

CJ says:

As an iPhone owner I was unable to see why so many others bashed Apple users by calling the blind sheep and whatever else. But after seeing the demo of the iPad and the "loyalists" reaction to this device, I can see why people call you blind sheep and iTards.
Who in their right mind would lay down this kind of money for a device that's nowhere near as capable as a laptop or even a netbook??
Seems like everybody wants to know how in heck could a person be stupid enough to pay for a e-zine or newspaper? The same people who are dumb enough to drop $500 on a non-multitasking glorified e-book reader!

Greg says:

For $20/mo, I'll have to start going back to the Library to read magazines and news....

icebike says:

And either way, there’s really no precedent as to whether or not people will pay $10 a month for a digital newspaper, let alone $20 or $30.

Well actually there is a precedent. Both Kindle and Nook have newspaper subscriptions that arrive on the device daily OTA. The midline price seems to be around 9 bucks.
Bad news: These don't include the ads, so if you are shopping for a car or an apartment, they are not so good.
Good news: These don't include the ads.
Would I pay more to get a more newspaper-like layout, with all the ads, the cut ins, the please turn to page 26B and box scores?
Not only NO, but Hell No. Its amazing how quickly you can get thru a paper when all the stories are under one title, with no distractions, ads, Turn-to's and crapola.

Steve says:

i wd not pay a dime for a subscription to this paper...they have lost the trust of the public because of their liberal, "know-it all" stands...they have created their own problems over the past 2 decades and are in deep doo-doo financially...I'm not prepared to pay for on-line service to help bail them out...

macharborguy says:

Why would I pay for a newspaper or magazine in a digital form when I have multitudes of free blogs and news websites that will read just as well if not better.

iphonelibya says:


Terry says:

$30/mo for iPhone data plan
$15-30/mo for iPad 3G plan (maybe)
$0 for NYT and Wired

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