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Media Companies Are Starting To Bundle Journalism With Music Platforms

Wait. What?

We need journalism now more than ever, but if people aren’t willing to pay for it, how will the industry continue to fund investigative reports? Bundle it with other platforms. Maybe.

The New York Times is now offering new “digital subscribers who sign up for a one-year All Access subscription” free, unlimited Spotify Premium access. Five dollars a week gets you access to both The New York Times and Spotify Premium. It sounds like a great deal on the surface — and who doesn’t like a deal? — but it should also make us pause to consider the implications of a new world media order where journalism is tied directly to financially successful platforms.

I’m not entirely convinced it’s somewhere we want to head as an industry.

Is the internet about to go the way of the television channel bundle that we’ve been fighting (at least in Canada) so hard to break up? It’s not really hard to draw parallels between ISPs looking to bundle premium website access (faster bandwidth, throttling, yadda yadda) to their subscribers and television companies looking to package up sub-standard channels with premium channels in bundles. These are the grounds for the current net neutrality battle we’re all engaged in, whether we like it or not. So then, why is it okay that the New York Times and Spotify bundle their content, but someone like Comcast or AT&T can’t? Is this just the first step towards content exclusivity deals between major platforms and publishers? Want the The Washington Post? Buy an iPhone. Want to get discounted access to Verizon internet? Sign up for a Facebook account.

Slippery slope, indeed.

I’d also like to take a moment and point out that the offering is only for “new subscribers.” What does that say to all the people already paying for The New York Times digital at full cost? We’re amidst a battle to regain customer trust as an industry, and instead of delivering the new offering to its entire subscriber base, the New York Times is marginalizing loyal, already paying customers. The optics of that can’t be explained away.

By Joshua Schnell

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