I Finally Understand the Digital Subscription Model

I’m in Dallas this weekend for a family event. As I write, the rest of the family is out of the hotel, shopping and seeing friends. If you knew me well, you wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I’m in the room watching baseball and reading on my iPad.

Over the past month or so, in fact, I’ve made a rather rapid transition to eliminate nearly all paper from my reading. I’m not talking about books; I was an early Kindle adopter. I’m talking about everything else: magazines, newspapers, blogs, web sites.

My reading has changed not because the content has gotten that much better, but because the apps are better and, therefore, the accessibility to the content is better. When you add in the ability to see video and listen to audio alongside the written word, I think digital media in the right app brings a much better experience than a hard copy newspaper or magazine.

It’s an experience that, in my opinion, finally justifies paying the same (or more) for a digital subscription. The days of free digital content have long been over, but now I’m a believer that is willing to pay.

My Sports Illustrated app brings me up-to-date news and tweets alongside the nearly stale article. The Businessweek app includes video and audio and often adds new content mid-week. You don’t have time to read The Economist? No problem. The app comes with a recorded soundtrack, with the articles read by very soothing British voices.

You get none of these with your paper copy. I also get my digital copy before your paper copy arrives in the mail.

Aggregation is huge as well. I use Newsify as my RSS reader. It displays all my feeds in easy-to-read tabloid format. I also dabble a bit with Flipboard, Zite, TrapIt, Pulse, and Daily Planet as news aggregator applications.

Newsify costs $0.99 on the app store. One time cost of $1.99? No problem.

For me, the digitization of media has turned the corner. I’m now able to read more with the iPad that I could ever before. This means that I am willing to pay for more content than ever before. I now understand why The Economist charges the same for a digital subscription and a print+digital subscription. I now understand why The Wall Street Journal charges over double per week to add digital access to print-only access.

When my SI and BW subscriptions are up for renewal, I want digital only. If digital only isn’t available, I’ll pay for the paper, but recycle the paper right away. At least I’m environmentally friendly?