Thursday, July 18, 2002


Why do online newspapers charge so much for archived articles? The New York Times, for example, charges $2.95 [!] for a single archived article, although it graciously allows bulk rates (if you purchase 25 archived articles, you pay a mere $1.05 each). The Washington Post's price structure is similar: $2.95 for a single article, with the best deal being $19.95 for 25 articles -- 80 cents each.

That's a lot of money. $2.95 is much, much more than the price for a newstand copy of an entire issue of either newspaper, which would contain several dozen articles, printed on paper to boot. Is the marginal cost of providing online access to one archived article that much more than the marginal cost of providing an entire printed copy of a day's paper? If not, why do they charge so much for a single article?

A guess would be that, thanks to copyright laws, newspapers hold a monopoly over their articles, and therefore act like monopolists usually do -- reduce output in order to increase prices and maximize profit. Is that what's happening here?


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