Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The New Yorker--pay to play?

Reader Andy suggested I create a post where readers could give feedback on the new policy at The New Yorker to limit access to most fiction to paying subscribers. (Thanks for the idea, Andy.) For the past several years, almost all fiction was available for free online. Now, most stories are closed and only subscribers with access to the "digital edition" can read them. I'm a subscriber, so the only thing that annoys me is that the magazine has been coming irregularly lately.

What are your thoughts on this? Does it make you want to subscribe? Given that many seem to think that the quality of New Yorker fiction has deteriorated, I'm not sure that the policy will help subscriptions. But maybe I'm wrong.

Thoughts?

18 comments:

Vivian V. Glasglow said...

I agree that the fiction has deteriorated. The fact that The New Yorker would withhold anything is so transparent and petty. (Does it have to do with advertising? I'm sure there's a financial reason somewhere.) Withholding any literature doesn't make sense during these crazy times in the publishing world. However, If they really wanted to annoy me, they'd withhold the comics or the poetry - the first things I look at when I get the magazine. (There, I admit it.)

Mark Richardson said...

I subscribe. Why should it be free? If you write a story and it gets accepted by The New Yorker, then I suspect that you will want to get paid. Shouldn't the magazine expect the same? We're quickly heading toward a day when most newspapers and magazines will be available primarily online. I currently get the entire NYT free on my iPad, but I suspect I will have to pay eventually, and I think that's appropriate. If you want to read it for free there is always the public library.

Hobie said...

I don't have cash to blow on subscriptions, but had thought that when things change I'd subscribe, because I like the content and appreciate all the free stuff. Now, if they shut me off, I'll be sure to forget they exist.

#GreedFail

Hobie said...

It's a fact that periodicals don't make money off of subscription $ - the real money is in advertising dollars. Purchases from the newsstand basically break even - before counting the advertising dollar.

This claim that they need to charge for content is disengenuous. They can count clicks and show trends in a much more precise manner nowadays, pinpointing advertisements for maximum impact. Thus, they should charge more for advertising.

In the print mag, an advertiser never knows if his ad is being viewed but only knows through subscription numbers how many people the ad *might* reach.

I offer as a source a Chicago Trib editor, Terry Brown, but I've heard these facts touted elsewhere.

F. Escobar said...

For those very reasons often discussed on this blog, I've lost my faith in TNY fiction. In fact, I stopped reading their short stories around the time the dull 20-under-40 series ended. Still, when Cliff posts his best-of-2010 list next week, I'll probably rummage through those stories I haven't read.

I thought hard about canceling my subscription around June, when it was time to renew. But I went ahead and renewed it. The truth is that TNY is a very solid and worthwhile magazine, even when shorn of its fiction. The nonfiction pieces are worth it (even if you pare it down to its wide-ranging, well-ruminated book reviews). (I share Vivian's eagerness for the comics, but not for the poetry; for a long time, I haven't found a single poem in TNY that I can say I've really liked).

What Cliff has mentioned about fiction pieces has also been happening to nonfiction articles. Many have been closed to non-subscribers from the start; others have grown encrypted within a few weeks. What effect does that have on my decision to subscribe? A big one, in fact. I'll probably keep my subscription alive just to be able to read those articles I've happened to throw away along with the print magazine. But I have to say the digital archive is very annoying; they make it so difficult to word-search and, sure, to clip a benign quotation or two to send to someone in an email.

windycityvegan said...

I've been a paying subscriber for over 20 years, and I never realized until recently that content was ever available for free. I agree with Mark - if you don't subscribe for one reason or another, support your public library and read it there.

F. Escobar said...

I left a comment last night, and I just realized it's gone. That hadn't happened to me before on PF. If it didn't happen by accident, I hope it wasn't deleted because it was considered inappropriate. I really had no intention of saying anything out of line. Perhaps it was too long? Too trite?

Clifford Garstang said...

I have no idea why your comment disappeared. I didn't delete it, I assure you! Since it also arrived in my email notices, I can re-post it:


For those very reasons often discussed on this blog, I've lost my faith in TNY fiction. In fact, I stopped reading their short stories around the time the dull 20-under-40 series ended. Still, when Cliff posts his best-of-2010 list next week, I'll probably rummage through those stories I haven't read.

I thought hard about canceling my subscription around June, when it was time to renew. But I went ahead and renewed it. The truth is that TNY is a very solid and worthwhile magazine, even when shorn of its fiction. The nonfiction pieces are worth it (even if you pare it down to its wide-ranging, well-ruminated book reviews). (I share Vivian's eagerness for the comics, but not for the poetry; for a long time, I haven't found a single poem in TNY that I can say I've really liked).

What Cliff has mentioned about fiction pieces has also been happening to nonfiction articles. Many have been closed to non-subscribers from the start; others have grown encrypted within a few weeks. What effect does that have on my decision to subscribe? A big one, in fact. I'll probably keep my subscription alive just to be able to read those articles I've happened to throw away along with the print magazine. But I have to say the digital archive is very annoying; they make it so difficult to word-search and, sure, to clip a benign quotation or two to send to someone in an email.

Andy Quan said...

Cliff - I love the conversation happening here. Thanks for following up on it.

Vivian - I noticed that they're starting to charge for the poems online too.

