The New York Times hikes its price

The New York Times announced

today that it’s raising its newsstand price in its home city by 33%, to $1.

(Sundays will stay at $3.) The price jump comes on top of a 15-cent price

hike

in September 1999, bringing the total rise over the past three years to 67%.

The Times is now, for those of you keeping score at home, fully 400% of the

price of the New York Post.

As we all know, the main development over that time has been the growth of

the internet, where nytimes.com is one of the leading news websites. Just about

every article the New York Times publishes is available for free on the web,

and you don’t need to schlep to the newsstand or wait until it’s delivered to

your door, either. By the time you’re reading Paul Krugman, Andrew Sullivan’s

rebuttal is already up on the web, posted within an hour or two of midnight.

The decision to price the paper at a buck an issue can’t have been easy. It’s

not pocket change any more: you now need folding stuff if you want to read Monday’s

Metropolitan Diary on folding stuff rather than on the internet. It’s a big

psychological barrier, and places the New York Times solidly as a premium, luxury

product, as opposed to something you might pick up on your way into the subway.

(Talking of the Metropolitan Diary, by the way, can somebody out there with

Nexis do me a favour? Find out (a) the percentage of Metropolitan Diary columns

which include at least one instance of the phrase "without missing a beat";

and (b) the percentage of New York Times stories featuring the phrase "without

missing a beat" which are Metropolitan Diary columns. I’d be most grateful!)

Certainly the price of newsprint has been going up in recent years, but I have

my doubts that paper prices alone could justify newsstand price raises of this

magnitude. The New York Times has also made large investments in colour presses,

which are expensive things, and which in the present advertising climate might

not have generated the extra revenue that was originally projected.

The official reason, or at least the only justification in the press release,

is the addition of "several new features and sections, including the Friday

‘Escapes’ section". Since these sections are wholly advertising-driven,

I’m not convinced: if they weren’t profitable, they wouldn’t exist. The release

also mentions that the metropolitan edition is merely coming into line with

the national edition: that would be more convincing if it wasn’t for the fact

that the New York Times is making a big push to become a national newspaper,

bringing down distribution costs around the country. If anything, one would

think that national prices would come down, rather than metropolitan prices

go up.

I think the real reason for the hike is twofold. On the one hand, costs and

revenues are moving in opposite directions: post September 11, the Times has

devoted a lot more resources to expensive international reporting, while ad

sales continue to be in the doldrums. More importantly, however, the Times can

do what it likes. It’s a monopoly, and people will pay whatever they have to.

But I think the internet is having an effect as well. People who buy the Times

will continue to buy the Times, and continue to pay whatever it costs. But they

will also die off steadily. People who have never bought the Times will be increasingly

likely never to buy it, working out, quite rightly, that all the same information

is right there on the web should they ever be interested in it. So to keep revenues

up, the Times is going to have to keep on increasing its price. It’s a curious

inversion of the normal law of supply and demand: here, as demand decreases,

price goes up.

Of course, if there was an alternative,

the New York Times could never get away with this sort of behaviour. But there

isn’t. So we remain at the mercy of the benign patriarchs of 43rd Street.

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11 Responses to The New York Times hikes its price

  1. Felix says:

    A couple of good points in the Daily News today. First, this could hurt the Post: “Some media observers cite anecdotal evidence to suggest the Post – which cut its New York newsstand price on weekdays in half, to 25 cents, in September 2000 – became a second buy for many who have paid for the 75-cent Times with a dollar.”

    Second, if the Sunday NYT is $3 in NYC and $3.75 elsewhere, does that mean that New Yorkers might be paying $3.75 for their Sunday paper soon? And $4.75 for the whole weekend?

  2. michael says:

    I thought that there was more than one newspaper, owned by more than one ownership group, that covered New York City. Well — you learn something new every day, I guess. :-)

    Monopoly:

    from: http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary

    Pronunciation: m&-’nâ-p(&-)lE

    Function: noun

    Inflected Form(s): plural -lies

    Etymology: Latin monopolium, from Greek monopOlion, from mon- + pOlein to sell

    Date: 1534

    1 : exclusive ownership through legal privilege, command of supply, or concerted action

    2 : exclusive possession or control

    3 : a commodity controlled by one party

    4 : one that has a monopoly

    ===============================================================================

    from: http://dictionary.reference.com/search?db=*&q=monopoly

    mo∑nop∑o∑ly ( P ) Pronunciation Key (m-np-l)

    n. pl. mo∑nop∑o∑lies

    Exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service: “Monopoly frequently… arises from government support or from collusive agreements among individuals” (Milton Friedman).

    Law. A right granted by a government giving exclusive control over a specified commercial activity to a single party.

    A company or group having exclusive control over a commercial activity.

    A commodity or service so controlled.

    Exclusive possession or control: arrogantly claims to have a monopoly on the truth.

    Something that is exclusively possessed or controlled: showed that scientific achievement is not a male monopoly.

    ——————————————————————————–

    [Latin monoplium, from Greek monoplion : mono-, mono- + plein, to sell; see pel-4 in Indo-European Roots.]

    ——————————————————————————–

    mo∑nopo∑lism n.

    mo∑nopo∑list n.

    mo∑nopo∑listic adj.

    mo∑nopo∑listi∑cal∑ly adv.

    Source: The American Heritage∆ Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

    Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

    Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    [Buy it]

    monopoly

    \Mo*nop”o*ly\, n.; pl. Monopolies. [L. monopolium, Gr. ?, ?; mo`nos alone + ? to sell.] 1. The exclusive power, or privilege of selling a commodity; the exclusive power, right, or privilege of dealing in some article, or of trading in some market; sole command of the traffic in anything, however obtained; as, the proprietor of a patented article is given a monopoly of its sale for a limited time; chartered trading companies have sometimes had a monopoly of trade with remote regions; a combination of traders may get a monopoly of a particular product.

    Raleigh held a monopoly of cards, Essex a monopoly of sweet wines. –Macaulay.

    2. Exclusive possession; as, a monopoly of land.

    If I had a monopoly out, they would have part on ‘t. –Shak.

    3. The commodity or other material thing to which the monopoly relates; as, tobacco is a monopoly in France. [Colloq.]

    Source: Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

    monopoly

    n 1: (economics) a market in which there are many buyers but only one seller; “a monopoly on silver”; “when you have a monopoly you can ask any price you like” 2: exclusive control or possession of something; “They have no monopoly on intelligence” 3: (trademark) a board game in which players try to gain a monopoly on real estate as pieces advance around the board according to the throw of a die [syn: Monopoly]

    Source: WordNet ∆ 1.6, © 1997 Princeton University

  3. jeanne short says:

    Hi, I had such a lousy holiday in Manhattan last week that I thought I would like to write a letter to the New York Times, BUT can’t find its email address anywhere. Can you help. Thanks.

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