The NYtimes breathlessly sends me an email with a special offer: a free two week online subscription. Just as they are also offering a free year's on line subscription to longtime Digital users. (Times to Hirshberg: Drop Dead)
Unless I'm lucky enough to get the offer they and Lincoln are making for a free subscription till the end of the year:
Only online they've been pushing me on four weeks for 99 cents.
All against the background that their overall pricing is practically the highest ever for online subscription anything.
This seems particularly strategically risky: Rupert Murdoch and Newscorp have played their hand. We know the pricing of the WSJ and the Daily. And armed with this market intelligence, the Times launches a product priced 2x the cost of the Journal and Daily combined. I was rooting for the Times. But really, is this an intelligence test?
I'm all for offers and test markets, but this seems like the most confused, desperate, flailing product launch ive seen in years. They seem to be saying "If you're a valued reader, we'll make you an introductory offer of a year. " Along with, "Hirshberg, you're so valuable, for you two weeks. Then we're really gonna get you." So they've managed to turn my good will into ire, and confused me with all these options and non-options. The whole point of this paywall launch is how to deftly transition their loyal users to a subscription model. People, this is not deft marketing. This is not simple. Part of their communication has been, "sure the pricing is a bit ridiculous, but we can make up for that with pricing offers over time." But adjusting the price weekly based on market dynamics doesn't seem like a reliable way to build a trusted brand. I know pork bellies are priced that way, but really, the Grey Lady?
I'm conflicted here. I understand how tough online news business models are. And how valuable the Times is. And how much readers undervalue online journalism. But against the realities of how marketing works, how to motivate consumers, how to speak clearly to the market and how to make tactical decisions based on competitive behavior, it looks like so much of what the Times is doing is a complete dud. And thats bad for all of us.