On the one hand, if what Hobie says is true and they're not really making money from subscriptions, then I'd think ensuring that internet readers have to wade through advertising would be fair. And I love the idea of good, free fiction - and the absolute ease of printing it off from online, without having to go to the public library (not sure if my local branch here in Australia carries it anyways).

On the other hand, I do value these stories - though I'd prefer less novel excerpts (which would seem to be more about promoting individual writers than a lack of short stories available to choose from). And if I value art and literature, I should pay for - and get off my lazy, cheap ass to finally subscribe online.

Mark Richardson said...

I'm told that what has hurt newspapers more than anything is the loss of revenue from classified ads. People can now post these ads online for free on Craigslist. I'm not sure how that applies to The New Yorker, but magazines and newspapers are playing with different business models. My local paper, the crappy SF Chronicle, last year doubled its subscription cost, and it also now costs $100 to buy it at the newsstand instead of .25 cents. The circulation has gone down dramatically, but they are making money.

Thomas G said...

I'm a subscriber, too (although since I'm in college and use a PO Box address, the New Yorker arrives notoriously late). I find it annoying that the fiction (and pretty much anything else on their site) is only available to subscribers. This makes it impossible to share this on any of the social networking sites (facebook, twitter, etc.).

Also, my biggest issue is the format once you get past the subscribers wall. It's really hard reading a story in "virtual magazine" form because the screen is never big enough to read an entire page top to bottom, unless you don't zoom in which is not possible as you would hurt your eyes from all the strain. I just wish they would return to the "layout" where the story appears as any other web page and you can scroll down, make font size bigger, etc.

Clifford Garstang said...

I totally agree with you, Thomas. This isn't an option for everyone, but I'm going to switch my subscription to Kindle when the print subscription runs out. I wonder how different the magazine will look on the Kindle or, optionally, on the Kindle App for PC.

F. Escobar said...

I was about to ask that very thing, Cliff: if you had seen TNY on the Kindle yet. TNY designed a fancy app for the iPad, which looks neat, but I don't plan to get an iPad, so I wonder about those other reading devices.

Thomas G: My sentiments exactly regarding the awful "virtual magazine" display; I too wish they'd just allow you to access the usual HTML format. That's the way plenty of other magazines do it.

Thanks for reposting that older comment, Cliff. I don't know what happened, either. Best of luck at YCCA.

Anonymous said...

The fiction in the New Yorker is horrendous. "Yellow" was fantastic, but prior to that you really need to go back over a year to find something of equal merit. Nevertheless, I support them in their pay-to-play model. Times are tough everywhere in business and it's only fair that they charge for access to content that others have previously paid for.

Hobie said...

I'm highly skeptical of the company which runs TNY. They sucked the Ann Arbor News dry and spit out the husk. It'd been a profitable enterprise and they sucked the life out of it.

There's something weird going on with newspapers and media in general. Too may bad eggs influencing culture.

But, always remember that advertising is what should be driving their revenue. They may have lost some on classified ads, but I'd like to take a hard look at that. I can see if they're losing the big real estate supplements, etc. but all the ads for broken appliances, lost pets, etc. pretty much are there to pay for themselves. I suspect that many of those classifieds are there to drive subscriptions which can be shown to real advertisers as justification for ad rates.

Marc Gerstein said...

I have a Kindle subscription. The cartoons are tolerable but there are no other visuals beyond the cover. that said, I LOVE the Kindle subscription and would not consider going back to hard copy or a pc screen. For me, The New Yorker is about words, and shorn of visual distractions, I find myself easily reading more content that I used to read. (Ditto with my subscription to The Economist.)

I'm fine with TNY putting content behind the subscription wall. Advertising as an internet-content business model is mediocre at best. A few years ago, when internet ad budgets went from zero to something, growth was tremendous and the internet ad people were, to borrow a Wall Street phrase, the big-swinging dicks of the internet. (I know; I worked for a dot-com during the formative years). Then, the economy slowed and the world learned an important lesson: just because it doesn't have a smokestack doesn't mean it;'s not cyclical. Revenues plummeted, layoffs mounted, content was slashed, and providers scrambled to build a badly-neglected base of subscription revenue. That's what's happening to TNY, among others, right now.

BTW, I started subscribing to TNY for the fiction, got bored to death with it, and now subscribe for the other features which have hits and misses but are, often, excellent.

Joe Levens said...

Cliff

I had been a New Yorker subscriber for about 20 years. Finally, after about 30 rejections from them over the years and reading many stories that I thought were only published because of author name, I stopped subscribing. I have not, since, read the stories for free online, so by them now charging does not make a difference to me.

You should include the date, as well as the time, at the bottom of comment posts here. All I see is the time, but I do not think all the comments were made today.

Joe

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Joe Levans.

It appears that the New Yorker is more concerned with printing works from known writers then they are with quality. Whether this practice stems from a conservative approach to maintain a certain reputation, or simply out of complacent lethargy which has crept up on them, i cannot tell.

In either case, I not feel inclined to invest more then idle time to puruse their fiction online.

Perhaps my initial fascination with the periodical stemmed from surprise that certain fictions were published at all.

I simply cannot justify spending money on a subscription to view fiction that too often seems to fall below my expectations.