Mar 28 2014
10:16 am

Online news subscriptions can quickly add up. Here are the monthly online/digital subscription fees for all the papers I read or would want to read online:

Knoxville News Sentinel: $12.00
Maryville Daily Times: $6.00
Chattanooga Times Free Press: $28.50
Nashville Tennessean: $12.00
Memphis Commercial Appeal: $14.00
New York Times: $35.00
Wall Street Journal: $27.00

Total: $134.50/month

Even if you leave out the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Maryville Daily Times to get just the papers from the four largest cities in Tennessee, the cost is $66.50/month.

That's a lot just to try to keep current with what's happening in the state. And it's almost necessary, because local newspaper coverage of state government is somewhat lacking and frequently biased, especially here. (Which makes us thankful for Tom Humphrey's blog.)

It would be nice if the papers in the four largest markets could work out some kind of subscription sharing deal, similar to their content sharing arrangement, that would allow subscribers of one paper occasional access to the others.

At least the Chattanooga and Nasvhille papers (and the Maryville Daily Times) allow a set number of free articles per month. That's nice for folks who have moved away but like to keep up with the goings on back home from time to time, and for news junkies trying to keep up with state business. The Scripps papers (Knoxville and Memphis) do not.

We subscribe to home delivery for the Knoxville News Sentinel ($25/mo.) and the Maryville Daily Times ($14/mo.), so we're already paying $39/mo. Online access is included with the News Sentinel subscription. The Daily Times charges $1/month extra, and I refuse to pay it out of principle.

Thankfully, national and world news is still mostly "free" (ad-supported) at portal sites such as Yahoo and Google, including AP content. We wonder how long that will last, though.

Mello's picture

for the money...

Do you really get to see everything in the print edition when you buy an online subscription? I paid one month for an online subscription to a paper only to find out I still was not getting the full content on the printed paper. And while searching various papers via newslibrary I don't always get all the printed articles.

zoomfactor's picture

print vs. web site

On the other hand, there are many articles that appear in the print edition that are not shown on the web page. But if you google the articles, you can often find a link. The knoxnews web site search box never seems to bring up these "hidden" articles, so I have quit using it.

bizgrrl's picture

I like the way the NYT notes

I like the way the NYT notes on the online articles where the article appeared in the print edition.

CE Petro's picture

delete your cookies

I know that the NYTimes gives you a certain number of free articles per month. But on my Flipbook app I get 3 NYT articles per day.

What I found is if I shut down my computer (which is set to delete cookies) I start all over with my free content. But, shhhh! don't tell them!

Bird_dog's picture

I just want the obits

from my hometown paper. The Mayberry news is not worth paying for access. But the obits have all sorts of genealogy/family info... Sadly, they are truncated unless you pay...

Somebody's picture

It adds up. It's worth

It adds up. It's worth noting, though, that in the pre-online days, it would not have been a common thought that those or other publications should be expected to send you their newspapers for free. On the other hand, it was just as common that everyone complained about the quality of the content and the price to buy or subscribe.

What's truly novel is the now commonplace expectation that it should all come to you for free. Presumably this is simply because the publishers of these and other newspapers lacked foresight when they saw the internet as a novelty and began putting content out there for free because there seemed to be no practical ways to charge for it, and all the competition was free online, so how do you compete with that?

Oddly, it's the WSJ -the same newspaper that foolishly gave me numerous free home delivery trial subscriptions- that figured out early that they could do just fine behind a paywall.

I receive several paid online subscriptions. Just as with the hard-copy stuff, if I find that something goes unread for too long, I'll cancel the subscription. At least now I don't have piles of paper accumulating around the house, and if I have a spare few minutes somewhere, all those subscriptions are easily accessible on my iPad.

R. Neal's picture

What's truly novel is the now

What's truly novel is the now commonplace expectation that it should all come to you for free. Presumably this is simply because the publishers of these and other newspapers lacked foresight when they saw the internet as a novelty and began putting content out there for free because there seemed to be no practical ways to charge for it, and all the competition was free online, so how do you compete with that?

I think the problem has to do with online advertising. Advertisers don't see the value of online advertising, which is much more measurable in terms of coverage and response. Plus, a printed newspaper has a lot more space for ads, even if they end up at the bottom of a bird cage.

Online ads should command a premium because of all that, plus the ability to run highly targeted ads, but I think Google has ruined the business. They are making all the money a few pennies at a time because of their massive scale and reach. And because of that, they have driven prices down.

Advertisers won't pay for impressions (exposure, identity, brand awareness, etc.) any more like they will for print advertising. They will only pay for clicks, and there's a trend towards only paying for conversions (i.e. commissions).

Print advertising isn't measured by these standards, maybe because it can't be as precisely measured. But because online ads can be measured, advertisers see low click-thru and high bounce rates and run away. They seem to discount the value of the branding and exposure aspects similar to what they get from print advertising.

Curiously, 30 second TV spot advertising does not seem to have any of these perception problems, and advertisers are willing to pay huge amounts for such an ephemeral product.

But I'm no expert on any of this, so I could be completely wrong.

Anyway, I'm not advocating for free online newspapers. I would like to see better value and affordability, though.

Tess's picture

Paywalls won't work long term


I have noticed that some of the papers that I occasionally browse online have backed off from even limited access to articles.

It is not a good strategy to block your content from viewers if you have an online presence. Even I know that.

