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Group Paying Model for Online Newspapers?

When I think about having to fork out money to get the NYTimes, or any other online paper, I don't relish the idea. But I expect paywalls are coming.

One scenario I have been thinking about that makes the whole idea of online news subscriptions less unpleasant to think about is as follows: I'd like to see newspapers like the New York Times and others to adopt a kind of "Profiles" feature that Netflix offers, which lets the account holder create "sub-accounts" under the same membership plan. (Plus, Netflix offers a "Friends List" feature for sharing video faves among friends, a feature that has definite applicability in the online news context.)

Surely the typical family household situation -- at least for households that still subscribe to a physical newspaper -- is that the paper is read by more than one member of the household. So too at the workplace -- the papers and magazines get passed around.

And yet, the online newspaper paywall model seems to presuppose that it's one account, one credit card, one user ID.

Why not a Profiles option?

But why stop at family members? I wonder if there is a model where you could get in on a "group buy" for, say, the NY Times web and iPad edition. Say, up to five people can group buy a subscription. And maybe the billing gets rotated to each member every five months. So instead of paying say $15 a month (or $180/yr) per person, you pay $15 every N months where N is the number of people in the group. Might mean only $30 a year and you get the whole paper!

Now, you might say, that's crazy, why would a newspaper go for such a model? Well, why not? If they get 5x the subscribers that they might otherwise get, they get the revenue PLUS they get a lot more eyeballs for ads. Everyone wins.

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