In a media pricing frenzy

From movie tickets to Kindle books to the New York Times, consumers are facing creeping prices at every turn

By TheWrap Aug 2, 2010 4:32PM

Welcome to the age of re-priced media.

From the theatrical box office to every new platform of digital publishing and video entertainment, signs of fundamental pricing change are increasingly evident across the media economy. And if the frenzy is unprecedented, the catalyst for it is also without parallel—a wave of new media-friendly e-gadgets and e-devices, a near historic recession that devastated the ad-dependent publishing sector and the stark recognition of the existential threat to an industry in digital transformation.

“There is a re-balancing, a re-calibration, going on, and it’s a healthy one,” John Loughlin, executive vice president and general manager of Hearst Magazines, tells TheWrap. “In part, it was given a real nudge with the ad recession. We must bring our revenue streams more into balance.” So these days, media products from Hulu to the New York Times to 3D movies are introducing payments that will bring “balance” for producers -- and for consumers, sticker shock.

In a world exploding with media options, consumers will face creeping prices at almost every turn. The free ad-supported video-streaming phenomenon Hulu became more than just a cheap thrill with the June introduction of the $9.99 monthly Hulu Plus. Meredith Corp. says it’s considering higher cover prices and subscriptions for Ladies’ Home Journal and Traditional Home.

Earlier this year, book publishers gained the upper hand to boost e-book prices in a showdown with Amazon, whose Kindle e-reader is helping to jump-start a mass market for electronic publications. The e-retailer, which had sought to set e-book prices at $9.95, capitulated in a battle ostensibly with MacMillan, which charges $13 to $15.

Meanwhile, the New York Times will have a pay wall erected by early next year at its website to fence off news that used to be free. The newspaper already has raised prices for digital iterations available on portable platforms, including a recent 43 percent jump to $19.99 for its e-edition on the Kindle.

Not that consumers are buying into the uptick in pricing meekly. “Way too high,” a recent visitor commented at Barnes & Noble’s website, reacting to the $19.99 e-edition of the New York Times available there. Late last year, Columbus Dispatch subscribers began a virtual revolt after the publisher doubled subscription rates in some cases.

“Time to let the subscription run out,” wrote “Cameron” in the Facebook discussion. “Yes, they will be out of business pretty darn quickly.” But publishers see little choice but to charge or perish. Read more

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