Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Pragmatarian Model For The NY Times

Today I was on my phone checking out Twitter.  I saw this tweet...

The topic looked interesting so I clicked on the link.  A couple seconds after doing so, I was immediately redirected to a subscription page.  I scrolled up and down trying to find the escape pod.  Unfortunately there was no obvious exit sign and I ended up accidentally clicking on a chat button.

When life gives you lemons...


Thank you for contacting The New York Times. We appreciate your business and are always happy to help.

Info at 13:39, Dec 22: You are now chatting with 'Isaac'

Isaac at 13:39, Dec 22: Hi, this is Isaac from The New York Times. How may I assist you today?

you at 13:40, Dec 22: Hi. If I subscribe can I choose which articles I spend my fees on? I don't value all your articles equally.

Isaac at 13:41, Dec 22: Don't worry about spending your fees; if you purchase a subscription, you'll have unlimited access to all of our articles.

you at 13:42, Dec 22: Sure... but how will you know my actual demand for topics?

Isaac at 13:43, Dec 22: You only have to log in with your email account, and you'll be able to read any article you want. How does that sound?

you at 13:45, Dec 22: I am not at all interested in sports and wouldn't want any of my fees paying for sports articles.

Isaac at 13:47, Dec 22: Don't worry about that, since you can choose what articles to view. However, since the price is based on a regular subscription and not in the number of articles you read, the pricing will be the same. Is that what you wanted to know?

you at 13:50, Dec 22: I want to be able to use my fees to provide you folks with positive feedback. Say I happen to really love an article. I'd like to have the freedom to spend a lot of my fees on that article. Then you would know that I truly loved the article. Aren't you folks interested in feedback from your subscribers?

Isaac at 13:53, Dec 22: Sure! The best way you can give us feedback if you really enjoy an article is to share it through your favorite social network. You can also provide us with specific feedback, if you want, by emailing You can also send a letter to, if you want

you at 13:56, Dec 22: Can you cite any sources to substantiate your claim that contigent valuation techniques are truly the best way to provide feedback?

Isaac at 13:59, Dec 22: You can view on the most popular stories we have right now. The stories that appear there are the ones that get the most views per hour, and the best way you can help attracting views to an article is to share it with more people.

you at 14:02, Dec 22: Imagine if subscribers could spend their fees on their favorite stories. Then you would know the true value of your stories. Do you think that your most valuable stories would also be your most popular stories?

Isaac at 14:07, Dec 22: I totally agree with you. I think there should be a way for readers to provide direct feedback when they stumble upon a truly great article. However, since all of our subscriptors are provided with unlimited credit to view any article they want, the only measure we have of the quality of an article is its absolute number of views, so that's what we use as a metric for them. By only reading the articles you prefer, you're helping us find out what the best ones are. What do you think about that?

you at 14:13, Dec 22: Just because I listen to a speech by Trump really doesn't mean that I'd be willing to spend a penny on his speech. Right now you want me to spend my money on your publication. If it only cost a penny per year then no problem. But the more money you want me to spend... the greater my sacrifice. Spending money is mSo if I'm already paying your company a monthly fee... why not give me the opportunity to use it to indicate which of your articles is most worth my sacrifice?

Isaac at 14:18, Dec 22: By watching a speech by Trump you're not supporting him; you're supporting the editor that made the speech available to you. We work every day to make our articles as neutral and unbiased as possible, so instead of supporting a political idea, you're supporting the writers, editors and publishers who bring the information to you. Don't you think it's better not having to worry about reading 20, 200 or 2000 articles?

Isaac at 14:19, Dec 22: The cost of making an article is the same regardless of the number of views it gets, but the popularity of a certain group or articles can determine which articles or writers make it to the front page next time.

you at 14:23, Dec 22: I think you'll agree that it matters whether I give my money to your publication or to The Economist. Clearly it makes sense for me to give my money to whichever publication provides me with the most bang for my buck. But if my preferences for publications matter then why don't my preferences for individual articles matter?

Isaac at 14:26, Dec 22: We think you should be able to read whatever articles you prefer, and that's why we give you unlimited access to all of our digital collection; instead of limiting the number of articles you may choose.

you at 14:28, Dec 22: Do you think it would be difficult to allow me to choose which articles I allocate my fees to?

Isaac at 14:30, Dec 22: Yes, since that would require a huge change on our pricing and subscription methods. Figuratively speaking, you're not renting individual books; you're buying a ticket to enter the whole library.

you at 14:37, Dec 22: I don't mind spending $10 on a ticket to enter the library. Good analogy. But since I have $10 dollars... why not give me the opportunity to choose which books I allocate my 1000 pennies on? I wouldn't allocate a penny on 50 Shades of Grey but I would allocate many pennies to the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. When everyone else also allocated their fees then we'd know at a glance which book in the library was the most valuable.

Isaac at 14:45, Dec 22: I completely agree with you. I know that right now we are only using views as a metric of the quality of an article, but sometimes you don't really agree with what you read, and you think it does not deserve the money you've spent on reading it. My best suggestion as of now is to call 855-698-8544, which is our Digital Subscriptions department for mobile users. It is indeed possible to filter or otherwise categorize the articles you read; however, I am unable to do it. I'm really sorry for the inconveniences this may cause.

Isaac at 14:45, Dec 22: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

you at 14:48, Dec 22: I ended up on this page because I was trying to read one of my 10 free articles but I kept getting redirected to the subscription gateway. How do I escape from the gateway and read the article?

Isaac at 14:49, Dec 22: There should be a "Read Full Article" button that allows you to read it for free, in the article preview

you at 14:50, Dec 22: Yes there is but a couple seconds later I'm automatically redirected to the subscription gateway.

Isaac at 14:51, Dec 22: My best suggestion is to try reading the article on a laptop or desktop computer.

you at 14:54, Dec 22: K. I'll try that. FYI I'm going to post our discussion on my blog... The Pragmatarian Model For The NY Times. Thanks for your time.

Isaac at 14:55, Dec 22: You're welcome! I'll keep that in mind. I hope I was able to help you today.


I was honestly surprised that he chatted with me as long as he did.

Now I'm on my laptop and I was able to read the article.  Eh. My expectation was greater than the reality.  So I wouldn't have spent any pennies on the article.  It turned out that the detour was more enjoyable!

See Also:

The Pragmatarian Model For The Economist
The Pragmatarian Model For Inkl

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