Amazon Prime members receive free trial to The Washington Post

Originally published in The Daily Orange

Amazon Prime members are now able to receive a free six-month trial of The Washington Post.

About 40 million Amazon Prime members have access to The Washington Post’s national digital edition. After the six-month trial is over, Prime members will be able to subscribe to The Post for $3.99 a month. Both companies are owned by Jeff Bezos.

This is a part of Amazon’s latest strategy to draw readers in and keep them paying in the Internet age, said Steve Davis, the chair of the newspaper and online journalism department at Syracuse University.

“It’s a way for a news organization to try to get people to get accustomed to paying for the news again,” Davis said. “If you look at what they’re doing, it’s smart. They’re packaging it as part of the Prime membership. And it says it’s free — (but only) for six months … It’s what we have to do. We have to get people to pay for the news. It’s a commodity, and it has value. And I think we’re slowly heading that way, and this is really clever way to do that.”

The monthly price of $3.99 after the six-month trial is over is a 60 percent discount off The Washington Post’s regular price.

James Tsao, chair of the advertising department, said Amazon’s scheme is slightly disappointing for the newspaper industry because of how it places news the same level as other miscellaneous products sold on Amazon.

“From an academic’s perspective, we don’t want to see The Washington Post be part of a promotional campaign (like), ‘Buy one get one free,’” Tsao said. “On the other hand, if this promotional campaign could significantly increase readership, then why not? That could be a very creative approach.”

It’s a sad state for newspapers because of the media industry’s changing landscape, Tsao said, and while this merger will hopefully help The Washington Post, he said Amazon’s promotion scheme comes with a trade-off.

Because of the decline in newspaper readership, Tsao added that it would be a “good sign” if more people read The Washington Post.

However, Tsao said, the flip side of the situation is The Washington Post’s brand image as an independent and prestigious newspaper.

“How is this going to be affected if it’s used as part of a promotional plan?” she said.(It’s) just like while you go to the store and they give you something additional, like, ‘Oh you buy pizza, I’ll give you a soft drink.’ It’s almost humiliating to the integrity of the paper.”

Tsao and Davis both agree that the marketing of the deal is important to attract customers.

“It’s smart, I think, to make it part of a package of services,” Davis said. “Providing you with news is a service. Rather than pitch it as this stand-alone product, it’s part of a package… It’s all about marketing.”

Class of 2015 Syracuse University alumna Domonique Jackson, a Prime user, said the deal isn’t very enticing to her. She said she doesn’t go out of her way to retrieve news and only reads a newspaper if it happens to be available where she’s sitting.

Jackson said she personally would not use her Prime membership to read The Washington Post because she usually gets her news from word of mouth or other major news websites that are free.

People aren’t used to paying for the news so directly, Davis said, and Amazon’s new offer gradually reels paying customers in again.

Davis and Tsao both said good news is worth the price.

“You look at the quality of news, the depth and breadth of the newspaper products — that’s amazing,” Tsao said. “It’s very reasonable for them to charge … The internet is open, it’s so democratic, but someone has to make money. So I guess the future of the newspaper business is it really requires some innovative thinking.”

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