Why I won’t subscribe to your newspaper’s iPad app

My newspaper of choice, being a discerning liberal gentleman and having had my appreciation of the Guardian burned out of me after four years of working there, is the International Herald Tribune, i.e., The New York Times for people who wish they were reading The New York Times.

I once tried an IHT subscription, one of these “we’ll give you our paper for free for six weeks, please love us in return” deals. For several weeks, the paper was delivered to my door every day before dawn just in time for the servants to iron it. I’d usually have enough time in the morning to read about half of it, and I’d try and read the rest in the evening.

Then I started falling behind. All it took was missing a few hours and the papers started mounting up. Before long I was throwing away stacks of papers that had never even been opened. This generous free trial only proved to me one thing: that, much like most people these days, I was not the sort of person who read a daily newspaper cover to cover.

The IHT is my newspaper of choice and yet on average, I buy it only a couple of times a month.

Reading an entire newspaper can be a surprisingly time-consuming affair, and there’s a lot out there competing for our time now. On an iPad alone, I could be reading the paper or I could be reading something from Instapaper, or I could be playing Angry Birds, or watching a film, or checking Facebook or Twitter or whatever the fuck Google’s social network of the month is called. Certainly this paints a picture of us all as ADHD-affected children dosed up on blue Smarties and kittens but you know what? That’s basically what we are now so we’re just going to have to work with that.

Nobody denies that newspaper sales are in terminal decline, but an iPad edition of your daily newspaper is just targeting that same declining market. There’s a moderate amount of added convenience in having the edition downloaded — but let’s be realistic, people aren’t giving up newspapers because of distribution issues — and the visible amount of waste is reduced to nothing, but only offering a monthly subscription means that you’re also only targeting the hardcore news junkies and perhaps some people on long, regular train journeys.

So I expect the same will happen for most people as happened to me with my IHT subscription; once people start falling behind, they’ll start feeling guilty about spending money on something that they’re not using, even if it’s only £10 a month.

And then they’ll cancel; just as they cancel gym memberships when they realise they haven’t been for weeks, and as they cancel DVD rental subscriptions when the LoveFilm envelopes have been sat on their TV unopened for a month.

I used to use the IHT iPad app while it was all free, but I’m not going to spend £10 a month on a paper I only read once or twice during that period. If they had provided a way of buying a single issue, I’d have bought one on the spot. As it was, I read something else.

By Paul Haine, in