Paying for the News

I’ve been paying extra attention to the news these days, because of the election, so I’ve been having lots of interactions with the Washington Post’s “You Have X Free Articles Left This Month” subscription nag screens, and the similar ones from the New York Times. Sometimes, I ridiculously pause before clicking on a link, wondering whether I have free articles left and whether I should click.

When I find myself clicking on links to my hometown San Francisco Chronicle, it’s usually for Giants or Warriors beat reporting, but the Chronicle doesn’t offer any free articles at all.

I agree with the idea of paying for the news, and I’ve considered subscribing to the Washington Post a few times during the election season, but I always ask myself, “why should I subscribe to some East Coast newspaper, when I want to support and consume local news?”

The trouble is, I subscribed to the digital edition of the San Francisco Chronicle for several months last year, and I didn’t like it. I found the local reporting thin, and the rest of it substandard. I liked the sports reporting well enough, but my overall takeaway was: I don’t like this product and I don’t want to pay for it anymore. So I stopped paying for it.

What I’d like is a way to subscribe to a service that’d give me access to multiple newspapers. The service could track which ones I read the most and divvy up the funds appropriately. That way, the pubs with more engaging content would end up with more of my dollars.

One problem with a service like this might be that there’s too little money to go around as it is, and each subscriber would probably end up sending less money to each publication. The key would be bringing in lots of new people, like me, who don’t already subscribe.

I just looked up the annual cost for subscriptions to these five newspapers in which I have some level of interest.

Newspaper Annual Subscription
SF Chronicle $99
Washington Post $99
NY Times $195
LA Times $103
Mercury News $130

These newspapers are each asking around $10 a month for their digital subscriptions. I imagine I’d be willing to pay around three times that for a meta-subscription — give or take, depending on the participating pubs.

Update: I ended up buying one-year subscriptions to the SF Chronicle and to the Washington Post.

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