The Telegraph should offer its 300,000+ subscribers a free Kindle

At Silicon Alley Insider, some interesting maths.

The site’s Nicholas Carlson estimates that it costs $644m to print and deliver the New York Times every year. (Carlson says that one source estimates the figure to be much higher.)

Coincidentally, the Times also has 830,000 readers who have subscribed to the paper for more than two years.

Sending a $359 Amazon Kindle to each of those subscribers, Carlson calculates, would cost the Times $297m. 

Here’s Carlson: ‘Are we trying to say the the New York Times should force all its print subscribers onto the Kindle or else? No. That would kill ad revenues and also, not everyone loves the Kindle.”

Kill ad revenues? Yes indeed: the Kindle doesn’t carry ads, so every reader shifting over from the print edition would be a reader lost to the ad sales team.

In addition, giving subscribers free Kindles would sever their direct commercial relationship with the newspaper of their choice. Instead, readers would purchase subscriptions via Amazon. (Yes, there’s a revenue split in operation here, although its exact dimensions remain unknown.)

That said, the promotional possibilities seem obvious. At some point, Amazon will want to launch the Kindle in the UK. It might appreciate a partner that can help to underwrite the bill for putting its hardware into the hands of a large audience.

Against that, the calculations on revenue sharing and lost print advertising revenues seem fairly straightforward.

Last time I looked, the Telegraph boasted well over 300,000 subscribers. And if you’re worried about uptake among these presumably conservative readers, think again.

The Kindle doesn’t have cables; it doesn’t require a computer to operate; and users don’t need to buy a separate wireless subscription fee. As the Economist put it recently, the device is ‘perfect for older people”.

We suspect that the digital natives who occasionally tune into the Telegraph will like it, too.

PS: Last week, New Media Age suggested that the Daily Mail is already in talks with Amazon about selling subscriptions when Kindle launches in the UK. Quite how this will square with the Mail’s ongoing jihad against screen-based media remains to be seen.

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