WhitesCreek's picture

What is their motive to save the print edition?

The Sunday print edition plus 24-7 digital is cheaper than the digital alone for the Times Free Press. I'm linking to more TV stories than ever before, as a result.

Somebody's picture

I believe Sunday print

I believe Sunday print editions are a daily paper's cash-cow. Lots of advertising and coupon inserts. The higher the delivery count, the more they can charge the advertisers. It's worth it to them to subsidize digital subscriptions if you'll take the Sunday paper.

Hildegard's picture

I only pay $15 monthly for

I only pay $15 monthly for the NYT online.

onetahiti's picture


I too pay $15/month for the NY Times.

-- OneTahiti

Pickens's picture

My 7 day a week Sentinel home

My 7 day a week Sentinel home delivery subscription is $19 a month on auto pay.

michael kaplan's picture

i recall that, even as a

i recall that, even as a college student in the 1960s, reading the newspaper on a regular basis was affordable. the new york times had a special subscription rate for students, but even at the newsstand price of $0.25 I could afford to buy it now and then.

cwg's picture

Oh, la, complaining about

Oh, la, complaining about having to pay for news that 15 years ago (or, in many papers, like the TFP's case), you wouldn't have had access to without going to your local library or subscribing to Lexis/Nexis. (Which, if you just do that, all your problems are solved!)

R. Neal's picture

Reading comprehension fail.

Reading comprehension fail.

R. Neal's picture

P.S. We've probably been

P.S. We've probably been paying for subscriptions to newspapers and news magazines for longer than you've been alive. So you kids get off my lawn!

Pam Strickland's picture

I was just looking at that

I was just looking at that list and thinking that to get those papers 20 years ago you would have to go to the library and for many of them you wouldn't get them same day. I usually would get them at my work place, but not always and there might just be one copy for 20 people, so you would have to fight over it or wait your turn. Considerably different than online reading.

MurrayK's picture

It's not about news

It's not about news. people got real time news for free from radio since the 1920s. News is not the product. Advertising is the product.The only thing that has changed is advertising. Advertising only kinda works the way its sold.

The need for news has not decreased, in fact, people get more hours of news per day, whether they want it or not, than they ever got 20 years ago.

Print advertising had two hundred years of history and about 100 years of madison Avenue bullshit behind it. Advertisers have not made the transition yet because print is still hanging on. After print dies, online advertising will slowly begin to climb the same ladder of credibility that print once had to climb. On line advertisng offer much better metrics for measuring effectiveness.

reform4's picture

But not in its current form.

After print dies, online advertising will slowly begin to climb the same ladder of credibility that print once had to climb. On line advertisng offer much better metrics for measuring effectiveness.

But online news will not be delivered in its current form. Reading a physical paper is still more convenient than wading through an online site and waiting for pages to load. A successful online news site needs to filter and deliver news based on individual interests, and the most successful people at that are apps that coalesce content from different sources, such as Flipboard (there are many).

The licensing will not be with the individual consumer- the news creators need to license to the aggregators, in the same model that the old UPI and current API has done with newspapers for decades.

The problem is:

1. It cuts out of the advertising sales loop organizations who think they can present the content and sell their own advertising (e.g., KNS). Therefore, they will resist this to the very end.

2. It means the value is in generating the original content, not recycling someone else's wire stories. I would pay $1 per column for Sandra and Betty's original journalism. I'm sure there are plenty of people in Knoxville who would have paid $0.20 a day or more for the Jamie's daily update on the Christian/Newsom trials. Multiply each of those numbers that 100,000, and clearly you can pay for real journalism.

It's not about "print media", it's about the model of delivery. If KNS could deliver a custom-generated print newspaper to my door with the news on topics I actually want to read, I'd subscribe, no matter if it was a physical paper or an online aggregator app. But right now, old news companies are missing the boat on delivering what people actually want- aggregated information.

Consider my Dish Network interface- the #1 most important feature is that I can create one or more "Favorites' lists, narrowing the 800+ channels I have down to the 15-20 that might have something on I actually want to watch. Consider the analogy of the DVR as well (aggregator apps should retain history back several weeks-- another thing I hate about sites like KNS is if I miss the news for a few days, it's hard to go back, and the search functions suck).

If I were CEO of Scripps, I'd throw $2M into developing an aggregator app like Flipboard that allows people to subscribe to 50-ish topics, local and national, and then charge $15/mo to use the aggregated stream- or perhaps a model of $10 for 3-5 "channels" and $1 per additional channel. And I'd throw gobs of money into the generation of new local content (schools, politics, crime by ZIP code, etc) that would create streams people couldn't get elsewhere. There used to be a name for that....

... oh, right. Journalism.

MurrayK's picture

Trading editors for apps?

The best aggregators are the editors who have years of experience knowing what people want to read. It's not always just the subject line. Some stories become news because they are unique. For example, maybe I'm not interested in baseball, but if somebody pitches a no hitter, hits a 500 plus feet homerun or breaks a bat over the catcher's head, suddenly its news and a lot of people that don't want baseball news still want to know about it. How could an app that searches for news based on certain specific topics out edit the editors?

reform4's picture


I'm not necessarily limiting the system to automatic computer aggregators. The best aggregators have human input, like blogs that link to a story, but add a particular analysis, or link two or three stories together in a way that provides a unique perspective.

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