More details emerged today about the New York Times’ digital paywall, which will go up at the end of March. As far as paywalls go, it’s not terrible. Subscribers to the print edition don’t have to pay anything extra to read online or in mobile apps, links to individual articles from blogs and other news sites won’t be blocked, and the paywall only goes up if you read more than 20 articles a month. That’s all fairly reasonable and forward-thinking.
But there is one part of the pricing plan that is wrong-headed. It discriminates by device. Depending on what device you read the paper on, you will be charged differently for an all-digital subscription. The pricing plans start at $15 a month for Web access plus iPhone, Android, or other smartphone apps. On the iPad or other tablets, it will cost $20 a month. And if you want to switch between the Web, phone, and tablet, that will cost you $35 a month. And Kindle subscriptions are not included. (Plus, the pricing is for every four weeks, meaning that the billing cycle will be padded even more).
In other words, if you are shelling out $20 a month for the iPad subscription, and you want to also be able to read it on your iPhone, you basically have to pay the full smartphone subscription price, or an additional $15 a month. That seems like a rip-off. A digital subscription should be a digital subscription, and it shouldn’t matter what kind of computer you use to read the paper on. But okay, the iPad and other tablets are different, I might pay a little more for the tablet apps. But once I step up to pay the New York Times $20 a month for its iPad app, that should include access via the iPhone app as well.
If I have an iPad, I probably have a touchscreen smartphone as well, and for $20 a month, which is a lot for an app—The Daily is $40 a year—that should include access across all devices. Am I wrong?