Since I purchased an iPad, I have started reading more and more of my newspapers and magazines on their apps. I find that the overall experience is just as enjoyable, and the convenience is great. For most of what I generally read there is complimentary digital access for their print subscribers. So, I get both versions and this is fine for weekly or monthly periodicals. However, for newspapers this can be annoying.
When it came to the NYTimes, after they started charging I called to find out about subscription options. While I don't mind the idea of paying $35-40 per month for something I read, what I found was that it was significantly cheaper if I ordered the print version which also includes digital access. The reason for this is that print ad rates remain significantly higher than digital, so therefore they make up for this by charging extra for digital only access. I suppose you could always donate the paper to the library or something, but that involves too much effort for me, and I for one didn't want to waste the paper by not reading it. So, I ended up using a print subscriber's digital access (which is surprisingly legal). I think many publications are in the same boat.
I think it is great that papers are starting to find a way to make money off of their efforts, and the NYTimes has been smart by easing into their pay model. However, the issue as I see it is that until they can find a way to level the playing field with their old-school paper offerings, the digital version is going to continue to be seen as a throwaway by advertisers who find little value in it - and then consequently by readers since it can be perceived as a ripoff. Hopefully, a successful pay model is a step towards this, but I think this may just be finding a way to make some extra money without getting to the root of the problem. I guess the alternative is that we move toward an economy where we recognize and pay for the actual value of something and not a heavily subsidized price.
That may be true. However, you can bet that if the news organizations start making more, the AP will start charging more for their content. I doubt that ad revenue will be sufficient to cover the costs if that happens. Sure tweeters and bloggers will continue to break the stories, and that serves a definite need and provides a check against the media - but they are not credentialed reporters, with the ability to go behind the scenes. I agree that the "what happened" summary is good for keeping up to date with a lot of news, but the unavailability to find further accurate details will lead to a lot of speculation and misinformation.
Also, the original comment mentioned that they pay for The Economist. I do as well, and I can tell you the magazine is definitely not cheap. In fact I know many people who pay for it, and I also know many people who subscribe to The NYTimes. I think people do this because they like the writing style, or because it gives them specific sections or certain authors. To me, it shows that, generally, if you give people what they want, they are usually willing to pay for it. The problem is that many organizations are looking to make people pay for what they want to give them, and that will never work.
After reading that speculative piece over at O'Reilly, I really have to wonder exactly how their business model works. I know the networks hate DVR, but they have more or less come to accept it as long as you watch the commercials. What I fail to see is why they would be against watching a lower quality version at a later point with current commercials as opposed to watching a DVR'd version at a later point with potentially outdated commercials.
I think Hulu is great for when I miss a show but if I am around I'd prefer to watch the HD version on TV. I am probably not your typical customer as I maybe watch an hour or two of TV a week - but those are shows I truely enjoy. I know this move will make a lot of people return to downloading the commercial-free torrent to watch on their TV, but for me I am just apt to not watch if I miss something. Torrents are not complicated, but take more forethought and time than I am usually willing to invest in finding a TV show. Hopefully someday they'll realize that there are many different types of consumers and markets out there that they could be attracting instead of repelling them.